Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Abbotabad Venture

I would like to start by stating plainly that India had absolutely nothing to do with this operation. The operation appears to have materialised solely on account of collaboration between the US and sections of the Pakistani establishment. The exact manner in which this operation was conducted reflects the complex and highly dynamic relationship that the US and Pakistan have. I also strongly suspect that there is a quid pro quo in place - and from a strategic perspective India should be mindful of such a possibility.

It comes as a surprise to most people that the Pakistani establishment, the pillar of the castle of Islam, would allow the Americans to kill the Jihadi leader, Osama Bin Laden on their soil. I am not too surprised. I tend to keep an open mind where the Pakistani establishment is concerned, after all we all know what happened in Amman on September 15th, 1970, and again in the Holy Harams on November 20th, 1979, and again in the July of 2007. Basically I would put nothing past the folks of Islamabad.

It is a well known fact that the US did not have sufficient evidence to link Osama Bin Laden to the Sept 11 attacks in a court of law. It did however have enough evidence to nail him in the case pertaining to the embassy bombings. It appears that a section of Pakistan's establishment accepted the evidence collected by the US as being genuine. It is very difficult to get the Pakistani establishment to do such a thing. There is a hope that Pakistan may have genuinely turned a new leaf on this and is open to examining the evidence obtained by foreign police services of criminal actions by persons residing on its soil. This kind of acceptance was impossible in the age when Jihadi fervour blinded the Pakistani establishment.

Here is why I think Jihad (and Jihadis) may have lost their shine in some sections of the Pakistani establishment:

  • Over the last three decades, the Pakistani establishment has watched the power of religious institutions grow to the point where it can visibly challenge the military.
  • There is visible criminalisation of most religious tanzeems, a fact that cannot escape anyone's notice in Pakistan.
  • In the last decade the Pakistan Army has fought a terrible civil war against various tanzeems in Pakistan and lost more men to Islamist violence than to any war with its so-called arch enemy - India.
  • The ability of the tanzeems to provide protection for key narcoeconomies is limited and the profitability of these economies is on the decline.

While this may be obvious to most in the Pakistani establishment, at least some within the establishment probably do not share a dim assessment of this situation. A good number in my opinion still cling to Hamid Gul/Aslam Beg era ideas of a wider collaboration with Islamist radicals that brings benefits to the Pakistani military. If Stephen Cohen is reading this, he may want to comment in greater detail on this aspect of things.

I do not know where the men of Miyan Company (a.k.a Musharraf's men) stand on this issue - I suspect they are probably not too keen to make their views known. Finding out their thinking on the issue is really important.

The mere presence of Gul/Beg era ideas in Pakistan is certainly good enough reason for the Americans to keep most Pakistanis out of the loop. I feel that is probably what guaranteed the success of the Abbotabad venture.

As Osama Bin Laden remains a cynosure in the eyes of many young Muslim men the world over, he sits today - even in death - at the center of an enormous "stand alone complex". The damaging potential of this "stand alone complex" should not be underestimated.

That being said, I feel any immediate repercussions of the Abbotabad venture will most likely visit upon the Pakistani establishment, the American outpost in Kabul and only then other parts of the world. I believe the Pakistani establishment will try to deny any role to play in this in front of the Jihadis, but at the same time seek credit where it can on the international media stage. In that environment, and it is likely that neither the Jihadis nor the international media will find the Pakistani statements on this issue very credible. And the Jihadis will do whatever they naturally do.

As always when the Pakistani establishment finds itself in hot water, it feels the need to splash some towards India's direction. They get off on the notion that making India suffer is a way to ease their own pain. I think the recent comments by ACM PV Naik on what lies in the realm of possibilities should be seen in this light. India seeks friendly relations with Pakistan and would really like to be left out of this sort of thing.

I feel the average Pakistani probably feels the same way that India does right now.

Unfortunately unlike India - the average Pakistani can't summon up squadrons of Su-30MKIs and legions of Para(SF) troops and Delhi Class guided missile destroyers to persuade the Pakistani establishment to pay heed to his concerns.