Monday, 22 December 2014

US, PAK & ISI - Generals and the red carpet...........

WASHINGTON: While Pakistan gets trashed in `Homeland', in reality, the US approach to Pakistan and its intelligence agency, far from being castigatory or punitive, is feckless to the point of embarrassing. Despite repeatedly and even publicly admonishing Pakistan for supporting terror groups, and even citing ISI hand in the Mumbai attacks and for funnelling money into the US political system (through the Kashmiri separatist Ghulam Nabi Fai), Washington has done little to rein in the terror-backing spy outfit and its proteges, evident given the ease with which Hafiz Saeed and now Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi have been protected by the Pakistani establishment. 

In fact, according to ProPublica, former Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Kayani bluntly rejected the request of his Amer ican interlocutors to divest Lakhvi of his cellphone in prison.As if to rub it in, they even allowed him conjugal visits through which he fathered a child, say Indian sources familiar with the developments, adding, with a degree of envy , that the "Pakistanis run rings around Americans." The Indian side also believes that successive Pakistani army chiefs have made fools of Americans by alternately adopting an attitude of complete submission or threatening a reck less suicide scenario. Every Pakistani general is greeted by Washington as a liberal, westernized, professional soldier, just because he plays golf or smokes or has pet dogs, one Indian official said in a recent conversation, recalling the glowing, credulous profiles that accompanied the ascension of Pervez Musharraf and Kayani. Every Pakistani gen eral is a jihadi because it is written into their DNA and their motto `Iman, Taqwa, Jihad fi Sabilillah', the official added bleakly. 

It was against this background that the Indian side closely watched the visit last month of the new army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, once again hailed by Pakistani apologists as a man who would take on terrorists. It was an unusual visit by any standard, lasting a staggering two weeks. 

Prefaced by ratcheted up coverage in the Pakistani media of an imminent ISIS takeover of the country (and "scarily", its nukes), the trip was aimed ostensibly at repairing damaged relations with the US, and more importantly to extract money from Uncle Sam, longtime patron of its informally designated terrorist client state. 

The visit, which lasted the entire second half of November, got even more mysterious when after a few pro-forma meetings in Washington, a Pentagon ceremony to receive one of those feel-good medals the US hangs on its favoured third world generals, a visit to the Central Command in Miami, and an engagement in the Bay Area, Sharif disappeared from view. He didn't go back home, and he dispensed with official protocol in America. The scuttlebutt was that he was visiting a sibling or son in the Chicago area. 

When he surfaced again at the end of the month, it was for an unusual weekend meeting with secretary of state John Kerry, a longtime patron of Pakistan. In an engagement that effectively recognized the military as the de facto power in Pakistan, Kerry, without a trace of irony, praised the Pakistani army as a "truly binding force", forgetting, perhaps in a senior moment, that the force actually lost half the country in 1971.