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Taking Uncle Sam for a Ride
Posted on Apr 18, 2012
By Dilip Hiro, TomDispatch
In the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, the PCNS finally published a list of preconditions that the U.S. must meet for the reopening of supply lines. These included an unqualified apology for the air strikes last November, an end to drone attacks, no more “hot pursuit” by U.S. or NATO troops inside Pakistan, and the taxing of supplies shipped through Pakistan. Much to the discomfiture of the Obama administration, a joint session of the National Assembly and the Senate called to debate the PCNS report took more than two weeks to reach a conclusion.
On April 12th, the Parliament finally unanimously approved the demands and added that no foreign arms and ammunition should be transported through Pakistan. The Obama administration is spinning this development not as an ultimatum but as a document for launching talks between the two governments.
Even so, it has strengthened Prime Minister Gilani’s hand as never before. Furthermore, he has to take into account the popular support the Saeed-led Difa-e Pakistan Council is building for keeping the Pakistani border crossings permanently closed to NATO traffic. Thus, Saeed, a jihadist with a U.S. bounty on his head, has emerged as an important factor in the complex Islamabad-Washington relationship.
Squeezing Washington: The Patter
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When the Soviet bloc posed a serious challenge to the U.S., the Pakistanis obtained what they wanted from Washington by being even more anti-Soviet than America. Afghanistan in the 1980s is the classic example. Following the Soviet military intervention there in December 1979, the Pakistani dictator General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq volunteered to join Washington’s Cold War against the Kremlin—but strictly on his terms. He wanted sole control over the billions of dollars in cash and arms to be supplied by the U.S. and its ally Saudi Arabia to the Afghan Mujahedin (holy warriors) to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan. He got it.
That enabled his commanders to channel a third of the new weapons to their own arsenals for future battle against their archenemy, India. Another third were sold to private arms dealers on profitable terms. When pilfered U.S. weapons began appearing in arms bazaars of the Afghan-Pakistan border towns (as has happened again in recent years), the Pentagon decided to dispatch an audit team to Pakistan. On the eve of its arrival in April 1988, the Ojhiri arms depot complex, containing 10,000 tons of munitions, mysteriously went up in flames, with rockets, missiles, and artillery shells raining down on Islamabad, killing more than 100 people.
By playing on Ronald Reagan’s view of the Soviet Union as “the Evil Empire,” Zia ul-Haq also ensured that the American president would turn a blind eye on Pakistan’s frantic, clandestine efforts to build an atom bomb. Even when the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the State Department determined that a nuclear weapon assembled by Pakistan had been tested at Lop Nor in China in early 1984, Reagan continued to certify to Congress that Islamabad was not pursuing a nuclear weapons program in order to abide by a law which prohibited U.S. aid to a country doing so.
Today, there are an estimated 120 nuclear bombs in the arsenal of a nation that has more Islamist jihadists per million people than any other country in the world. From October 2007 to October 2009, there were at least four attacks by extremists on Pakistani army bases known to be storing nuclear weapons.
In the post-9/11 years, Pakistan’s ruler General Pervez Musharraf managed to repeat the process in the context of a new Afghan war. He promptly joined President George W. Bush in his Global War on Terror, and then went on to distinguish between “bad terrorists” with a global agenda (al-Qaeda), and “good terrorists” with a pro-Pakistani agenda (the Afghan Taliban). Musharraf’s ISI then proceeded to protect and foster the Afghan Taliban, while periodically handing over al-Qaeda militants to Washington. In this way, Musharraf played on Bush’s soft spot—his intense loathing of al-Qaeda—and exploited it to further Pakistan’s regional agenda.
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