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June 16, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 3923

Editorial in Pakistani Daily Warns of Al-Qaeda Threat to Pakistan: "A Break With the U.S. Might Go In Favor of Al-Qaeda's Plans to Impose a 'Nuclearized' Theocracy on Pakistan"

June 16, 2011
Pakistan | Special Dispatch No. 3923


Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani, the de facto chief executive of Pakistan

At an extraordinary meeting in Islamabad on June 14, 2011, Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and other military leaders decided not to come under "foreign" – i.e. American – pressure for a military operation in North Waziristan. According to a Pakistani media report, the political and military leaders "resolved not to make any compromise on national security matters."[1]

The meeting was also attended by Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee chairman General Khalid Shameem Wynne, Naval Staff chief Admiral Noman Bashir, Air Staff chief Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman and Defense Secretary Lt.-Gen. (retired) Syed Athar Ali. This was the first high-level meeting in which President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and all the services chiefs and chairman joint chiefs of staff committee sat down together to discuss Pakistan's situation in the wake of the May 2 unilateral U.S. operation in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden, and the May 22 terror attack on PNS Mehran, the headquarters of the Pakistan Navy.

According to the report, "issues of better coordination between civilian and military institutions, the Abbottabad probe commission, investigations regarding the terrorist attack on the Mehran Base and the new wave of terrorist attacks were discussed… The civilian and military leadership resolved to launch an operation against the terrorists to stem the new wave of attacks and decided not to accept any external pressure."[2]

In an editorial titled "Of Khaki and Mufti," The Express Tribune, a leading Pakistani daily, warned the Pakistani leadership against cutting ties with the U.S., noting: "From [militant commanders] Nek Muhammad to Baitullah Mehsud and Ilyas Kashmiri, Pakistan has been able to tackle its tormentors only with America's help. Hence, a break with the U.S. might go in favor of Al-Qaeda's plans to impose a 'nuclearized' theocracy on Pakistan."

Following are excerpts from editorial:[3]

"The Military Wanted To Reaffirm the 'National Consensus' On Not Operating Against the Terrorists in North Waziristan At the Bidding of the U.S."

"Islamabad has quietly witnessed another extremely important meeting – for the first time at such a level – between the entire top brass of the Pakistan Armed Forces and the prime minister and president, representing the civilian setup of the country. According to reports, the meeting was attended by the military leadership comprising Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Khalid Shameem Wynne; Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Noman Bashir, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman and Defense Secretary Lt-Gen (retd) Syed Athar Ali.

"Since the one-line official statement about the meeting revealed nothing, the media excusably went on a guessing spree, starting with a civil-military resolve 'not to compromise on national security matters.' This was followed by other obvious topics: Better coordination between civilian and military institutions, the Abbottabad probe commission, investigations regarding the terrorist attack on the Mehran base, and the new wave of terrorist attacks. Unofficial sources added more spice by saying: 'The civilian and military leadership resolved to launch an operation against the terrorists to stem the new wave of attacks and decided not to accept any external pressure.'

"The meeting took place at the Presidency [in Islamabad], thus highlighting a dialogue between party and government on the one hand and the Pakistan military high command on the other. The ultimate guess, given the general reading into the recent American visits to Islamabad, was that the military wanted to reaffirm the 'national consensus' on not operating against the terrorists in North Waziristan at the bidding of the U.S. Earlier, a separate statement from the meeting of the corps commanders had already pointed to the said consensus by reiterating the army's resolve to go into North Waziristan at a time of its own choosing and opposing the operation of U.S. drones in the area. What was the need to go through the same exercise again?"

"It Is From the Inside That Pakistan is Being Defeated Through Al-Qaeda's Terrorism"

"The meeting was attended by chiefs of all the arms of the military, including the naval chief, who has come under particular pressure after the Al-Qaeda attack on PNS Mehran in Karachi. The meeting also featured the air chief, who had reportedly offered to counter the drones operating in Pakistani territory with an air force response. General Wynne – who has been taking the current U.S.-Pakistan flurry of contradictions in his stride – was there too. President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani have already endorsed the 'charter' of 'reassessing relations with the U.S.' awarded to the Pakistan Army by a unanimous resolution of a joint session of the parliament. What more could they have told the top brass except that they oppose the U.S. policy in the region and are against the U.S.-proposed operation in North Waziristan?

"It is difficult to say what exactly transpired but other possible topics are: A discussion of the anti-army statements issuing from all quarters in the political community and the media. The top brass could have gone through the contents of the recent high-level meetings with the Americans which have not gone well, including the one with CIA Director Leon Panetta where, according to Time Magazine, Mr. Panetta accused Pakistan of colluding with pro-Afghan Taliban militants in the tribal areas. The military leadership may have pointed to other 'irregularities,' such as a recent statement by a Khyber Pakhtunkhwa [provincial] minister that Pakistan alone can't fight the terrorists and that it must act together with the U.S. to defeat them.

"Next year, the Americans are going to start leaving Afghanistan. Unlike Pakistan, where policy is stuck obsessively on India, Washington is going to change tack and show flexibility, which some have already called defeat; but it may pan out negatively for Pakistan even if Islamabad and Kabul move closer and Pakistan can retain some semblance of leverage or control over the Afghan Taliban under Mullah Omar. It is from the inside that Pakistan is being defeated through Al-Qaeda's terrorism. From [militant commanders] Nek Muhammad to Baitullah Mehsud and Ilyas Kashmiri, Pakistan has been able to tackle its tormentors only with America's help. Hence, a break with the U.S. might go in favor of Al-Qaeda's plans to impose a 'nuclearized' theocracy on Pakistan."


Endnotes:

[1] The News (Pakistan), June 14, 2011.

[2] The News (Pakistan), June 14, 2011.

[3] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), June 15, 2011. The text of the editorial has been lightly edited for clarity.

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