Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ilyas Kashmiri: The Trend

Now that another key al Qaeda henchman, Ilyas Kashmiri, is reported to have followed Osama bin Laden into the realms of the Djin, it is clear that something more structural than luck has changed in Pakistan. It seems as if the ISI has, at long last, decided that it can no longer afford to run with the hinds and hunt with the hounds.

That is an almost unbelievable paradigm shift, for the factors keeping the ISI invested in its double game were weighty with reasons of history, strategy and profit.

Historically, Pakistan's military spy agency was created expressly to serve as Britain's handle to manipulate Pakistan, the proxy it created in South Asia when quitting India in 1947. The man who created it was an Australian-born British Army officer, Major-General Walter Joseph Cawthorn, who stayed behind as the Deputy -Chief of Staff of the new Pakistani Army (1947-1951). He created the ISI to fight a guerrilla war against India in Kashmir, an aim the agency has maintained as one of its highest strategic priorities ever since. Because of the support from Britain, Pakistan has felt entirely comfortable in pursuing what would otherwise be a suicidally foolish policy against a much more powerful neighbour. Since Afghanistan became the main source of the world heroin trade in the 1980s, the top brass of the Pakistani military has also had the huge additional incentive of profits from trafficking narcotics.

To break the ISI loose from that strong foundation it took a threat to the integrity of Pakistan that could not be ignored, and it came in the unlikely form of a short Media Note on 15 April from the United States State Department in Washington. Issued by the Office of the Spokesman, it said:

"On April 13, 2011, the United States and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Police signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the provision of over $17 million in vehicles, communications, and other equipment. These vehicles and equipment funded by the US will support the KP Police – including the Elite Force – in their mission to protect the local population.

"State Department Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Ambassador William R. Brownfield and the Inspector General of KP Police Fiaz Toru presided over the ceremony. Also in attendance were U.S. Acting Consul General Constance C. Arvis and Embassy Islamabad Narcotics Affairs Section Director Garace Reynard.

"The US supports civilian law enforcement in Pakistan through equipment, training, refurbishment, and construction of new police facilities. Last year, the United States committed $102.6 million for civilian law enforcement assistance. This year, the United States will continue to supply the KP Police with approximately 440 additional vehicles, including trucks, armoured vehicles and personnel carriers, ambulances, and motorcycles, as well as other equipment vital to the execution of its critical mission.

"The signing of this agreement is another example of ongoing American support and is a symbol of the continuing close cooperation between our two countries."

Although the Press release mentioned the "two countries" it made no mention of any role that Islamabad had in the event. In fact, it was clearly a transaction between Washington and the Khyber Pakhtunwala police, and that political development must have sounded like a thunderclap in the Pakistani capital.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police are in charge of territory where the Pathan tribes of Afghanistan have traditionally staked their claim to independence on a large chunk of Pakistan's border region. It is the area where the old North-West Frontier Province once was a stronghold  of the Indian National Congress under the redoubtable Khan Brothers. In the most intensely Islamic area of Jinnah's "Muslim nation" (minority communities were less than 2 per cent), that was a "bastard situation," as Mountbatten's Chief of Staff Lionel Ismay put it. The violence and chaos of Partition helped stampede the tribesmen of the NWFP into Pakistan, but once things cooled off, the realities set in. The older of the Khan brothers was allowed to share power for a while, but then he was tossed into the wilderness and did not survive. His younger sibling, the great Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan spent 15 years in Pakistani prisons. (The British had kept him behind bars for only 12.) Popular resentment in the region against Pakistan's ruling Punjabi coterie has grown steadily ever since.

What Washington's mild Media Note did was heat up that old flame. It signalled clearly to Islamabad that unless the ISI played ball, Pakistan would have to redefine its Western borders radically. It was no idle threat. The Afghan and Punjab elements of Pakistan have had a rancorous relationship from the very beginning, and given the insurrection already blossoming in Baloochistan, a Pakhtoon uprising would spell disaster for the country. Quite suddenly, the weight of the British in keeping Pakistan on the old narco-terrorist tracks was neutralized, and it was, as they say in America, a whole new ball game.

Expect the terrorists in Pakistan to continue suffering major setbacks.


1 comment:

baljinder said...