CIA instigating mutiny in the Pakistani army

By M K Bhadrakumar


The unthinkable is happening. The United States

is confronting the Pakistani military leadership of General Parvez Kayani. An

extremely dangerous course to destabilise Pakistan is commencing. Can the

outcome be any different than in Iran in 1979? But then, the Americans are

like Bourbons; they never learn from their mistakes.

The NYT report today is unprecedented.

The report quotes US officials not less than 7 times, which is extraordinary,

including “an American military official involved with Pakistan for many

years”; “a senior American official”, etc. The dispatch is cleverly drafted to

convey the impression that a number of Pakistanis have been spoken to, but

reading between the lines, conceivably, these could also probably have been

indirect attribution by the American sources. A careful reading, in fact,

suggests that the dispatch is almost entirely based on deep briefing by some

top US intelligence official with great access to records relating to the most

highly sensitive US interactions with the Pak army leadership and who was

briefing on the basis of instructions from the highest level of the US

intelligence apparatus.

The report no doubt underscores that the US intelligence penetration of the

Pak defence forces goes very deep. It is no

joke to get a Pakistani officer taking part in an exclusive briefing by Kayani

at the National Defence University to share his notes with the US

interlocutors – unless he is their “mole”. This is like a morality play for we

Indians, too, where the US intelligence penetration is ever broadening and


Quite obviously, the birds are coming to

roost. Pakistani military is paying the price for the big access it provided

to the US to interact with its officer corps within the framework of their

so-called “strategic partnership”. The Americans are now literally holding the

Pakistani army by its jugular veins. This should serve as a big warning for

all militaries of developing countries like India (which is also developing

intensive “mil-to-mil” ties with the US). In our country at least, it is even

terribly unfashionable to speak anymore of CIA activities. The NYT story flags

in no uncertain terms that although Cold War is over, history has not


What are the objectives behind the NYT story?

In sum, any whichever way we look at it, they all are highly diabolic. One, US

is rubbishing army chief Parvez Kayani and ISI head Shuja Pasha who at one

time were its own blue-eyed boys and whose successful careers and

post-retirement extensions in service the Americans carefully choreographed

fostered with a pliant civilian leadership in Islamabad, but now when the

crunch time comes, the folks are not “delivering”. In American culture, as

they say, there is nothing like free lunch.

The Americans are livid that their hefty “investment” has turned out to be

a waste in every sense. And. it was a very painstakingly arranged investment, too.

In short, the Americans finally realise that they might have made a miscalculation

about Kayani when they promoted his career.

Two, US intelligence estimation is that things can only go from bad to worse in

US-Pakistan relations from now onward.

All that is possible to slavage the relationship has been attempted. John Kerry,

Hillary Clinton, Mike Mullen – the so-called “friends of Pakistan” in the

Barack Obama administration – have all come to Islamabad and turned on the

charm offensive. But nothing worked. Then came CIA boss Leon Panetta with a

deal that like Marlon Brando said in the movie Godfather, Americans thought

the Pakistanis cannot afford to say ‘No’ to, but to their utter dismay, Kayani

showed him the door.

The Americans realise that Kayani is fighting

for his own survival – and so is Pasha – and that makes him jettison his

“pro-American” mindset and harmonise quickly with the overwhelming opinion

within the army, which is that the Americans pose a danger to Pakistan’s

national security and it is about time that the military leadership draws a

red line. Put simply, Pakistan fears that the Americans are out to grab their

nuclear stockpile. Pakistani people and the military expect Kayani to

disengage from the US-led Afghan war and instead pursue an independent course

in terms of the country’s perceived legitimate interests.

Three, there is a US attempt to exploit the growing indiscipline within the

Pak army and, if possible, to trigger a mutiny, which will bog down the army

leadership in a serious “domestic” crisis

that leaves no time for them for the foreseeable future to play any forceful

role in Afghanistan. In turn, it leaves the Americans a free hand to pursue

their own agenda. Time is of the essence of the matter and the US desperately

wants direct access to the Taliban leadership so as to strike a deal with them

without the ISI or Hamid Karzai coming in between.

