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Home > India > News > Columnists > Sankrant Sanu

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Hit Pakistan army where it hurts -- its funding

December 22, 2008

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British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited Islamabad [Images] and gave 6 million pounds (about Rs 433 million) to Pakistan's government as a reward for the attacks on Mumbai, carried out by trained Pakistani militants. Not that Gordon Brown meant to encourage terrorism. Quite the contrary. The funds were given to Pakistan for counter-terrorism support. But in the equation of action and consequence, the Pakistan army [Images] would be happy to cash in another six million pounds. Every bit helps. But it is time for Western governments to ask whether the strategy of doling out dollars and pounds for terror has delivered the goods.

Being the 'frontline State' in the war on terror has netted the Pakistan army over $10 billion (Rs 500,000 million) in military assistance from the United States. The frontline of terror runs through the state of Pakistan -- for its army it has proven to be rich vein of gold. Most of the military assistance from the US has helped the Pakistan army arm itself to the teeth against its 'enemy State' India and helped tighten its dominant economic and coercive control over Pakistani civil society. Fighting terror is such a profitable business for the Pakistan army that one wonders what they would do if they actually caught the terrorists.

Instead, the Inter Services Intelligence, another arm of the Pakistan army, is busy eliminating evidence to maintain a very implausible deniability. A journalist from the respected Pakistani newspaper Dawn interviewed captured Mumbai attacker Ajmal Kasab's [Images] parents before a pall of secrecy descended on the town of Faridkot in Pakistani Punjab. Subsequent journalists noted the carpeting of the area by the ISI. Enough fear and awe was generated for Faridkot residents that subsequent visitors found their lips were securely sealed.

The evidence of Kasab's testimony, including the very existence of his parents, needed to be swiftly removed before too many other nosey journalists came calling. When the army's perpetual fig leaf, the need of India to provide more 'evidence', has become so tattered, every fibre is worth saving. Kasab's parents may well have been made to disappear yet, according to news reports, Hafiz Saeed, leader of the banned Jamat-ul-Dawah, is plainly visible outside his house despite his official 'house arrest.'

The more things change, the more they remain the same in Pakistan. A nudge and a wink, a few months of decreased visibility, and the terror apparatus will be back in business. The tactic of the carrot has not worked. Billions of dollars of US military aid has not led to a Pakistan that is any less an epicentre of terror than it was ten years ago.

Like a reliable cash machine, Gordon Brown went to Pakistan and coughed up some more money for terror. One wonders, what is the incentive for the Pakistan Army to change -- what it has done so far is clearly working well to keep it well-fed and well-polished.

Just as a thought experiment -- what if Gordon Brown had gone to announce that the International Monetary Fund is putting a stringent cap on defence spending in Pakistan? What if every terror attack having a link with Pakistan, caused the army's budget to be slashed and compensation handed to the attacked country? One suspects that the pro-active willingness of the army to take care of terror emanating from its soil would be greatly increased. After all, this is an institution that has shown it can protect its own interests fairly well.

The cost of terror must be raised. Not for ordinary Pakistani citizens. Not for its largely impotent civilian government that has become a diplomatic attache of the army. Not even for the terror camps and its brainwashed participants that emerge from and merge back into the Pakistani landscape. Wispy ghosts, these appear and disappear at the whims of the powers that be. But the cost must be raised for the Pakistan army, the singular institution that is responsible for the creation of the terror infrastructure and must be held responsible for its dismantling.

And there is no better way to raise this cost than to hit the army exactly where it actually bleeds -- from its pocket books. What the Pakistan army lacks is not resources but will. It needs a clarifying message that the support of terror will directly hit its interests rather than those of the over-burdened citizens of Pakistan or the forbearing citizens of India. Who will call the Pakistan army's bluff and free the citizens of Pakistan, along with the rest of the world, from its yoke? If Gordon Brown is not up for it, will Barack Obama [Images] show some spine?

Sankrant Sanu is an independent researcher and writer based in Seattle, USA.


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