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Time to make the correct choices

Published: May 5, 2011

The writer is a lawyer and political commentator based in London

As soon as news of Osama bin Laden’s death was announced, the world media began asking tough questions about the extent of cooperation that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and armed forces provided for this operation. If Pakistani forces did not know about the operation and had only been informed about it immediately prior to its execution, as is the prevalent view among analysts notwithstanding the diplomatic-speak of high level western government officials, then this raises very serious concerns, not just about sovereignty domestically, but about the lack of trust and credibility accorded to our armed forces internationally.

If, on the other hand, Pakistani intelligence and military played a key role in luring Osama to Abbottabad so that this operation could be conducted, as proposed in a Telegraph piece titled “Bin Laden killed: Whose side was Pakistan on in this shoot-out?” (May 2), then it would have been far better to take ownership of a job well done. Remaining silent for fear of extremist backlash is a no-win policy. Not only is it unwise to play both sides in this deadly war, but equally importantly, it will continue to confuse the nation about the extent of sovereignty violated, and can create doubts about the ability of the armed forces and intelligence agencies, give rise to unwieldy conspiracy theories and provide justifications to the Americans to increase solo operations within our territory.

If, for instance, those analysts that claim Pakistan was not told about the operation because it is not to be trusted are correct, then Pakistan will have very little sympathy if it protests the use of drones or the presence of boots on the ground in the form of Blackwater or otherwise, regardless of Pakistani domestic opinion on this issue. Globally, Osama and his al Qaeda ilk are considered the most wanted terrorists of our time and cooperating in hunting them down is looked upon favourably around the world. On the other hand, sheltering terrorists leads to bad press and negative ramifications for all Pakistanis, whether in the form of visa restrictions for students or calls for summoning our senior military command for questioning abroad, calls that historic adversaries like India support through their lobbies.

So the issue is not, as some aspiring politicians or media gurus in Pakistan have confused people into thinking, that our military is fighting America’s war for dollars. Instead, the question that is being asked internationally is: Has our military taken the money and yet played both sides? Has it tried to assist America at times and, at other times, assisted the terrorists who are fighting America? OBL’s presence so close to Kakul has brought all these festering issues to the fore and nobody can clarify them better than the powers that be.

To be fair, it must not have been easy for the establishment to cut ties from the Taliban that it helped create. The Russian invasion of Afghanistan was very destabilising for our region and the ensuing relationship between the American and Pakistani forces that joined together to use jihadi ideology to fight the invading Russians created severe long-term problems, not the least of which were evidenced by the gradual radicalisation of both Pakistan and its military, a phenomenon that helped General Ziaul Haq maintain his undemocratic hold on power and resulted in a draconian force taking hold in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Russians. Although we cannot rewrite history, we can make choices that serve our national interest and that interest does not lie in supporting draconian forces that are frowned upon the world over and have neither the ideas nor the funds to better the lives of ordinary people.

Pakistan’s strategic depth in Afghanistan will have to rely on the hospitality that was provided to Afghan refugees by our people for a very long period of time. The sooner we take a clear stand, aligned with the prevailing world opinion, and come clean with our people, the better it will be for Pakistan. Otherwise, if this duplicity continues, not only will Pakistan’s armed forces be maligned internationally, but our own people will begin to look upon them as incompetent or, at worst, insincere.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2011.

Reader Comments (22)

  • Jam
    May 5, 2011 - 11:14PM

    “Otherwise, if this duplicity continues, not only will Pakistan’s armed forces be maligned internationally, but our own people will begin to look upon them as incompetent or, at worst, insincere”

    I choose both incompetent and insincereRecommend18

  • Saad Duraiz
    May 5, 2011 - 11:18PM

    Finally a sane voice!Recommend7

  • Gahratmand
    May 5, 2011 - 11:24PM

    Let’s see their trak record: 1958; 1965; 1971; 1979; 1999; 2008; 2011 – it speaks out loud!Recommend20

  • parvez
    May 5, 2011 - 11:36PM

    A sensible article, gives one reason to pause and think.Recommend5

  • faraz
    May 5, 2011 - 11:54PM

    Are their any doubts left about the capabilities of our military after its failure of 1948 war, 1965 war, Dhaka fall, Kargil fiasco, failed operations in Karachi and Balochistan, and failure in controlling terrorism. People should study the history of our military, it will help to bring their expectations closer to realityRecommend41

