Pardon the Pakistani news media going gaga over Washington’s plans to beef up, extraordinarily, its diplomatic presence in Pakistan. The plans are staggering and stupendous, for want of more descriptive adjectives. But they are, for the record, just geared to Washington’s diplomatic stake in Pakistan, lest the Pakistanis routinely clobbered in the ‘civilised western world’ for their outbursts of emotions over supposedly petty little things.
‘The Americans are coming, and coming big,’ according to media pundits in Pakistan. And none should blame them for going over the top because the figures being bandied about are, to say the very least, flabbergasting.
What’s on the drawing boards in Washington and Islamabad are the blue prints for vastly increasing the number of American personnel manning one of the most important diplomatic presence in the 21st century for the Americans in Pakistan. Apparently, Washington feels that its battery of 750 men and women stocking the American Embassy in Islamabad is far too inadequate to cope with the job on their hands. They need to be given a big injection to inflate their muscles. The magic potion said to be brewing would add at least another thousand people on what’s being described as a ‘war footing.’ That would take US diplomatic presence in Islamabad way above the current largest American diplomatic mission in Beijing, China; the number there stands at a paltry 1450.
The US Congress agrees with the mandarins at the State Department and has allocated 940 million dollars for the embassy in Islamabad and a number of American consulates, particularly those in Karachi and Peshawar. The fortress-like new consulate on Karachi’s Arabian Sea is spread over six acres of prime land, given to them at a throw-away price, of course. What are friends for, after all, and the Americans, don’t forget, have powerful friends in very high places in Pakistan.
(Meanwhile, US ambassador Anne Patterson, reacting to media reports, has said that the number of Marines in the new embassy would be less than 20. They would be accommodated in a bomb-proof facility. At present the embassy has 250 regular staff, 200 visiting American staff and 1,000 local personnel. Another 500 would be added in next three years.)
The government of Pakistan is obviously chipping into these plans with a magnanimity that our ruling elite is so well-known for, as far as their overseas ‘friends’ are concerned. They may be tight-fisted and niggardly to their own people but for minders and mentors from the world beyond Pakistan, sky is the limit.
Little wonder, therefore, that a huge parcel of 18 acres of prime land in Islamabad’s exclusive diplomatic enclave has been ‘sold’ to the American Embassy for just one billion rupees, a fraction of its market worth. What is 18 acres between friends; peanuts when you think of how magnanimously Pervez Musharraf presented the whole of Pakistan to his American mentors over just a phone call from Colin Powell. It was a friendly transaction between two soldiers.
So the fortress in Islamabad, when built, will dwarf the mini-fortress of Karachi. It will be a city in its own right, a typical American enclave on Pakistan’s soil, with its own residential colony for the staff and all the requisite paraphernalia of entertainment and security to convey the American sense in spades to its denizens.
But wait. The Pakistani pundits have nothing to grudge the Americans their plans to replicate their America on a little patch of Pakistan. What worries them is what’s at the core of these huge plans of expansion, and what kind of people are coming in droves to Karachi, Islamabad and Peshawar with the obvious intent to cover all the bases in Pakistan.
Pakistan can’t seem to get rid of its perennial problem of being hyphenated with this or that of its neighbours in Washington’s esteem. It was India until not too long ago when American relations with India were taken to another, high, pedestal, with Pakistan left in a limbo to search its own station in American evaluation.
For a moment Pakistan thought it had jettisoned, for good, its hyphenated syndrome. But that feeling didn’t last long. The US is immersed deep into its Afghan adventure and Pakistan is back in its role of a key, front-line, ally. Hence Pakistan can’t be separated from Afghanistan; hence it must play out to the hilt its role of a soldier in a forward trench whose mission is to pull Washington’s chestnut out of the Afghan fire.
It doesn’t matter how Pakistan got involved in the Bush war on terror, or how Musharraf succumbed to the pressure. The ground reality, no matter how tart or unpalatable to a lot of Pakistanis, is that Pakistan is up to its eyeballs into America’s war and must pay the price of the follies of its rulers, past and present.
The US drew a seminal lesson from its involvement in World War II and that’s that America can best be protected, if not insulated from the outside world, by drawing its lines of defence in far off lands, in places wherever a threat to US security or its quest for global dominance may occur and must be pre-empted with maximum force.
The American wars in Korea and Vietnam were triggered by this policy of offence-being-the-best-defence. George W. Bush, an ardent practitioner of Pax Americana couldn’t be more articulate than coining the shibboleth of ‘taking the war to the enemy.’ The invasion of Afghanistan, on the heels of 9/11 was justified on this premise, besides being a prop to Bush’s dream of an imperial America holding the world in its thrall.
Barack Obama may be poles-apart from Bush on so many other things but shares his perception of fighting the enemy on its terrain. Add to it his own vision of winning the war in Afghanistan at any cost. So no price is too high once you commit yourself to achieving a goal; and Obama has his heart set on ferreting out victory of any sort in Afghanistan after having lost the one in Iraq.
But wars can’t be won cheap. They require elaborate logistics. Pakistan has become a cockpit of conflict and chaos spawned by its involvement in the Afghan imbroglio. So Pakistan must be primed to deliver according to Washington’s expectations. Logistics must be so arranged as to deal with Pakistan’s chaotic and turbulent scenario according to Washington’s master-plan for the area.
The logistics involve the building of fortresses bristling with hi-tech gadgetry that keeps the troublesome Pakistanis, or the Pakistani Taliban and their ilk, at a safe distance. That’s an essential tool of 21st century imperialistic reach. In the olden days of imperialism they used to occupy whole countries and convert them into colonies. Technological sophistication and advancement has offered better alternatives, dispensing with the archaic practice of outright colonies to intimidate the locals. Hence the logic and imperative for modern-day fortresses like the ones springing up from one end of Pakistan to another.
Those who have followed the American adventure in Iraq know what havoc mercenary American defence contractors wreaked there. Blackwater was a principal mercenary outfit to which the State Department outsourced its obligations in Iraq. Its gung-ho mercenaries raped and murdered Iraqis at will to such an extent that even the supine government of Noori Al-Maliki was forced to impel Washington to pull Blackwater’s notorious murderers out of Iraq.
The same Blackwater is now getting ready to replicate its Iraqi tactics in Pakistan and some of its operatives are already believed to be in action in Peshawar and its environs. The word has gone out that the Americans are keen to buy Peshawar’s lone 5-star hotel in order to accommodate the likes of Blackwater in luxury for special operations within Pakistan and beyond, in Afghanistan, of course.
The State Department has obviously drawn no lessons from its skewed Iraqi operations and seems willing to retry them in Pakistan. One shudders to think of the fallout of a lethal confrontation between the rogues of Blackwater, running berserk across the troubled North West Frontier Region just as they did in Iraq, and the trigger-happy Pakistani Taliban to whom these provocative aliens would be like red rag to an enraged bull.
The US is a global power charged with a self-anointed mission to fight wherever necessary to keep the terrorists away from its shores. Its history of such messianic adventures not only justifies war by any means but also sanctifies its actions. The question troubling the Pakistani minds is why should their rulers be so blind to this deadly game being played out on the Pakistani turf?