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  Opinion   Columnists  27 Mar 2017  Pak-US ties: Old wounds, new history

Pak-US ties: Old wounds, new history

Published : Mar 27, 2017, 2:33 am IST
Updated : Mar 27, 2017, 6:35 am IST

If you hate Mr Zardari, you believe he’ll do anything for money and is motivated by nothing else.

Asif Ali Zardari (Photo: AP)
 Asif Ali Zardari (Photo: AP)

It could just be the absence of meaty stuff. No Panama, Fasaad already inducing yawns — the national circus needed some excitement. And there’s nothing like a bit of civilian bashing to energise the system again. Maybe it’ll disappear once Panama returns or something new and unexpected happens — never say never in this land of ours. But already it has taken a turn for the nasty. History is being rewritten at will. On, then, to this Osama business. World’s deadliest terrorist found in Pakistan. Not a great place to be, was always going to have repercussions, etc. It takes a special kind of distortion though for, six years later, a contrived dispute over visas to eclipse the real issue. But there’s a reason for it.
From Raymond Davis to the Abbottabad raid to Mike’s “Haqqani Network is a Veritable Arm of the ISI” to Memogate — 2011 was an annus horribilis, for civ-mil and Pak-US. And, improbably, it was all connected. Years later, there’s no real reason to disbelieve the core of the boys’ public claim.

Zardari and Co. probably did facilitate a surge in American intel types in Pakistan, and Zardari and Co. probably did make some kind of idiotic offer to the Americans in Memogate. But that’s not really what angered the boys. What scared them was that a master dealmaker in Mr Zardari and a frustrated Pentagon and disillusioned White House on the other side might actually pull off something. Something that would loosen the boys’ iron grip. Rewind to 2010. Gen. Kayani was popular and had forced Mr Zardari into retreat. By year end, Gen. Kayani had grabbed an extension for himself and things were looking pretty bleak for the PPP in terms of policy. After the no-first-strike and ISI-to-Interior missteps early on, the PPP had been muscled out. The Mumbai attacks sealed the civilians’ irrelevance. But Mr Zardari, for all his love of money, wanted something more than mere figurehead status. Maybe it was the memory of BB and a desperation to be seen as her equal, but he wanted back in the policy game. And that’s where the trouble began — again.

If you hate Mr Zardari, you believe he’ll do anything for money and is motivated by nothing else. If you can allow yourself a wee bit of generosity, you may be able to put your finger on the policy disagreement. It’s not very hard to see what both sides may have been thinking. The civilian preference was straightforward though, equally obviously, fiendishly difficult to effect: shut down the jihad network at home, bolster the precarious Afghan State and open up to India. Rebuffed by the boys within months of arriving, and having complicated partners in Kabul and Delhi, Mr Zardari turned to the obvious power with the obvious interest and clout: the US. His recent publicly expressed disappointment with Mr Obama tells its own tale.

But back then Mr Zardari did what all civilians, desperate and uncertain but dogged in their own way, do: offered whatever the hell he thought may cause the Americans to show interest in him again. On the other side, the boys didn’t — couldn’t — really think that Mr Zardari would succeed. After all, 9/11 had only resulted in a shelving of the jihad project, not dismantling it. But allow a large-scale American intel presence inside Pakistan, and dangerous, funny, other things could start to happen. We all know how things turned out to be. Mr Husain was too conniving, Mr Zardari naive, Mr Obama already disengaged and the boys unduly paranoid. So, the boys won — as they mostly do. Pakistan? That’s another matter. But if they’re old wounds, why the fresh fake outrage? Because the civilians can’t be allowed to forget who’s boss, or what the boys can do to them.

By arrangement with Dawn

Tags: isi, america, pakistan