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The Pak-US tango: Deniability a must for infidelity

May 06, 2011 16:12 IST

Osama's death does not end the scourge of Islamic terrorism boosted by him. This scourge will taper off only when injustice tapers off in Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Palestine, when the West palpably sides with justice, says Saeed Naqvi 

All clever infidelities have deniability built into them.

The Pakistani establishment would have to be out of its mind to enter Osama bin Laden's Abbotabad hideout on a white charger. Such foolhardiness would swell the ranks of jihadi outfits in Pakistan. The murderer of Punjab governor Salman Taseer would resurface as a model. Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadiris would sprout, searching for targets and expecting to be showered with rose petals.

Speculation will continue till doomsday on the level of coordination between the United States and Pakistan in tracking down Osama. Four helicopters in a garrison town and the host (invaded) country knew nothing about the prize resident?

Admit to invasion of sovereignty and the army loses face. Acknowledge cooperation, and jihadists expand exponentially. Therefore, fall back on deniability cure for all infidelities.

President Obama's May 1 statement announcing Osama's death could not have been drafted carelessly.

'Tonight, I called President Zardari and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts.' Notice the next line: 'They agree that this is a good and historic day for both our nations.' This means President Zardari and his national security team which must include the army, are agreed that Osama's elimination is a 'historic day for both our nations.'

Look at the last line of this pithy paragraph: 'Going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against Al Qaeda and its affiliates.' Pakistan is not being asked to 'join us' in the fight against Al Qaeda. It is being asked to 'continue'. Only an ongoing arrangement is 'continued'. It is therefore pointless to split hairs on the extent of Pakistani cooperation unless the purpose is to embarrass Pakistan.

That Pakistan continues to harbour militants, jihadists and terrorists is a story as old as the Murree hills. And Americans armed with technology which enabled four noisy helicopters navigate through blind spots in the Pak radars, did not know all the terrorism being hosted by Pakistan? This is the kind of rubbish even Americans do not believe?

Who would believe that all the Central Intelligence Agency and local mercenary intelligence did not know about the goings-on in the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July 2007? It played a key role during the mujahideen war against the Soviets from 1980 to 1989. Maulana Mohammad Abdullah, the head of the mosque, had excellent relations with President Zia-ul-Haq who, with Saudi and American co-operation, built up a series of madrasas for the manufacture of jihadists all along the Af-Pak border. The most significant training unit in the hinterland was Lal Masjid. And Americans did not know?

It was only after Lal Masjid was raided and hundreds of young men and women in the seminaries attached to the mosques were killed, that there was an incremental spurt in suicide bombings. In that perspective, imagine the price the Pak establishment would have had to pay had it been tempted to claim Osama as trophy. A country where sensible people are afraid opposing an uncivilised blasphemy law is hardly in a position to take on the most awesome militant in history.

What will be the consequence of Osama's elimination? Cancer when punctured sometimes flares up. There may be terrorist eruptions by way of revenge in the short term.

And in the long term? Remember how Veerappan, the bandit in the jungles of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu kept the security forces on their toes for years? But when he was killed, sandalwood smuggling stopped.

Osama's death however does not end the scourge of Islamic terrorism boosted by him.

This scourge will taper off only when injustice tapers off in Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Palestine, when the West palpably sides with justice. Pakistan is a distinct case where popular anti-Americanism and an India-centered army combines to manufacture militancy.

Speculation that US-Pak relations may rupture because of US unilateralism on Pak territory is  premature. To the contrary, US and Pak relations may look demonstrably healthy when the Af-Pak meeting takes place in May with US participation.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Kabul last week was called off because there was information that something was afoot in the vicinity, all the talk of US unilateralism notwithstanding.

Saeed Naqvi