The prime US objective is that Taliban should somehow come to a compromise

with them on the single most crucial issue of

permanent US military bases in Afghanistan. The negotiations over the

strategic partnership agreement with Karzai’s government are at a critical

point. The Taliban leadership of Mullah Omar robustly opposes the US proposal

to set up American and NATO bases on their country. The Americans are willing

to take the Taliban off the UN’s sanctions list and allow them to be part of

mainstream Afghan political life, including in the top echelons of leadership,

provided Mullah Omar and the Quetta Shura agree to play ball.

The US tried its damnest to get Kayani to bring

the Taliban to the reconciliation path. When these attempts failed, they tried

to establish direct contact with the Taliban leadership. But ISI has been

constantly frustrating the US intelligence activities in this direction and

reminding the US to stick to earlier pledges that Pakistan would have a key

role in the negotiations with the Taliban. The CIA and Pentagon have concluded

that so long as the Pakistani military leadership remains stubborn, they

cannot advance their agenda in Afghanistan.

Now, how do you get Kayani and the ISI to back

off? The US knows the style of functioning of the Pakistani military. The army

chief essentially works within a collegium of the 9 corps commanders. Thus, US

has concluded that it also has to tackle the collegium. The only way is to set

the army’s house on fire so that the generals get distracted by the

fire-dousing and the massive repair work and housecleaning that they will be

called upon to undertake as top priority for months if not years to come. To

rebuild a national institution like the armed forces takes years and


Four, the US won’t mind if Kayani is forced to

step aside from his position and the Pakistani military leadership breaks up

in disarray, as it opens up windows of opportunities to have Kayani and Pasha

replaced by more “dependable” people – Uncle Sam’s own men. There is every

possibility that the US has been grooming its favourites within the Pak army

corps for all contingencies. Pakistan is too important as a “key non-NATO

ally”. The CIA is greatly experienced in masterminding coup d-etat, including

“in-house” coup d’etat.

Almost all the best and the brightest Pak

army officers have passed through the US military academies at one time or

another. Given the sub-continent’s middle class mindset and post-modern

cultural ethos, elites in civil or military life take it for granted that US

backing is a useful asset for furthering career. The officers easily succumb

to US intelligence entrapment. Many such “sleepers” should be existing there

within the Pak army officer corps.

The big question remains: has someone in

Washington thought through the game plan to tame the Pakistani military? The

heart of the matter is that there is virulent “anti-Americanism” within the

Pak armed forces. Very often it overlaps with Islamist sympathies. Old-style

left wing “anti-Americanism” is almost non-existent in the Pakistani armed

forces – as in Ayaz Amir’s time. These tendencies in the military are almost

completely in sync with the overwhelming public opinion in the country as


Over the past 3 decades at least, Pakistani

army officers have come to be recruited almost entirely from the lower middle

class – as in our country – and not from the landed aristocracy as in the

earlier decades up to the 1970s. These social strata are quintessentially

right wing in their ideology, nationalistic, and steeped in religiosity that

often becomes indistinguishable from militant religious faith.

Given the overall economic crisis in Pakistan

and the utterly discredited Pakistani political class (as a whole) and

countless other social inequities and tensions building up in an overall

climate of cascading violence and great uncertainties about the future gnawing

the mind of the average Pakistani today, a lurch toward extreme right wing

Islamist path is quite possible. The ingredients in Pakistan are almost

nearing those prevailing in Iran in the Shah’s era.

The major difference so far has been that

Pakistan has an armed forces “rooted in the soil” as a national institution,

which the public respected to the point of revering it, which on its part,

sincerely or not, also claimed to be the Praetorian Guards of the Pakistani

state. Now, in life, destroying comes very easy. Unless the Americans have

some very bright ideas about how to go about nation-building in Pakistan,

going by their track record in neighbouring Afghanistan, their present course

to discredit the military and incite its disintegration or weakening at the

present crisis point, is fraught with immense dangers.

The instability in the region may suit the US’

geo-strategy for consolidating its (and NATO’s) military presence in the

region but it will be a highly self-centred, almost cynical, perspective to

take on the problem, which has dangerous, almost explosive, potential for

regional security. Also, who it is that is in charge of the Pakistan policy in

Washington today, we do not know. To my mind, Obama administration doesn’t

have a clue since Richard Holbrooke passed away as to how to handle Pakistan.

