Jamal Hussain |
The liberation of the Canadian/American couple and their three children from the clutches of Haqqani groups by Pakistan military made headline breaking news in major TV channels in the USA. President Donald Trump himself broke the news personally thanking the government of Pakistan and appreciating the rescue operation conducted by the Pakistan Army after it had been provided key intelligence data from the US agencies.
Trump being Trump, he could not help but blow his own trumpet when he added that the credit for the rescue operation by Pakistan goes to him and his policy of putting it on notice to do more or else—the reality as it unfolded actually proved Pakistan’s long-standing point of view about its sincerity and resolve to go after and eliminate terror syndicates operating from its soil without any distinction, rather than the Trump pomposity.
One hopes this will help arrest the deteriorating relationship between USA and Pakistan and will usher a period of better understanding and cooperation with each other in their mutual war against terror.
The USA continues to blame Pakistan demanding it to do more against the Haqqani network which it claims operates from the Pakistani soil. Pakistan categorically refutes the allegation and has maintained that post-operation Zarb e Azb in 2014, the Haqqanis have been routed from their hideouts in North Waziristan and are presently ensconced in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan that border Pakistan from where it routinely dispatches raiding parties to conduct terror acts in Pakistan.
The difficult porous Afghanistan – Pakistan border, the mountainous terrain and lack of sophisticated aerial platforms to maintain a 24/7 vigil and gather electronic and visual intelligence by Pakistan allows the Taliban factions to move relatively freely from one side to the other. US forces in Afghanistan on the other hand with their very sophisticated electronic and visual intelligence gathering platforms in the shape of Reaper/Predator armed drones have this capability to monitor any cross-border movements with relative ease.
Why ISAF does not ‘drone’ them inside Afghanistan is a question they are better placed to answer. Pakistan has always requested the USA to timely share actionable intelligence about cross-border insurgent movements which the USA so far had been reluctant to do citing lack of confidence. For the first time when it did in the case of hostage rescue Pakistan has delivered, winning accolades and kudos from the US President and his administration.
Boyle has maintained his story even after departing the Pakistani soil. This version of Joshua Boyle should put paid to the insinuations the enemies of Pakistan are trying to project.
Perhaps Pakistan should let Trump play to the gallery and his vote bank in the USA and listen more closely to what his senior military commanders are saying—and to date, they have all praised Pakistan’s action without any preconditions. A brief encapsulation of the sequence of events as explained by the Inter-Service Public Relationship (ISPR) of Pakistan is as follows: at 4:10 PM PST on Wednesday, October 11, 2017, a message was received from the US about the intelligence tracking movement of two large sized cars from Afghanistan into the Kurram Valley of Pakistan that possibly was transferring the Canadian/American family which had been taken hostage in Afghanistan by Haqqani group in 2012.
Pakistan was requested to intercept the convoy and liberate the family from the clutches of the kidnappers without endangering the lives of the captives. A crack Pakistani military squad was immediately dispatched to shadow the cars while a checkpoint was established enroute to intercept the convoy. Sensing danger, the cars veered off the road taking a dirt track leading to an Afghan refugee camp. The rescue unit moved into action and demobilized the cars by shooting off the tires. The kidnappers got out of the vehicles and ran towards the Afghan refugee camp. Moving rapidly the military unit placed themselves in between the abductors and the captives in an effort to shield the hostages from any danger from the fleeing tyrants.
The rescue mission achieved its primary goal when all the five family members were safely recovered. Only a minor shrapnel injury was suffered by the head of the family, Joshua Boyle, the Canadian. There are conflicting reports about the casualties suffered by the kidnappers. The father of Joshua Boyle according to a foreign media had reported all the hostages were killed in the rescue process (Ashifa Kassam, Toronto and Haroon Janjua, Islamabad October 12, 2017).
Describing the US-Pakistan ties as extraordinarily important Tillerson, the US secretary of state had said that Pakistan was critical to the long-term stability of the region.
Another account in the local media reports one of them was injured while another captured. In the ISPR brief, this aspect was not elaborated except to state that the safe recovery of the hostages was the top priority of the team members and they achieved their mission objective in a very professional manner. While the sequence of events leading to the hostage rescue as enunciated by Pakistan has been accepted by the Trump administration, some analysts, generally of Indian origin who are known for their anti-Pakistan stance have tried to put their own spin in an attempt to denigrate Pakistan’s role.
Without any substantive proof and based purely on speculation and their anti-Pakistan bias, they imply that the possibility of the entire episode being stage managed by Pakistan cannot be ruled out and perhaps the rescue operation was carried out after paying ransom to the kidnappers. Krishnadev Calamur who in his article published in the Atlantic, a US-based magazine titledPakistan’s Gesture is Less than Meets the Eye (October 21, 2017) has quoted Hussain Haqqani as saying “we will never know how they were freed.” Hussain Haqqani is a renegade Pakistani who as the country’s ambassador in the USA was fired for suspected acts of treason, is notorious for his anti-Pakistan rantings and is a darling of the Indian media.
These insinuations have been outrightly rejected by Pakistan and even the Afghan government has on record stated that no ransom was paid to the abductors. The Trump administration has also accepted the Pakistani version without any ifs or buts. Describing the US-Pakistan ties as extraordinarily important, Tillerson, the US secretary of state had said that Pakistan was critical to the long-term stability of the region.
In the ISPR brief, this aspect was not elaborated except to state that the safe recovery of the hostages was the top priority of the team members and they achieved their mission objective in a very professional manner.
The Pakistani haters would still try and poke holes in the official version citing lack of trust in what Pakistan says. Joshua Boyle, the head of the captured family has categorically given a statement of his free will which is fully in line with the Pakistani version. According to him, his captors had put them in the trunk of the car and he heard rounds of gunfire before it screeched to a halt.
He overheard one of the kidnappers giving instructions to kill the hostages but perhaps self-preservation and imminent threat by the army unit forced them to flee without causing any harm to Boyle and his family. He had effusive praises for the skill and competence of the rescue team, thanking them for their role in gaining their freedom. At the professional level, he rated their operation at a much higher scale than similar rescue missions that he was personally aware of, which were conducted by US and Canadian forces.
A crack Pakistani military squad was immediately dispatched to shadow the cars while a checkpoint was established enroute to intercept the convoy. Sensing danger the cars veered off the road taking a dirt track leading to an Afghan refugee camp.
Boyle has maintained his story even after departing the Pakistani soil. This version of Joshua Boyle should put paid to the insinuations the enemies of Pakistan are trying to project. The hostage rescue operation by Pakistan has validated its official stance that it is doing everything possible to fight the scourge of terrorism in the region and its effort needs to be encouraged and supported.
The US mantra for Pakistan to do more must cease and as the Dawn editorial has very succulently observed: “for the administration of Donald Trump the lesson ought to be that hectoring and threatening Pakistan would not work.” Pakistan has avoided any knee-jerk reaction to the unpredictable and impulsive US president and has so far reacted in a sensible and mature manner. One hopes this will help arrest the deteriorating relationship between USA and Pakistan and will usher a period of better understanding and cooperation with each other in their mutual war against terror.
Air Commodore (retd) Jamal Hussain has served in Pakistan Air Force from 1966 to 1997. He was awarded Sitara-e-Basalat for his services in the year 1982. He regularly contributes articles on defense-related issues in the Defence Journal from Pakistan, Probe Magazine (Dhaka – Bangladesh) and Dawn, The News, and The Nation English Dailies from Pakistan. He is the author of two books on ‘Air Power in South Asia’ and ‘Dynamics of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia’. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.