By Adnan Gill
A brigade of ANP ministers circling TV talk shows circuits, never miss an opportunity to pin the blame for the current national crisis -- unfolding in the NWFP -- on the Pakistani support of Mujahideen during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
For a moment, let’s overlook ANP’s usual rhetoric of racial victimization, its historical opposition to the creation of Pakistan and its socialist lineage, and focus on bud of its criticism; i.e. Pushtoon are paying through their blood for the Punjab hatched conspiracy of supporting the Americans against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Their rhetoric begs the question: what makes them think, Soviets didn’t had their eyes set on occupying Pakistan next?
Anyone cognizant of ANP’s habit of playing on both sides of fence (like the JUI-F) knows, had Soviets occupied Pakistan, ANP would have cried Bloody Mary over the spillage of Pushtoon blood, followed by signing a peace treaty with the Soviets; only to renounce it after a severe criticism. Then it would have blamed Ayub Khan’s government for the Soviet occupation, because Pakistan fought a war with India.
Ironically, both ANP and JUI-F who could have disrupted the Talibanization during its infancy, looked the other way and pretended everything was hunky-dory. Instead of dealing with the festering menace, both chose to concentrate on grabbing federal ministries and wasted their energies on inconsequential issues like renaming NWFP to Pushtoonkhawa. During their spare time or when Zardari asked, both bashed Punjabis. Of course, until the MQM and Sindhi Nationalists showed their true colors, Punjabis remained their punching bag.
Whether deliberately or otherwise both miserably failed to show the responsibility and leadership expected from them. Even when the monsters were knocking at their door they kept their heads buried in sand, or at best, chased federal ministries. When water ran over their heads, they ran pillar to post blaming any and everyone but themselves for their incompetence. For his part Musharraf with all of power and global support dealt with the Taliban with kids gloves.
Back to ANP’s current scapegoat; i.e. Zia-era support of Mujahideen against the angelic Soviets. Frankly, their rhetoric is plain and simple nonsense. The mistake wasn’t made when Pakistan joined CIA’s war; mistakes were made when every stakeholder disowned the Mujahideen immediately after the Soviets were defeated. Americans didn’t bother to say even goodbye, Saudis saw an opportunity to raise an unaccounted Sunni militia, Arab nations released their Jihadis into Afghan wilderness; and the Pakistanis occupied themselves with pulling legs of successive elected governments.
Instead of helping Afghanistan get back on its feet, whole world moved on to its business. Nobody bothered to rehabilitate the idly sitting army of Muslim fighters who were trained to fight guerilla warfare and nothing else. Not a single dime of financial aid was spent on social recovery projects, like building roads, hospitals or schools. Arab nations turned Afghanistan into a massive dumping ground for the banished, sort of Guantanamo prison on steroids. For example, Osama bin Laden was banished by the Saudis and Ayman al-Zawahiri was dumped in Afghanistan by the Egyptians. With no hope of returning to their native countries, the religiously charged extremists collaborated with the cash strapped locals to form their own style of government.
The dye was cast for the global terrorism. During the lost decade of 90s when Americans were basking in their sole superpower status and Pakistanis were experimenting with democracy, the forgotten religious zealists were looking for new enemies to fight. After beating the Northern-Alliance – raised and nurtured by the Indians, Iranians and Russians – the Taliban set their sights outwards to set the world straight according to their perverted vision. And rest is history.
No matter how hard we imagine: a problem sticks around till we fix it in reality too. The menace of Taliban is a manifestation of collective abandonment of people we used to fight our battles. Let the lesson be learned, never leave the battle ground without cleaning and restoring it first; or its ghosts will haunt, till the end of time. Why the architects of most productive Marshal Plan left the Afghans high and dry to fend for themselves is a trillion dollars question?
However, there is no sense in bickering over who should be blamed for the mess we created in Afghanistan. The responsibility to clean the mess falls upon whole civilized world. Sadly, there are no quick fixes to the problem. If today, we neutralize the Taliban leadership in concert with building roads, bridges, factories, electric power stations, hospitals, police stations, courts, city halls, airports, and most importantly, schools and universities, then hopefully 20 years latter, we could see the initial crop of civilized society in Afghanistan and Pakistani tribal belt.
If shifting blame could rescue the lost generation then there is no better party at the helm than the ANP. If it truly cares for the wellbeing of Pushtoon, then instead of hugging to the ministries tight and blaming whole world for their failures, it should start by bringing its leaders back to their constituencies. Then it should threaten to leave the Zardari coalition, unless the federal government guarantees unrestricted movement of the refugees throughout the Pakistan, including Karachi. Only opportunists take refuge behind racially loaded rhetoric.