The disturbing news in recent weeks has

been that all the old “Pakistan hands” in the USG have left the Obama

administration. It seems there has been a steady exodus of officials who knew

and understood how Pakistan works, and the depletion is almost one hundred

percent. That leaves an open field for the CIA to set the


The CIA boss Leon Panetta (who is tipped as

defense secretary) is an experienced and ambitious politico who knows how to

pull the wires in the Washington jungle – and, to boot it, he has an Italian

name. He is unlikely to forgive and forget the humiliation he suffered in

Rawalpindi last Friday. The NYT story suggests that it is not in his blood if

he doesn’t settle scores with the Rawalpindi crowd. If Marlon Brando were

around, he would agree.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian

Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri

Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and



Pakistan Scorns U.S. Scolding on Terrorism


Published: September 23, 2011


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The public assault by the Obama administration on the Pakistani intelligence agency as a facilitator of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan has been met with scorn in Pakistan, a signal that the country has little intention of changing its ways, even perhaps at the price of the crumpled alliance.


Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the Pakistani Army.

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In injured tones similar to those used after the Navy Seals raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May, Pakistani officials insisted on Friday that theirs was a sovereign state that could not be pushed by America’s most senior military officials, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Leon E. Panetta, the secretary of defense.

The two Americans told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that Pakistan’s spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, worked hand-in-glove with the Haqqani network, a potent militant outfit sheltering in the Pakistani tribal areas, to subvert American war aims.

Admiral Mullen accused the spy agency of supporting Haqqani militants who attacked the American Embassy in Kabul last week, and he called the Haqqanis a “veritable arm” of the ISI. Mr. Panetta threatened “operational steps” against Pakistan, shorthand for possible American raids against the Haqqani bases in North Waziristan.

The connection between the spy agency and the militants has been at the center of American complaints about Pakistan since the start of the war in Afghanistan, but never before has the United States chosen to expose its grievances in such unvarnished language in the most public of forums.

In his public reply, the chief of the Pakistani Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said Mr. Mullen’s accusations were “not based on facts,” and suggested that they were unfair given “a rather constructive” recent meeting. The ISI did not support the Haqqanis, General Kayani said.

Similarly, the country’s defense minister, Ahmad Mukhtar, said Pakistan was a sovereign nation “which cannot be threatened.”

The foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, said it was “unacceptable” for one ally, the United States, to “humiliate” another, Pakistan. “If they are choosing to do so, it will be at their own cost,” Ms. Khar said.

Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States who is close to the military, underscored that point. “Relations are headed towards a breakdown if the U.S. continues its coercive approach of threats and public accusations,” Ms. Lodhi said. “What is its plan B if there is an open rupture with Pakistan?”

The anti-American feeling in Pakistan, and within the army, surged after the raid that killed Bin Laden, which was kept secret from Pakistan’s leadership. It remains intense, making the idea of bowing to American demands to take on the Haqqanis almost unthinkable, Pakistani politicians, businessmen and analysts said.

They said General Kayani, who was under great pressure from his troops after the humiliation of the Bin Laden raid, had recovered some ground and recouped some prestige. He has no intention of giving in to the Americans now because he is betting that they still need Pakistan as the supply route for the Afghanistan war, they said.

But the larger reason is a divergence of strategic interests with the United States. The Haqqani network is seen as an important anti-India tool for the Pakistani military as it assesses the future of an Afghanistan without the Americans, a situation Pakistan sees as not far off.

General Kayani has said he fears that as the Americans exit, India will be allowed to have influence in Afghanistan, squeezing Pakistan on both its eastern and western borders, Pakistani analysts say.

Thus, the Haqqani fighters who hold sway over Paktika, Paktia and Khost Provinces in Afghanistan, and who are also strong in the capital, Kabul, and in the provinces around it, present a valuable hedge against the perceived India threat, which American officials say is overblown.

The precise relationship between the Pakistani military and spy agency on the one hand and the Haqqani network on the other remains murky, American officials say.

