Random Thoughts

The New Othello & Iago

The US is the new Othello to Pakistan as the new Iago in the struggle for Afghanistan. Most Indians and Americans are unaware that the British Raj and its three wars resulted in substantial parts of the Pashtun population and their lands being incorporated into British India as part of the current Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the North West Frontier Province  (NWFP) of Pakistan. The Durand line became an imposed colonial boundary dividing the Pashtuns between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The border was mountainous, porous and often undemarcated and unpoliceable. The British did the same in dividing the Kurds by similar borders between Iraq, Syria and Turkey after the defeat and collapse of the Ottoman Empire after WW1.

Afghanistan never relinquished its claim to its territory lost to British India and when the partition of India took place in 1947 and those areas were incorporated into Pakistan and it applied for membership in the UNO as a new nation state, Afghanistan was the sole country which vehemently objected to Pakistan’s statehood and membership. It is for this reason that Pakistan never enforced its rule in the FATA and continued the British method of appointing an overseeing political agent while leaving the administration of the agencies to tribal leaders and providing little or no government services. The Pakistani government also continued to administer collective punishment like house demolition for legal infractions by tribals, somewhat like Israel’s policy towards resisting Palestinians. Other contiguous princely states like Swat, Chitral and Gilgit did not even accede to Pakistan until a decade later.

Pakistan faced dissatisfied provinces in the late sixties and violence between Sindhis and Mohajirs (Muslim migrants from India), insurgency in Baluchistan and East Pakistan. The last led to secession and independence of Bangladesh. Some time later the Afghan monarchy was overthrown and the new leader Daud became more vocal about claiming the Pashtun belt of Pakistan. He was later overthrown in a communist coup which was opposed by the US. The US destabilization of the Afghan communist government was a well orchestrated plan to engineer a forced error of Soviet invasion to trap them in their Vietnam like quagmire. Pakistan itself had suffered a coup by General Zia, who hanged the elected prime minister Bhutto and tried to Islamize the country by promoting Sharia. It helped to bring in Saudi financing of an economically destitute Pakistan with proliferation of Madresseh preaching the Saudi brand of strict Wahabi Islam.

Landlocked Afghanistan is bordered by Iran with which the US relations had soured in 1979 due to the diplomats hostage crisis. Other neighbors were Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan which were all autonomous republics of the Soviet Union, a cold war primary enemy of the US. The only Afghan neighbor that the US could use for access to promoting an insurgency in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation were Muslim extremists supplied through Pakistan. President General Zia allowed any Muslim from anywhere in the world wishing to fight the Soviets, to enter Pakistan without a visa or any restrictions and stay indefinitely and cross the porous border into Afghanistan. He set up training camps for insurgents or terrorists and used them to infiltrate Afghanistan and Indian Kashmir and blow up anything. He also insisted that all US and Saudi money and weapons were to flow through the Pakistani ISI which kept its share and doled out the rest to various mujaheddin depending on their allegiance and loyalty to Pakistan, Islam and the ISI. He also successfully twisted America’s arms to ignore the illicit nuclear proliferation which Pakistan was indulging in via the clandestine Khan network and active help from China.

After the Soviet withdrawal a decade later and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the various insurgent factions fought one another and terrorized the population, further destroying Afghanistan’s infrastructure and irrigation and turning it into a narco-state. Pakistan had raised a generation of Afghan refugees on rigid orthodox fanatic Islamic indoctrination and armed and financed them when its premier proxy Gulbuddin Hekmetyar failed to win the internecine war between mujaheddin insurgents. The Taliban became the militia of the Pakistani transport Mafia dealing in arms and narcotics. The Taliban were brainwashed to be Islamists first and thus had greater allegiance to the Islamic Ummah than a nation state. This suited the nefarious plans of Pakistan leaders who were mortally scared of any Afghan leadership demanding the return of Pashtun lands and population. An Afghanistan under a friendly Taliban regime also gave Pakistan strategic depth to store its nuclear weapons in an independent nation state out of India’s reach and allowed them to run training camps for terrorists to attack India, Europe and US.

This is why even under American duress, Pakistan has given sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban and made a fool of the US while milking it for billions over the last decade. They are only pretending to attack the Pakistani Taliban when the more western oriented and wealthy feudal landlords, industrialists and army power elite are threatened or assassinated. The Pakistani Taliban leaders are allowed to withdraw and hide while a few low level fighters are punished or killed. Pakistan wants the Afghan Taliban (Pashtun) to rule Afghanistan. The rule of Karzai and his Tajik clique is unacceptable to Pakistan as they have better relations with India. The US has bribed and colluded with the corrupt incompetent Karzai government and its allied warlords and drug dealers to create the same environment that led to Taliban success and acceptance reluctantly in the past by Pashtuns. All this US propaganda of improving the lives of Afghan women is a blatant lie. While the Afghans in the past were not fanatic Muslims, they have always used their young daughters as a currency to pay debts and cement alliances. Girls’ education and equality has been non-existent. Vendettas are carried out across generations and women, land and money are the root causes. There is a prevalent culture of homosexual rape of young boys different from consenting adults of American bathhouses and the custom of Pashtunwali offers hospitality and protection even to enemies coming as supplicants, tribes and factrions frequently change sides and allegiances for bribes with little regard to principle, ideology or morality. The Taliban were welcomed because they provided security and rule of law albeit harsh and merciless. Taliban rule is anathema to Iran (they are Shia) and also to the now independent Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. They are Sunni but ruled by dictators, remnants of the Soviet era and facing Islamic insurgencies from their own population with sympathy and support from the Taliban now and when they ruled Afghanistan. Russia also is against the Taliban who would further fuel insurgencies in its Muslim South Caucasus. China’s position is not clear. America like Othello is depending on a Pakistani Iago for its goals and certain to come to disaster. Only an idiot would fight an insurgency in a distant land thousands of miles away without being able to understand or speak the local language or culture and that also while being totally dependent on the assistance of a rogue ally who has cheated him before and whose current goals and aims are diametrically opposite to those of the idiot. Such facts have never deterred the US from rushing in where angels fear to tread. Interested readers should read Mark Danner’s latest book “Stripping Bare The Body” as a document of other and prior follies in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.  


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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