  • rehan
    May 6, 2011 - 12:05AM

    Army bashing again.Politicians are innocent.Run of the mill analysis.Recommend1

  • May 6, 2011 - 1:01AM

    Problem is that too many people blame RAW, Mossad and the CIA for terrorism and believe OBL is some hero. How can we make correct choices in such a situation?Recommend26

  • John
    May 6, 2011 - 1:56AM

    The curtain has fallen. Show ended long time ago when the first drone flew.Recommend7

  • May 6, 2011 - 2:29AM

    @rehan: in this case, the politicians are innocent, for the military has never allowed them space to make decisions pertaining to national security, as per the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Are poltiicans corrupt and incompetent? Sure they are, but this lesser of two evils approach to the nation has brought us to this point. Enough is enough, when politicans fail the Army takes over. The military has failed spectacularly, and the high command should resign so that the image of the Army remains intact.Recommend19

  • pmbm
    May 6, 2011 - 5:24AM

    Pakistan needs a leader like Mahather or Erdogan—–Knowledgable of Islamic creed , Sincere and Honest.Recommend2

  • Maddog Qadafhi
    May 6, 2011 - 5:35AM


    “Army bashing again.Politicians are innocent.Run of the mill analysis.”

    No one has excused any politician. However, the behavior of some in the army have turned Pakistan into an international pariah. The army’s alliance with the extremists has only brought fundamentalism, sectarianism, and a kind of sheer stupidity among the common man that destroys any hope of real economic growth.Recommend18

  • mind control
    May 6, 2011 - 12:37PM


    Army bashing again.Politicians are innocent.

    Innocent or not, IRRELEVANT certainly.

    A. Where was Osama found?Not at a politician’s farmhouse.

    B. Whose job was it to secure and sanitise the neighbourhood of PMA,Kakul. ISI and Mi, again not politicians.

    C. According to widow of OBL, they shifted to the compound 5 years back. Who was ruling Pakistan then, commando in chief, Gen Musharraf.

    D. And finally, who was manning the radars and the air power of Pakistan while the operation was on. Not a politician far as I can make out.

    I would stongly recommend,

  • amit
    May 6, 2011 - 1:52PM

    it has been a very right analysis, Swords are meant to kept in the sheath and world wide militaries are rigorously trained to do so, in pakistan the military establishment has made a hobby to play with it , there are more chances that it may cut a finger or sometimes the neck rather than protect itRecommend1

  • DeceptiveMindGame
    May 6, 2011 - 4:11PM

    @mind control: all this is fabricated game. How a person who’s head value is in millions of dollars would be in the same house for 5 years. This area is not in cantonment. Hamid Mir (who is anti-Pak Army) also spoke in one of his post-OBL program, told that OBL never lived in the same compund for more than 15 days. He even explained his track record.
    Please also listen beloew mentioned link, then it clears your mind.

    Rather objecting Pakistani forces, please try to understand the hidden agenda of US and anti-Pakistani allies. US forces first came in Afghanistan to hunt down OBL but soon after the invasion, their target becomes Taliban who never attacked US. Pakistanis must be united otherwise God forbid soon be disintegrated. If Pakistan Army is not capable then who is running the govt. Do you see any sincere leadership in Pakistan. Do you think Zaradri is !!! or some other leaders who live now a days in UK. Other than Imran Khan, nobody is bothered while Ch Nisar already blamed him as agency’s man.Recommend

  • malik
    May 6, 2011 - 4:27PM


    @ thousand pakistani army fans,

    You can bring down politicians; you can defeat them in elections; even with corrupt politicians, a country can prosper; with politicians, you can demand answers.

    Politicians are accountable to people; but Army is accountable to none. Acknowledge this. Unless you understand this, the survival of the country is at stake.