In talks with the Americans, the leader of the ISI, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, has said he has “contact” with the Haqqanis, a senior American official said. “But he denies he has command and control.” The official said it appeared that the Haqqanis had developed into such skilled fighters over several decades that they had the Pakistani Army cowed.

According to American officials and Pakistani analysts, it appeared that the Pakistani Army had struck a bargain with the Haqqanis: The Haqqanis would be free to fight in Afghanistan, in part looking after Pakistan’s interests, and in return, the Haqqanis would not attack Pakistan.

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If the Pakistani army attacked Haqqani fighters in their bases in North Waziristan, the blowback in the form of terrorist attacks in Pakistani cities and towns could be overwhelming, Pakistani military analysts say.

In a startling image of the apparent symbiosis between the Pakistani military — which controls the ISI — and the Haqqani fighters, both forces have bases in Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan.

Five brigades of the Pakistani Army, about 15,000 soldiers, and the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force of about 10,000 men, have never touched the Haqqanis, American officials familiar with the situation say. Visitors to Miram Shah have said the army facilities are within sight of the Haqqani compounds.

Estimates of the Haqqani fighting strength in North Waziristan vary from 10,000 to 15,000. Technically, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who runs the group, is a member of the Afghan Taliban leadership headed by Mullah Muhammad Omar and based in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province in southwest Pakistan.

The Pakistani Army struggled to defeat the Pakistani Taliban inbattles in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan in 2009 and 2010, but the Taliban are still present in both places, a senior American military official said. “So why would they take on the Haqqanis, who are world class fighters?” the official asked.

As much as the Americans criticize the Pakistanis for not taking on the Haqqanis, the Pakistanis scoff at the inability of the Americans to deal with the Haqqanis on the war front in Afghanistan.

In a sarcastic column in the English-language newspaper The News on Thursday, Farrukh Saleem wrote, “If over the past decade the lone superpower has failed to tame 10,000 to 15,000 tribesmen, then the American military-intelligence complex has really failed and should be heading home.”

Pakistani military officers have contended that it is up to the American troops in Afghanistan to prevent the Haqqanis from launching terrorist attacks in Kabul and elsewhere.

In order to get to Kabul, the Haqqani fighters pass through provinces with large American bases, they say. Mr. Haqqani is believed to spend much of his time in Afghanistan, organizing his fighters.

In an interview with Reuters this week, Mr. Haqqani said he was working solely in Afghanistan. It is the same argument that Pakistani officials have been making this week as a way to rebut the American accusations that the Haqqanis live in Pakistan at all.

Through the eyes of a three year old

by Farhan Ansari


When I sit here today, recollecting the images from my childhood the earliest memories which have left any worthwhile prints on my mid were those of the war of 1965. I was only three, at the time. My father (then Squadron leader Saeed Ansari) was a pilot in active service and carrying out his flying duties from PAF base Masroor (Mauripur as it was called then) in Karachi. I have vivid memories of living in an apartment style officers’ family accommodation. Ours must have been located at the first floor, as I remember we rushed downstairs many times a day during the war. This maneuver usually followed a loud noise of a siren and the sound of airplanes. The roar of several airplanes starting up together at dusk was very unique and produced a deafening noise that I can still hear, almost half a century later. I remember my mother and her friends notably Auntie Rafi (wife of squadron leader Rais Rafi) standing outside the house and counting the number of airplanes flying past our house as their husbands ascended into the skies. They gazed the black silhouettes of the aircraft, till they disappeared into the red horizon of the September sky.

The next scene I can see is that all the wives (of the Pilots) were sitting in the ‘drawing room’ not on the sofas but on a white bed sheet spread on the carpet. All the ladies were either reading the Quran or doing Tasbeeh. It was like a night vigil. It was like their lives were hanging in the balance. It was like a Russian roulette. There was a high chance that one of the men might not return. This pattern repeated night after night after night. I also remember there were times of bouts of laughter followed by long periods of silence. It is now easy to understand why the euphoric episodes during times of extreme stress.

