Mar 21, 2011

Putting the myth to bed

The CIA-ISI nexus has gotten us into a quagmire that can only be redressed if and when
we clearly enunciate what has happened and who has done it

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

I have to admit that I had planned to write this week on the massive destruction that was visited upon Japan by nature last week, and the subsequent nuclear fallout. It is true that no country in the world could have been equipped to cope with such a monstrous natural disaster, but it is also true that the global scientific community, politicians, armies and even lay-people know that developing and sustaining nuclear programmes is potentially catastrophic. That the world should have to witness an unfolding Japanese tragedy to be reminded of the perils of nuclear energy is a sad testament to the fallibility of human rationality.

I was then so infuriated by the passing of a resolution by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) okaying bombing raids on Libya that I started to sit down and write about the sham that are the Ôglobal governanceÕ institutions. It should not be lost on anyone with an interest in international affairs that it has been 10 years since the UNSC approved the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Those who supported that decision probably believe that the Afghan people are well on their way to establishing full-blown democracy and are enjoying unbridled levels of freedom, no less. I suppose they will argue that such an international mission of conscience has to be launched at least once a decade.

As it turns out, I will write about neither Japan nor Libya, for the sudden developments in the Raymond Davis affair since Wednesday evening have been compelling enough Ñ even if they are utterly predictable Ñ to divert my gaze away from the rest of the world back to the land of the pure. By chance or design, the controversy generated by Mr. DavisÕs swift departure from the country was compounded on Thursday by a most destructive drone attack in North Waziristan in which a reported 40 civilians were killed.

As I write this, religious parties are gearing up for their standard protest after Friday prayers Ñ they are hoping for large numbers, but the protests that took place on Wednesday evening and Thursday were conspicuous for how small they were. Even so, the government has taken numerous precautions, while the Americans have shut up shop completely, and will only reemerge once they are sure that any commotion has completely died down.

But the commotion will not die down. The invocation of ShariaÕt in the court decision to free Davis notwithstanding, the right-wing lobby has been baying from blood since the day Davis decided to make himself famous. Polarisation across the length and breadth of this country between the ÔsecularistsÕ and the ÔtheocratsÕ has been on the up for years, and in recent months has become acute. The Americans are not about to abandon their strategic interests in the region anytime soon, just as the Pakistani establishment refuses to abandon its strategic assets. And so some other sensational story will emerge in days to come when the furore over Davis dies down. And ordinary Pakistanis will continue to be held hostage to the whims of those who play Great Games, save the world for freedom and democracy, and project the cause of national security.

If there is a silver lining to all of this it is the fact that the machinations of the spymasters are coming under intense scrutiny in a manner that is surely unnerving to both those under the spotlight and their yes-men in the media, religious parties and the intelligentsia. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had already received a good deal of stick even before DavisÕs release, and rightfully so. The CIA has for decades been at the forefront of every major imperialist adventure across the world, employs unspeakable methods in the most cynical ways, and yet remains the most unaccountable government institution since the inception of the modern state. But in the aftermath of the Davis fiasco the CIA can only be condemned as much as its Pakistani counterpart, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

For the very first time Ñ and this is what happens when the state and dominant classes are riven by potentially irreconcilable internal contradictions Ñ commentators and politicians alike have been forced to admit that the Ôgreater national interestÕ has not been served by the ISIÕs cutting of a deal with the CIA. The judiciary too, the darling of the right, the other ÔincorruptibleÕ institution, has also been exposed. The establishmentÕs delicate public relations act is teetering on the brink.

Having said this, the right-wing has been careful to make sure that it reserves the strongest condemnation for the elected government, reminding the general public that it is the ÔspinelessÕ Pakistan PeopleÕs Party (PPP) at the centre, and the slightly less spineless Pakistan Muslim League Ñ Nawaz (PML-N) in Punjab, that are basically responsible for signing away PakistanÕs sovereignty and the usual garb.

But that is to be expected. As I argued following Shahbaz BhattiÕs death, the right-wing will continue to pitch the tired and simplistic narrative of national security and Islam. It is now up to the rest of us to take the game to the right, for a change, and expose the innumerable holes in their argument. This cannot be done, as our liberals insist on doing, by defending the Raymond DavisÕs of the world (or at the very least not condemning them), but by asserting the simple fact that the CIA-ISI nexus has gotten us into a quagmire that can only be redressed if and when we clearly enunciate what has happened and who has done it. The debate over whether the mullahs have become an autonomous force that is willing and able to challenge the establishment can go on forever. What matters in the here and now is that the establishment and its imperial patron continue to be the bane in the existence of working people. The cause of PakistanÕs long-suffering people will be greatly helped if this basic fact is openly asserted, again and again and again.

In closing, even though I am not one for conspiracy theories, is it not intriguing that the drone attack that followed DavisÕs release was condemned so forcefully by not only the government, but the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) himself? There has been much debate about whether the drones kill ÔterroristsÕ or civilians, and this latest attack will not alter the terms of this debate. The outspoken reaction to the attack is what truly stands out given what has happened in recent days. It surely does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is a classic case of the proverbial defenders of the nation reclaiming their mantle as the guardians of our sovereignty. Now is surely the time to put this myth to bed, once and for all.

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