The Generals Have No Clothes
Pakistan is indignant about the killing of 25 of its troops in a NATO air raid on Saturday. The circumstances that led to the assault are still unknown, but Washington and Europe have expressed contrition and promised an investigation. Pakistan has every reason to feel angry. But after a suitable period of mourning, shouldn’t the United States, in the interests of fairness if nothing else, ask the Pakistani army if it plans ever to apologize for — or, at bare minimum, acknowledge — its role in the deaths of hundreds of coalition forces and many more Afghan civilians?
At the start of the 21st century, the United States offered Pakistan a very straightforward ultimatum: Join us in the war against terrorism inaugurated by al Qaeda’s attacks on 9/11 — or find yourself bombed to the Stone Age. In the decade since, Pakistan has arguably been responsible for more American deaths than any other state on earth. Yet Pakistan has not only evaded prosecution for its crimes. In a staggering turn of events, its army has found its program of sponsoring the slaughter of American troops in Afghanistan by the Taliban and al Qaeda amply subsidized by Washington.
One of the most principled voices against the Pakistani army during this time belonged, ironically, to Islamabad’s ambassador to Washington. Husain Haqqani was, to repurpose Nirad Chaudhuri’s phrase about Pandit Nehru, not only Pakistan’s representative to the United States but also the West’s ambassador to Pakistan. His resignation, offered and accepted on Tuesday, was ostensibly precipitated by an op-ed last month in the Financial Times by Mansoor Ijaz, an American businessman of Pakistani descent who claimed that an unnamed Pakistani diplomat — whom he later identified as Haqqani — had conscripted him in a grand scheme to curb the Pakistani military’s power. Together, he alleged, they crafted a memo in which a series of dramatic offers were made to Washington — among them, the promise to end state patronage of terrorism — in return for the Obama administration’s help in reining in the generals. (Haqqani vigorously denies involvement.)
Inexplicably, Ijaz, the courageous anti-military conspirator, transformed, without a hint of irony, into the army’s canary, imperilling Pakistan’s besieged civilian government by volunteering transcripts of his alleged exchanges with Haqqani. Pakistan’s rightwing media served as his bullhorn, devoting their pages and program to his endless revelations. (Hardly anyone in the West accorded serious attention to Ijaz — a clownish Croesus addicted to self-elevating fantasies. If only the Clinton administration had given attention to his “deal” with the Sudanese government to extradite Osama bin Laden to the United States, he once bragged, 9/11 would have been averted.)
The author of a devastatingly frank history of Pakistan, Haqqani has the virtue of clarity: He is known to view the army as an impediment to progress in the region. Still, it is stupefying to imagine that a diplomat and scholar of his sophistication would have recruited a pestilent popinjay like Ijaz to deliver a message that he could quite competently have communicated through other channels, or in person. The rapidity with which Ijaz has switched sides, meeting the ISI chief in London last month to handover “evidence” implicating his co-conspirator, strongly suggests that it is Haqqani who is the victim of a conspiracy.