Shahid R. Siddiqi
Foreign Policy Journal
Saturday, Dec 13, 2008
Re-mapping of the Muslim world is under the spotlight in the US and Pakistan’s balkanization forms a part of this agenda. American strategists are propagating the need to redraw its borders along ethnic lines by creating new political entities in the name of justice long denied to “oppressed Muslim minorities”. “Internal factors” are to be created and used, which they believe could lead to desired fragmentation. That this also reflects the mindset of the US administration can be seen by its efforts and actions to engineer grounds for military intervention, regime-change, or fragmentation in target countries.
Rising Jihadi movements, serious challenges to American hegemony, the economic meltdown in the US, declining limits of American power, and shifting of the economic epicenter to Asia all point to the emerging new political realities, wherein America stands to lose much of its power and glory by mid-century, if not sooner. This is forcing it to redefine its strategic global policy framework and pursue all options to subdue opponents and prevent its slide from power.
American strategists believe that fracturing and weakening the national unity of Islamic states could prevent militant Islam from gaining strongholds and choke their financial resources. They want oil rich territories like Kurdistan, the Eastern Arabian Peninsula, and Balochistan to be carved out, unified, and controlled by puppet regimes to secure energy resources and splinter other Muslim countries for easier micro-management. Iraq is already going through the motions and US invasion of a hostile Iran remains on the cards.
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As for Pakistan, the US considers it unstable due to “political and economic mismanagement, divisive politics, lawlessness, corruption and ethnic friction” [Editor’s note: quote from a CIA report] and cites these as causes for growing Talibanization. Hence it argues that this might bring Islamic radicals to power and give them control over the nukes – which can threaten Israel’s security.
The US is also uncomfortable because Pakistan’s army controls the nukes and remains an important player in the country’s political dispensation. The US is conscious that the army resents American pressure to engage in a war against Taliban along the western border, firstly, because this creates bad blood with Pashtuns on both sides of the border, turning the population of a very sensitive border belt hostile to Pakistan which is not in its interest and, secondly, this distracts it from its major task of guarding the eastern border with India – a greater threat for Pakistan. For these reasons and also because having moved from the liberal British colonial mentality to a more conservative religious mindset, it has maintained close links with Jihadi groups and the Taliban during and after the failed Soviet invasion, until the US forced General Musharraf to abandon them after 9/11. The US believes that pro-Taliban officers still call the shots within the army and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and hence has been pressurizing the Pakistan Government for a purge of both institutions. But the attempt of the Zardari government to move ISI from the Army control to civil control in order to appease its American benefactors backfired.
The US fears that Pakistan army might eventually cause the balance of war to tilt in Taliban’s favor, which NATO forces have no chance of winning in any event, and drive out the US and Indian lackeys currently governing Kabul. Therefore to the US, to the Israelis and to their new partners in this region – the Indians, a weaker military in Pakistan with lesser geographical spread (confined to Punjab and perhaps Sindh), devoid of an effective intelligence agency and without nuclear fangs, is critical.
Of late, Balochistan has been the target in the Indian scheme of Pakistan’s further dismemberment. India and the US were disturbed by Gen. Musharraf’s overtures towards China, seeking Chinese strategic economic interests and presence in Balochistan. Motivated by the prospects of Balochistan’s development and economic uplift and to checkmate foreign aided secessionist moves in the province, he was keen for China to use Gawadar-Sinkiang land corridor for its imports through Gawadar port and transportation of oil refined at a proposed Chinese owned Gawadar based refinery. China also showed interest in joining Pak-Iran gas pipeline project transiting through Balochistan. China’s presence in Gawadar would bring it right up to the Indian Ocean, a sensitive spot both for Indians and Americans – the former seeing this as a threat to its control of the ocean with its upcoming blue water navy and the latter upset with its proximity to the Straits of Hormuz.
Now these are grounds enough to justify balkanization of Pakistan.
