By Yasser Latif Hamdani
The Abbotabad Operation and the accompanying humiliation has given
Pakistan another opportunity to redeem itself.
Consider: For the first time since 1971 people of this hapless and
much raped country have realised that trusting men in uniform to make
political decisions on your behalf is a dangerous proposition. It is
about time too. Jinnah had told a gathering of Army officers in 1947
that in Pakistan civilian rule shall be supreme. Ayub Khan who was in
attendance made it a point to defy Pakistan’s founding father.
There are only two possibilities really and all of us need to state
these in black and white. Either our military establishment is
incompetent or they just don’t care about the country that have sworn
to protect having their corporate interests to worry about. My guess
is the latter. However I will go a step further and say that our
military establishment not only knew where Osama was, but was keeping
Osama deliberately in Abbotabad on American instructions. They were
however kept in the dark about the final raid. It does not take much
to realise that by killing Osama at this very convenient time, Obama
has pulled off a great coup at a time when he was in retreat on every
front at home from health care to federal budget. Now Republicans find
themselves outwitted and outsmarted by a terrific operator who has
stage managed a brilliant political victory and is all set to win the
elections in 2012 despite a largely disappointing first term.
Pakistan-US relations were at their lowest ebb and by carrying out
this bold raid, US has taken the bull by the horns.
That Osama’s end was nigh was written on the wall. The reason why the
Americans acted in utter secrecy was not because they feared that
Pakistanis would alert Osama. The Americans feared that Pakistan Army
would move in, arrest Osama and hand him over to the Americans alive.
This they feared would give Pakistan leverage in the post-war
Afghanistan as Pakistan Army would demand that Haqqani network be
recognised as a player with legitimate estimate. I suspect one day
when history is written after documents are de-classifed, it shall
record that American strike against Osama pre-empted a Pakistani plan
A military mind only thinks tactically. He is likely to overlook the
bigger picture. Pakistan Army should not have kept Osama alive for
leverage in the first place. They should have captured him the first
chance he got and handed him over to the US, even if the US wanted
Pakistan to keep him in a safe-house which is the likely scenario. At
best it would have cost Pakistan a few hundred million in military
aid. Michael Moore, the director and activist, stated it bluntly:
Pakistan’s military establishment did not want to give up Osama
because that would mean losing their paycheck. It is the searing irony
of this war that the fulfillment of war means discontinuation of rent.
Still the clearest duty of our generals was to kill or capture
Pakistan’s enemy number one instead of charging rent for lodging him
comfortably in Abbotabad. The failure to do so is nothing less than
treason against Pakistan.
It is now self evident that generals usually have no vision, no
ability or capability when it comes to statesmanship which requires
sagacity and political will This is why in the civil war, Abraham
Lincoln, with second rate generals, overcame brilliant generals of the
South like Lee and Jackson.
Pakistan – all thanks to bad long term planning- is not just
humiliated but stands at the brink of being declared a terrorist
state. Yet this is precisely where our opportunity lies. The failure
of the Army in its aspirations within the great game has greatly
shattered the political ambitions of the top brass. Meanwhile
President Zardari- the one man we all love to hate- is ascendant. For
the first time even our Zardari-hating anchors have discovered that
legally it is the president of the republic who is the Supreme
Commander of Pakistan’s armed forces. He was also the first person to
respond to the media war. An article with his byline appeared in the
Washington Post recounting Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror.
This is truly Zardari’s moment. He has to pick up the pieces and
convince Pakistan’s top brass to take a back seat in foreign policy
and other political decisions. He must also move decisively to cut the
massive military budget given that Pakistan’s Armed Forces have proved
useless against both Al Qaeda and the invading US helicopters.
Pakistan’s geo-strategic importance is inspite of the massive military
force we keep.
This is our best chance to establish civilian supremacy in this
country. Every politician- whether on the left or the right- ought to
band together for this purpose. The Pakistan Army should also make a
clear break with its duplicitous past and commit itself anew to its
primary job to protect and safeguard the republic whenever it is
called upon to do so by the civilian authorities.