EDITORIAL. Cecil Victor. VI. XXIV. X
Emcees of terrorism: Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omer
by Cecil Victor
Bill & Hillary Clinton # Henry Kissinger # Osama bin Laden # Ashfaq Kiyani
If only Bill and Hillary Clinton had woken up one morning and decided to play geopolitical scrabble in the halting hum-haw format of pillow talk, the US Afghanistan-Pakistan policy would not be in the disarray it is today. The US Secretary of State has had a tough time trying to explain to everyone from the White House chambermaids to Henry Kissinger - exactly whom did she mean when she said in that interview that there are people in the Pakistan Government who know where Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and the Afghan Taliban are (hiding). But then she added the reddest of herrings with: “I am not saying that they are at the highest level but I believe that somewhere in this Government (Pakistan) there are people who know…” It put her in direct conflict with everything that hubby Bill believed when he was President of the United States of America.
Bill Clinton never put it into words but he said it all resoundingly with just body language during the brief stopover at Islamabad after a joyous sojourn in India. He did not fly in on Air Force One which itself made it plain to all those who had come to receive him (which would be everyone at the “highest level”) that he did not trust any of his hosts. Before he left the aircraft, buses were parked in a manner that no one could even see him coming out (and take a potshot as they did with Aquino in the Philippines). It was widely rumored that when he went to make the official courtesy call on President Tarar of Pakistan, he first sent in a “look-alike” to check the ambience!
By her “highest level” corrigendum, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to give a clean chit to Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani and his alter ego, the Director-General of the notorious Pakistan Army Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Which is where the rub lies. If there is anyone in Pakistan who must know where these most wanted terrorists are hiding either in Afghanistan or Pakistan it is these two.
President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari is definitely not in the know just as the iconic Benazir Bhutto was never allowed to look at the nuclear button - let alone touch it. An absolutely strict “need to know” policy is in place,so that as few as are absolutely necessary would know where any of them are at any given time. So strict is this Pakistani ‘omerta” (the Italian Mafia’s vow of silence) that even the father-in-law of the most dreaded terrorist Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed with an armed drone aircraft, while he was visiting his second wife was murdered on suspicion that he may have revealed the presence of his son-in-law to the Americans. It is not without significance that it was General Kayani who turned down the American request for investigators to question the former Air Marshal of the Pakistan Air Force, father of the Times Square bomber Shahzad, Why was Prime Minister Gilani or President Asif Zardari not allowed to process the request? After all, Pakistan claims to be a democracy under a civil dispensation.
Of all the possibilities posed by Mrs Clinton in the interview, the most pertinent ones that underscore the phenomena of export of terrorism from Pakistan soil are those that provide answers to whether the terrorists are “encouraged” by their Pakistani handlers or “launched”, that indicates all the baleful acts required to train, provide detailed plans of intended targets, and equipment to execute the task. More and more, with the clear intention to deflect culpability, the trained terrorists are encouraged to become “freelancers”, so that their connections with Pakistan and Pakistanis is obliterated. Hillary did promise dire consequences if investigations into the Times Square fizzler led to Pakistan but given the many convolutions in US-Pak relations, expectations of condign punishment appear unrealistic especially when the Chief of Army Staff should put himself between the investigators and the wanted man. Time and again evidence is cropping up that many acts of terror around the world have been instigated or facilitated by Pakistan armed forces personnel. This is not at all surprising given that the seeds of Islamic fundamentalism were first sown in the fertile rows of Pakistani khaki by former military dictator Zia-ul Haq.