Col. Ralph Peters, supposedly Pentagon’s military scholar and former intelligence official, writing in June 2006 issue of Armed Forces Journal on balkanization of the Middle East (Blood Borders), advocates the incorporation of NWFP into Afghanistan and creation of a sovereign Free Balochistan, carved out of Baloch areas of Pakistan and Iran. His grounds: ethnic affinity. Pakistani Balochistan is estimated to hold 25.1 trillion cft. of gas and 6 trillion barrels of oil.
In an article “Drawn and Quartered” Selig Harrison of the Center of International Policy, Washington, DC, concludes that Pakistan’s balkanization is imminent owing to the rising nationalist sentiment in the Pashtun belt and growing disillusionment of the Pashtuns, Balochis and Sindhis with Punjab and Pakistan. He says that ethnic diversity threatens Pakistan’s unity,
Both Col. Peters and Harrison are essentially singing the same tune and seem to be presenting a doctrine that broadly reflects US foreign policy.
General Aslam Beg, Pakistan’s former Army Chief, notes in an article that to pursue certain common interests with regard to Pakistan and the region, India and the US have signed the Strategic Partnership Deal the declared objective of which is “to contain and curb the rising military and economic power of China and the increasing threat of Islamic extremism in the region”. Gen. Beg says this deal has led to the creation of a joint espionage network of CIA, Mosad, MI-6, Raw and others in Afghanistan, which is engaged in activities aimed at destabilizing Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia and other Central Asian states. He claims that dissidents from Pakistan are being trained at Sarobi and Kandahar for missions inside NWFP, whereas bases at Lashkargah and Nawah are being used to train dissidents from Balochistan for missions inside that province and also in support of the so called Balochistan Liberation Army.
In this backdrop, recent calls by some Afghan leaders to ‘liberate Pakistani Pashtuns’, the departure of Gen. Musharraf and the cozy relationship between his successor and President Karazai assume significance. Deadly attacks by US drones and troops inside Pakistan’s tribal territory, reportedly with the tacit consent of the Zardari Government, could draw a wedge between Pakistan and its independent tribes, who are angry at Pakistan’s inability to protect them. And if the Pakistan Army is forced to move the bulk of its 100,000 troops from FATA to the eastern border in the event of Indian military build up in the wake of the Bombay incident, this would leave a vacuum for the US to redeploy its troops from Iraq to deep inside the Pakistani territory, virtually occupying the tribal Pashtun belt. This may be the first step towards splintering Pakistan.
Michel Chossudovsky, Director of Montreal based Center for Research on Globalization (author of America’s “War on Terrorism”) in his article “The Destabilization of Pakistan” says: “Washington’s foreign policy course is to actively promote the political fragmentation and balkanization of Pakistan as a nation”. He states: “The US course consists in fomenting social, ethnic and factional divisions and political fragmentation, including the territorial breakup of Pakistan. This course of action is also dictated by US war plans in relation to both Iran and Afghanistan. This US agenda for Pakistan is similar to that applied throughout the broader Middle East Central Asian region.”
Chossudovsky points out that “the US strategy, supported by covert intelligence operations, consists in triggering ethnic and religious strife, abetting and financing secessionist movements while also weakening the institutions of the central government.”
The US initiatives to fragment the Muslim world are misguided and would be a grave miscalculation, promising an extremely volatile and unstable geopolitical scenario. Given the economic and political constraints that the US now faces and the ability of Jehadis to challenge and even defeat US imperialism, which is a very plausible scenario, this could cause the situation to easily spiral out of control, proving counterproductive to US interests worldwide and seriously undermining the regional and international security environment. The US has failed to deal with insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq and has neither the capacity nor the stomach for a wider, longer and more serious conflict.
In case of Pakistan, the plan will not be easy to accomplish either. While no preventive role is expected of the imbecile political leadership, Pakistan’s military – as guarantor of national security, supported by pro-Pakistan population, will fight off such moves. Having the benefit of East Pakistan experience behind it and physical limitations no more a handicap, the army would stand a much better chance at successfully maintaining national integrity.
This article was posted: Saturday, December 13, 2008 at 4:18 am