    What the army has done for the country, except bringing shame?Recommend10

  • DeceptiveMindGame
    May 6, 2011 - 4:41PM

    @ Mind Control:
    Please listen this first and utter your hatred against Pakistan Army:

    US came Afghanistan for hunt down OBL but soon after invading Afghanistan, they forget OBL and talked about only Taliban. If Pak Army is not defending the Pakistan then do you see any leader like Jinnah in the present political leadership. Do you see this sincerity in Zardari who already nominated his sister “Faryal” as President in case of his death (according to Wikileaks). Rest of the leaders are in UK because they are not in power. Imran Khan is the only sincere politician but Ch. Nisar called him agency’s agent.
    Rather blaming Pakistani forces, be united … otherwise … May God PakistanRecommend

  • Arif Z
    May 6, 2011 - 5:23PM


    When some one needs to be blamed they need to be blamed. Otherwise they take things for granted and take the nation and its people for a ride. What is the point of having army or intel agencies if they cant track the most wanted man hiding below their nose for more than 5 years? It required a foreign force to come in and take him out. If you say that they already knew it is even more dangerous. So instead of supporting hollow agencies.. voice your support to get to the truth. These shady institutions have not done any thing so far for the nation. Name one if you have.Recommend1

  • M.Srinath
    May 6, 2011 - 6:11PM


    True, despite hyper-corrupt politicians, India is muddling through crisis after crisis with continuity and a degree of accountability.Recommend2

  • Sardar Khan
    May 6, 2011 - 6:40PM

    This is an army good at conquering the citizens of Pakistan only! who ironically keep themselves hungry to feed and keep this army in good health!Recommend6

  • Noor Nabi
    May 6, 2011 - 7:05PM

    Dhaka, Kargil and now Abbottabad. The 180 million people of Pakistan, as well as the military, will be well served by an enquiry conducted by a high-level commission. The report of the Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission is still a secret. But at this stage of the game the country needs to know the truth. The role of the military should be strictly confined to guarding the borders and the airspace of Pakistan. Making political deals, toppling civilian governments and trying to run foreign policy distract it from its core mission and hence such debacles. Just as an architect and a builder are held to account if a building collapses the ISI should answer the charges of its incompetence and complicity in the Osama affair. Let us not rush to judgement and level accusations but, if the charges are proved, then heads at the top should roll. General Kayani has himself held the position of being the ISI chief and he should know better. The military establishment, just because it wields a gun, should not get away. It is time to re-build a failed state and nobody should enjoy immunity from being answerable for committing serious blunders.Recommend10

  • Khurram
    May 6, 2011 - 9:11PM

    “Has our military taken the money and yet played both sides? Has it tried to assist America at times and, at other times, assisted the terrorists who are fighting America?”
    Ms Khan the answer to both of the above posed questions, is An Irrefutable YES.Recommend17

  • Cherish Raj
    May 6, 2011 - 11:14PM

    Every country decides its governing system. But the Pakistan army is the biggest impediment to peace and security in the region. It has no real vision and is plagued by negativity. Pakistan army is an establishment of some one million people who decides the fate of 180 million claiming that the people of the country is incompetent to rule themselves-’Jahil Awam’.In short, it is a chowkidar who believes that owners are a bunch of fools and uses force to prove that point. Jinnah was the product of the democratic system of British India. If there is no free and fair democratic system, then how can leaders emerge and nurture themselves. If you point out China as an excuse for success, the country is ruled by a civilian political party with a membership of some 80 million. Their military establishment is totally under civilian control. Moreover, the Pakistan army has had no real political success in its lifetime. It tried to wrench Kshmir by force in 1965 and failed. It lost half of the country in 1971 and lost Siachen in 1987. it tried to internationalize Kashmir through war in 1998 and failed terribly.Now, no international figures visiting India even mentions Kashmir. The Afghan Jihad brought drugs, refugees and guns into Pakistan. The war on terror is continuing to take its toll. The whole of Pakistan is against America now. Who brought America to the subcontinent in the first place? It was Ayub Khan, Zia and Musharaff. The only civilian leader of any repute in Pakistan was Zulfiqar Bhutto. It was he who tried to pull Pakistan out of America’s orbit. And latter Zia, pushed Pakistan back into the superpower’s arm. If the whole Osama operation is a drama, then why cannot the ‘honest’ army call a spade a spade and declare that the whole thing was a farce. In Imran Khan’s own words,” Jo mulk super power ke jhoothe polish karthe hai, uske hal eisa hi hoga”.And everybody knows which institution in Pakistan has been carrying out the above said action for the last sixty years. Peace.Recommend