By: Ismail Khan
As high level US visitors come to Pakistan the impression is that efforts are being made to revamp end reorient the US-Pakistan relationship after the Raymond Davis and OBL incidents. This may or may not be so but much more is happening on the street and a narrative is taking shape that is getting more and more takers. It would be folly to ignore this reality.
If confused and convoluted official statements are ignored then what eye witnesses and some from the forces that battled the attackers in Karachi’s Mehran Base have said is eye-opening. It is being reported that there were up to 11 Chinese on the base. No one has explained why they were there when the base was home to US supplied P3c Orion Aircraft – especially when US sensitivity to transfer of their technology to China is well known and clearly communicated to Pakistan. It is clear from events as they unfolded that the primary objective of the attack were the US supplied aircraft and not the Americans on the base for maintenance and training. There is plausible evidence that the attackers attempted to take the Chinese hostage but the Americans were not targeted. It is said that some of the attackers had tattooed arms-a typically American habit but frowned upon in this part of the world. One such tattooed person who looks to be an American was shot dead in a bush and had communication equipment with him indicating that he was controlling the operation. Reports on the number of attackers vary from
12 to 25 and most believe the higher figure. The talk of help to the attackers from inside the base is now leaning towards the notion that this help came from the Americans on the base and not, as people are being tutored to believe, from penetration of the Navy by militants. The journalist Salim Shahzad was probably killed because he was peddling the story about ‘Al Qaeda within the Pakistani ranks’ – something of which there is no evidence. There is, however ample evidence of covert American presence in Pakistan after they used their moles to gain access through liberally supplied visas. If Raymond Davis was not enough then the stand-off in Peshawer just a day ago is a more recent event-diplomats when checked identify themselves, they don’t sit and sulk behind locked doors and black tinted glasses in their host country defying the laws of the land.
There is more on the street. A Tehrik Taleban (TTP) spokesman speaking from Mohmand (a supposedly subdued tribal agency of FATA) has said that even if the Americans/NATO leave Afghanistan their fight against Pakistan would go on because they are fighting to bring ‘Islamic rule’ in Pakistan and that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are not in danger because these are Islamic assets to be used in the service of Islam. These pronouncements come when the US is being asked to pull out after the OBL killing and after pulling out rely on small forces carrying out focused operations. Pakistan has been pushing for a shift to political resolution in Afghanistan balking at the pressure to get into North Waziristan in tandem with US led military operations in Afghanistan and stepped up Drone strikes. The reports of US drones targeting the anti-Pakistan TTP and the new revelations of TTP’s global agenda as well as long term designs on Pakistan are all coincidentally timed to ramp up the pressure on Pakistan even as the Hedley courtroom drama makes headway in incriminating the ISI – already reeling from the US delivered below the belt blow in Abbottabad. The earlier reports of Raymond Davis’ contacts with TTP now start making sense because the best option would be to stay covert and get the TTP to do the dirty work in Pakistan with careful pay-offs using Indian RAW and Afghan NDS assets as well as old Pakistan hating loyalists like the ex NDS chief now operating from the background. Cleverly orchestrated this could keep the TTP in the dark about who they were actually working for. Add to all this the fact that post OBL and post Mehran the military and the ISI are in the dock and severely downgraded domestically – something that surely gladdens the hearts of the US, the Indians and the Afghan government.
What does all this add up to? It gives the Pakistani street a narrative that fits neatly into anti-American sentiment. To many the logic is simple – use covert operations to launch the overt OBL raid. Use covert operations and local assets to launch a ‘terrorist’ attack that sends the message about not transferring US technology. Use covert contacts to create the pressure that will get Pakistan into North Waziristan to help create the environment for the Obama promised withdrawal in July. If this narrative is flawed then it is time for the US to start telling the Pakistanis what they are up to and to end the charade of de-hyphenation when it is actually a trilateral hyphenation against Pakistan – the CIA, RAW and NDS behind the smoke screen that is the TTP. A civil-military confrontation, public opinion and media running down the military and ISI, lawlessness and internal breakdown are bonus dividends not to be scoffed at.