Homeland Security

Laden and Ladenism
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 05 May , 2011

Osama Bin Laden has been killed by the Americans, though many Pakistanis and Arabs do not believe so in the absence of such “hard evidence” as displaying his dead body or the burying ritual. One can understand the denial, coming as it does from the people for whom Laden was a hero. But that should not distract one from demystifying Laden and Ladenism. Who was Laden? There are some merits in the argument that the Frankenstein monster was in a way a creation of the Americans in their fight against the Russians in Afghanistan in 1980s. As we Indians know, our Gods always gave boons to “Asuras”, who, once empowered, attacked their benefactors.

We have seen how late Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi created and trained the likes of Bhindernwales and Prabhakarans and subsequently paid heavy price for it. We Indians, thus, should understand better the pains and anguish of the United States that Laden took away the precious lives of 3000 Americans in that horrible afternoon of September 11, 2001 at New York.

The death of Laden underscored this fact and that of Pakistans reliability as an ally like never before. Laden was not hiding in a cave somewhere, as Pakistani Army was making us believe”¦

The question is whether do nations and leaders learn lessons and avoid the past mistakes. I am not so sure, because short-term imperatives, rather than ling-term goals, often guide their decisions. Take the case of the United States. While adding to the aura of the likes of Laden in the 1980s in Afghanistan, it considered Pakistan as an indispensable ally and funded Pakistan’s economy and military generously by overlooking the US law that demanded that any country pursuing a nuclear path was not eligible for receiving American aid. In fact, as it has been revealed now, it is with the American money that Pakistan bought and built its nuclear empire and in the process China benefited considerably.

The Americans built the second myth soon after 9/11 that Pakistan would be one of their greatest allies in fight against Laden’s “global terror”. Since then it has given Pakistan as much as 20 billion dollars as the price for using the Pakistani soil to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was never deterred in pursuing such a policy despite the well established facts  that one can never win the fight against terror unless, Pakistan, the most dangerous country in the world for its active links with the world’s dreaded terrorists, Laden included, is defeated first.

The death of Laden underscored this fact and that of Pakistan’s reliability as an ally like never before. Laden was not hiding in a cave somewhere, as Pakistani Army was making us believe, near the Afghan border. He was living luxuriously in the cantonment town of Abbottabad, that too, in the shadow of Pakistan’s premier army academy. Obviously, Laden could not have built his palace without the permission of the Cantonment Board which in turn is chaired by the local military commander. Abbottabad, incidentally, is also the regimental centres of the Baluch and Frontier regiments and just 56 km away from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.

“¦Bruce Riedel, a former CIA agent and advisor to several US presidents, referred to Pakistan as “the most dangerous country in the world.

It is equally worth noting that other terrorist leaders captured in Pakistan since 9/11 — including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Al Qaeda’s third in command; Abu Zubeida, the network’s operations chief; Yasser Jazeeri; Abu Faraj Farj; and Ramzi Binalshibh, one of the coordinators of 9/11 — were also found living in cities across Pakistan. None of them were in jungles and hills, or for that matter in Afghanistan. What all this underscores is that Laden and all his colleagues have always received the major protection from elements of the Pakistani security establishment to help them elude the US dragnet as long as possible. And there lies the third myth that needs to be exploded.

It is often argued that there are only some rogue elements in the Pakistani establishment which support Laden and the Taliban, or for that matter, Islamic fundamentalism as such. Laden’s fortress in Abbottabad should dispel that notion. Let us have no illusion. The inescapable truth is that terrorism as an instrument of Pakistan’s strategic policy has the official approval. Last fortnight, one of former ISI Chiefs, Lt. General Asad Durrani wrote, “ Terrorism is a technique of war, and therefore, an instrument of policy”. He asserted that it has been certainly Pakistan’s policy in pursuit of the country’s strategic objectives in Afghanistan and India.

No wonder why despite providing $20 billion to Pakistan in counterterrorism aid since 9/11, the US has received grudging assistance, at best, and duplicitous cooperation, at worst.

In fact, it does not require one to be a political scientist to understand that in the name of terrorism, Pakistan has been milking the American cow for years. If terrorism is eliminated, Pakistan’s very economic survival as a nation will be in jeopardy. The Pakistani strategy, therefore, has been to keep the terrorists alive and strong so that in the name of fighting them the country would get Western help in general and that from the United States in particular.

And, as has been pointed out by an astute observer, all the Pakistani elites share this “strategy of duplicity” in some form or the other. Pakistan’s generals, judges, politicians, and bureaucrats have constructed two separate and equally effective narratives. To the West, they sell the bin Laden version of Pakistan: a fanatical nation, full of restless natives armed to the teeth with hatred and — if the West wasn’t careful — nukes. To ordinary Pakistanis, they sell the “Ugly American” version of the rest of the world: a big bad Uncle Sam and friends who were always burning Korans, knighting Salman Rushdies, and violating the Land of the Pure (the literal meaning of “Pakistan”).

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Prakash Nanda

is a journalist and editorial consultant for Indian Defence Review. He is also the author of “Rediscovering Asia: Evolution of India’s Look-East Policy.”

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