Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pakistan Military: Generals or Smugglers?

Pakistan lives by the spirit of denial. And the litany of denials goes like this: The ‘good’ Taleban are not conducting attacks in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda leader and terror caliph Osama bin Laden was not hiding in Pakistan before May 2, 2011 when he was found and killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan’s most secured garrison city. Al-Qaeda’s No. 2 Aiman al-Zawahiri and Taliban’s leader and the then caliph of Afghanistan and Pakistan’s military Mullah Muhammad Omar are not inside Pakistan. Renowned journalist and author of the ‘Inside al-Qaeda’ Saleem Shehzad was not tortured and killed by the country’s notorious spy agency the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The military has no relations with the anti-U.S. al-Qaeda affiliate the Haqqani Network. Mumbai attacks were not conducted by elements in the ISI. The spy agency has no relations with militants. Military didn’t sabotage the democratic set-ups of the country. Dhaka didn’t fall rather its command was shared with Indian forces (General Yahya Khan, 1971).
It was also not a surprise to hear that the then chief of army staff General Jehangir Karamat didn’t take three million dollars in return for smuggling out the newly successfully tested nuclear know-how of the country to the rogue state of North Korea in July 1998. Nor the other general Zulfiqar Khan got half a million dollars and some jewelry for being an accomplice in the deal.
Plain denials of the misdeeds are, however, no more sellable in international relations business. Pakistanis and their powerful allies know for facts that a bird will not fly close to their country’s top secret assets—nuclear arsenal, nuclear scientists and nuclear know-how (in any shape and form) unless and until its flight is not approved by higher authorities.
The military ‘national interested’ the country’s top scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan by getting a confession from him that he single-handedly led the world’s largest nuclear black market. However, few believed in the ‘made in military’ narration from day one. Nobody would absolve Dr Khan from being involved in selling out the country’s know-how to foreign states but none is ready to accept that he was the lone wolf.
Dr Khan was not smuggling turnips or onions from Islamabad to Pyongyang. The whole deal literally involved loading and unloading of  heavy material in a military airbase, nuclear hardware & software, confidential documents, military airplane, top security chiefs, pilots and a ‘nod’ from the all time powerful man in Pakistan. At the time of the deal, it was the country’s Chief of the Army Staff General Karamat, the almighty in Pakistan’s context, who has always been referred to as the most ‘professional soldier’ of the country. He won that title because he didn’t go for a military coup when he was forced to resign in 1999 and probably opted for living with the $3 million in Lahore. The man later served Pakistan as ambassador to the U.S. when his successor General Musharraf recompensed him after toppling the civilian government of Nawaz Sharif.
The retired general and the state of Pakistan denied the generals’ alleged involvement in nukes trafficking to North Korea as a first step of defense. However, plain denials in such sensitive issues wouldn’t work. It is neither acceptable to the outside smart world nor to the ‘bloody civilians’ in Pakistan though the right wing pro-military media has already declared it a ‘conspiracy’ against Pakistan and, perhaps, Islam too. The generals involved in the smuggling of nukes can better exonerate themselves from the charges via declaring their assets to the public. They should prove that their assets are clean from the North Korean dollars. If true, it will boost national and international trust in the already ‘demoralized’ Pak military. If that is not possible, the military should then add some spices to its current story--that Dr Khan used to keep the centrifuges and nuclear hardware & software in suitcases at his official residence and one night North Korea’s Navy Seal commandos raided the mansion and fled away with the nuclear assets of the country. The commission later found it as an inside job and Dr Khan was found as the main culprit.

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