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Ehsan Azari Stanizai Headshot

Pakistan's Terror Problem is Beyond the Taliban

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PAKISTAN
AP

"Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder." -Arnold Toynbee

On September 11, 2011, Pakistan took out $36,000 half-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal to commemorate the 9/11 attacks which read in part, "Since 2001 a nation of 180 million has been fighting for the future of world's 7 billion!...Can any other country do so? Only Pakistan...Promising peace to the world."

On September 23, Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chief of Staff, bluntly accused Pakistan of exporting violent extremists to Afghanistan through proxies. On September 30, Mullen took everyone by surprise when he said, "I continue to believe that there is no solution in the region without Pakistan."

Whatever you call it -- either a black comedy or the theater of the absurd -- the conflicting narratives signify the dreadful and complex nature of Pakistan's long-term collusion with the most lethal anti-Western religious militants. Now that everyone is working to prepare for an Afghanistan without the Americans, Pakistani Inter-state Intelligence, or ISI, is stepping up efforts to shape the future power-structure in Afghanistan dominated by its proxies.
In Pakistan, opportunity knocks twice. The war and instability in Afghanistan has provided a golden opportunity for Pakistan to manipulate Islam and turn Afghanistan into a playground for its national interest.

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Pakistan has followed a destructive policy towards its neighboring country in order to achieve four aims:

Firstly, to use the war on terror as a camouflage for Pakistan's own internal wars: a communal war in Karachi, a separatist war in Baluchistan and a war against the Pakistani military in the Pashtun tribal area.

Secondly, to entrap Afghanistan into Taliban's ideological straitjacket. Pakistan's covert backing of the Islamic militants, dragged out the Afghan war too long and inflicted massive Afghan and Western casualties.

Thirdly, to use the Afghan Taliban as a free army for suppressing Pashtun and Baluchi nationalism within Pakistan.

Fourth, as part of its contingency plan to use the Taliban against India.

Worse still, beyond harboring and steering the Taliban, Pakistan continues to nurture a highly contagious religious ideology that generates and appropriates violence and terrorism against the West and Muslim opponents. The Pakistani military and its spy agency sees this ideology as Pakistan's only survival realpolitik. Anyone who dares in Pakistan to reveal links with ISI and terrorists faces an immediate elimination. The Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, is a classic example.

"It is believed that Pearl had uncovered a link," says Magnus Ranstorp the author of Understanding Violent Radicalism, "to both Osama bin Laden and the Pakistan's intelligence agency the ISI."

The recent case of such targeted killing is Pakistani journalist Sayed Saleem Shahzad, who was brutally murdered on 31 May, 2011 in Islamabad. As the New York Times reported on July 4, 2011, the Obama administration believed that this journalist's murder was ordered by the ISI.

While in the rest of the Islamic world, an eruption of reformist revolution has put the terrorists on the run, the Pakistani military is glorifying the worst form of religious perversity. This ideology, if it remains unconstrained, is arguably more dangerous than the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, for it has the potential for generating a perpetual flow of jihadi terrorists of all kinds.

On October 10, the Financial Times, in an opinion piece, naively put the blame of all these wrongdoings on a section of ISI-dubbed "S wing" and hinted that its elimination would prevent Pakistan from this policy. The paper added that in a "flurry of phone calls and emails" recently Pakistani President Asaf Ali Zardari offer to the Obama administration elimination of ISI's "S wing."

The experience of the past decades shows that the velvet glove treatment by the U.S. has spoiled rotten the Pakistani military and spies. They are expert at grabbing American coins and then running amok. Public humiliation of Pakistan as Osama bin Laden's killing within the sight of the ISI has demonstrated how this policy always has gone adrift.

The brazenness of the recent attacks in Kabul -- including an attack on the U.S. embassy by the ISI-backed Haqqani network -- suggests that they might have been orchestrated by the ISI as part of its strategy of a post-U.S. Afghanistan in order to corrode Western and NATO resolve and win a psychological victory for the Taliban. A dysfunctional government in Kabul and the beginning of the Western military draw down in Afghanistan has given the ISI and the Taliban a powerful incentive to believe that they are on the threshold of victory. Some analysts prescribe a regional solution. That prescription is a mirage, for each neighbor seeks promote their own geostrategic agendas.

The ISI's love with religious militancy began early 1970s when Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation. Since then the use of militants as an effective and cheap vehicle of domestic and foreign policy was held by the ruling elite as the only means by which it can ensure survival of Pakistan. With the wisdom of hindsight, this process reached its climax with General Zia ul-Haq's program of Islamization in the 1980s.

The founding father of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was a secular leader and wanted to build a modern state in south Asia. According to Wikipedia, his grandfather Poonja Gokuldas Meghji was a Hindu Bhatia Rajput. From his mother's side, he was an Ismaili Shia. His second wife was a Parsee (Zoroastrian from India).

Amid all this gloom, there is still time now for the West to get real with Pakistan and devise a tough and decisive policy in order to break the nexus between the Pakistani army and the militants. No country has the right to tie up its national interests with violence and terrorism. Such a policy, coupled with the reforming of Karzai's regime in Kabul and a meaningful negotiation with the Taliban -- which is fighting inside Afghanistan -- could put an end to the long war in Afghanistan. At present, Karzai represents the warlord vision of Afghanistan.

Dr. Ehsan Azari is teaching 20th-century philosophy at Mosman College, Sydney, Australia.