I used to ask my mother when Papa would come back. I was given explanation in a very adult style conversation, that Papa had gone to kill the Hindus and he would come home when he had finished them. I was quite O.K with that explanation. Half an hour later I asked again ‘How many Hindus are left now’. The deafening silence in the room was broken by the faint sound of aircraft approaching from a distance. This had a mixed reaction of joy and anxiety. The ladies would start dialing the squadron headquarters to get information, if all of the pilots had returned safely. A uniform smile across everybody’s face meant that all of them were back. It is also absolutely clear in my memory that my mother would grab me up in her arms and rush towards the road where the squadron bus would drop the pilots to their residence. I remember my father had to walk a short distance from the drop off point to reach home. I remember him wearing his flying attire (coverall) with an additional item, which was a pistol tucked in a holster like a cowboy. This was for his own defense in case he was shot down behind enemy lines.

Six years later in 1971, it was a similar story as far as the families were concerned but this time I was older, I was almost nine. I was petrified of the war. I was more aware of what was going on. There was TV in almost every house broadcasting national songs followed by news and more national songs followed by more news. I could hear my mother crying many a times after hearing the news, as often the names of the Shaheeds announced, were very close family friends with whom my parents has spent good part of their lives in the Air Force. At the time I was too young to understand why these wars were happening, I was satisfied with the holding the belief that we Muslims were winning everything. Little did I realize that there are no winners in wars.

Many years later, I entered the medical field as a doctor and decided to take up surgery as a Profession. This career path took me to Europe, the Middle east, the Far East and Australia. I found that the world had truly become a ‘global village’. I interacted with nationalities from all over. In this day and age any international hospital of any worth has a multinational staff. That includes Indians as well. I interacted with them professionally as well as socially. I found them to be excellent human beings. They laugh like us, cry like us and have all the emotions just like us. In fact having worked as a doctor in eight countries spread over five continents I can almost say that I have operated on every race on earth. Believe me, they all are exactly the same when I opened them up. To put it mildly, ‘it is the same cake with a different icing’.

Few years ago when I was working as a surgeon in Australia, one of my Indian surgeon colleagues invited me to his house for dinner while his mother was visiting him from India and he very much wanted me and my family to taste the ‘Puris’ and Aloo bhaji’ made by his mother’s hands. We went for dinner at their place and enjoyed their hospitality par excellence. During the course of the evening we were exchanging various views about Indian customs and Pakistani customs etc, etc and everybody was laughing and enjoying . Then my Indian colleague’s mother told us that her husband was a Pilot in the Indian Air Force and she could recall the 1965 war. Her husband was posted at the Halwara Indian air base. She said ‘I can never forget how terrified we used to be when the Pakistani airplanes used to come at night and drop their bombs. Rajneesh (pointing to my Indian surgeon colleague) was only three at the time and he used to clutch to my neck with fright upon hearing the thunder of the dropping bombs. In the line of duty my father and his colleagues carried out several attacks over the Halwara air base and pounded that air base with bombs as hard as they could. I told her of our suffering on the other side of the border was not much different where a young mother was bracing another three year old who was impatiently waiting for his father. In war there are no winners. It was very strange that two little boys from similar backgrounds on opposite sides of a conflict, per chance grew up to choose the same profession and decades later, meeting each other at an entirely different level.

Whenever I press my rewind button and see these scenes again, and analyze now, sitting in times when I am older and hopefully a bit wiser. I am able to fill in gaps and make sense of many things that were blurred at the time. However, I am sad to say that we as Pakistani people have forgotten our past. We have dispensed with memories of our mistakes as well as ‘our finest hours’. We are just like a rudderless ship caught in a storm in the midst of a rough sea. Look at where India is today and where are we. I don’t know who, how or when did someone sow the seeds of hatred among people inhabiting the troubled colonies of Karachi and other places. These were the people who have lived in relative harmony for years.

This is not much different to how things started in East Pakistan which led to its dismemberment. The basic ingredient here is the same, ‘Seeds of hatred’. When the nation is busy fighting internal insurgencies, it becomes vulnerable to the prying eyes of opportunists. People have no reluctance today, talking about their demands for half a dozen new provinces in Pakistan. It is not rocket science to put these all these on-going events together, and make an intelligent prediction of what we are heading for.

The author is Chief of Surgery at a leading hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.