Top-level contacts between Pakistan and the US were renewed on Friday as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and invited him to a food security meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on May 18. The contacts remained on hold throughout the three-and-a-half-year tenure of the former PM Imran Khan’s government. Bilawal, a novice in the realm of statecraft, will be mentored by Hina Rabbani Khar, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in the post-Imran Khan political setup.
Since the ouster of Imran Khan’s government through, what he says, was a manipulated No Confidence Motion contrived and abetted by the US, an animated debate, bordering on frustration and anger, is going on throughout Pakistan. However, this is not a new phenomenon. Since the 1950s, the U.S had been heavily investing in incubating, grooming up, and sustaining its human assets in Pakistan for the fruition of its strategic goals in the region.
It started in 1954 when Pakistan was brought into the matrix of American
security. Incorporating Pakistani politicians, civil and military bureaucrats, intellectuals, media persons, etc., the U.S created successive crops of dedicated cadres who kept serving as the U.S. Trojan horses for the fulfillment of the U.S.interests in Pakistan.
The inclination of the Pakistani rulers toward the inclusion of foreign powers, particularly the U.S, for addressing Pakistan’s domestic issues and regional conflicts, can be attributed to their lack of confidence and, more importantly, as a ploy to drag their feet in the resolution of these very issues. This is because they want to keep the pot boiling as it facilitates self-perpetuation. To this end, they allow external forces to play an exaggerated role in Pakistan’s domestic politics.
How did the US decision-makers proceed with their human harvesting?
After Iskander Mirza’s removal in the wake of the 1958 martial law, Ayub Khan was projected by the U.S as the “Asian de Gaulle”. He, no doubt, initiated economic and social reforms, gave the country a constitution based on a presidential form of government, and positioned Pakistan as a credible U.S ally during the Cold War. However, Ayub Khan fell out with the U.S after he let himself be taken for a ride by Bhutto, his foreign minister, and started the disastrous 1965 War. America was miffed because Ayub Khan had disturbed the U.S applecart in South Asia. Soon thereafter, Ayub Khan was shown the door. Besides the charge of starting the war, the U.S also thought Ayub Khan had become too big for his boots.
Yahya Khan was catapulted to power in 1969 after Ayub Khan’s rule ended as a result of a countrywide agitation. Like all the Pakistani rulers, civil or military, he was also groomed up and sculpted to serve the U.S interests in Pakistan. Yahya Khan facilitated the strategic contact between the U.S and China by arranging Henry Kissinger’s secret trip to Beijing.
We cannot say, for sure, whether the US played an active role in the dismemberment of Pakistan. According to Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State in 1971, his country was not against the separation of East Pakistan and the emergence of an independent Bangladesh, but the US had wanted it to happen peacefully.
Read more: US aid to Pakistan and its repercussions
In his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, the Editor-in-Chief of “The Atlantic”, Kissingerreported that after the opening of China via Pakistan, America engaged in increasingly urging Pakistan to grant autonomy/ independence to Bangladesh. In November 1971Yahya Khan agreed with Nixon to grant independence in the following March (1972, sic). In December (1971, sic), India made a treaty with the Soviet Union. The treaty had a military dimension/provisions (Goldberg,2016), and was used by India to wage a war against Pakistan.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who ruled truncated Pakistan for almost six years after it was dismembered by India, was an avowed socialist. We are made to believe this because of his political rhetoric and the suicidal nationalization campaign he unleashed after assuming power. However, despite his exhortations, Bhutto kept Pakistan in the U.S-sponsored Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). Bhutto was introduced in politics by Iskander Mirza who leaned heavily on the U.S. If not for the nuclear program, Bhutto would have remained in America’s good books.
Zia had seized power in July 1977 by toppling the Bhutto regime
On 4 April 1979, he executed Bhutto on charges of masterminding the murder of a political opponent. The world had not accepted Zia’s coup against Bhutto’s popularly elected government. His government was facing the problem of political legitimacy. By hanging Bhutto, Zia had further isolated himself in the world. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a windfall for Zia’s martial law regime. If somehow he could rally support from the world, particularly the United States, he would have access to the much-needed foreign support he was desperately in need of.
Throughout the Afghan War, Americans had tried their best to keep Zia pliable and use him as a tool for the accomplishment of their strategic objectives in Afghanistan. While he was a thorn in the flesh of the Soviet Union and India, nothing irked the Americans more than Zia’s independence. He was eliminated after he had outlived his utility for the Americans.
Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, and the hybrid Bhutto-Zardari clan that came to power after Zia’s death had, all of them, America’s blessings. So had General Pervez Musharraf who replaced Nawaz in 1999 due to the latter’s stupidity. Musharraf ruled Pakistan for a little more than a decade and served America’s interests by plunging Pakistan into the so-called war on terror. He served the U.S till he also outlived his utility for them.
The way Musharraf was removed through a lawyers’ agitation which popped up suddenly out of nowhere, Zardari’s ascent as the President of Pakistan, and his distortion of the constitution suggest that these changes were not accidental and were brought about after a lot of planning. Zardari, I still maintain, is a semi-literate person who could not have done all these things without foreign help.
The Sharifs and Zardaris have been brought back to power because:1) They are favorably disposed toward the U.S interests in the region; 2) They are not averse to granting military bases and use of Pakistan’s airspace to the U.S ; 3) They are responsive toward compromising on Pakistan’s nuclear assets – the recent report about IMF demand to monitor Pakistan’s nuclear program should be viewed in this context. We now know who is the invisible drummer on whose drum beats Pakistan’s politicians, civil and military bureaucrats, judiciary, media barons, and businessmen dance.
Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.