The Foreign Hand

FISHING in troubled waters is the unfortunate rule and not the exception in strategic thinking.
Add to that the concept that an enemy of an enemy is a friend.
And that in a nutshell explains our foreign hand problem.
Pakistan is in the eye of the storm. To not think that shadowy outfits of all hues from around the world are stirring trouble in our midst to pursue their own strategic interests would be naïve. Are CIA and RAW creating assets within our terror syndicate and funding them? Probably yes. Are they the only ones? Probably not.
Steve Coll`s Ghost Wars was a riveting read for it narrated how complex, entwined and self-conflicted the business of proxy wars is, wherein there are layers within layers of alliance of interests between adversaries and layers within layers of conflicts between allies.To assert that because the US might secretly be funding terror groups in Pakistan, critics of the pro-talks policy are foreign agents interested in forestalling peace reflects the denial, paranoia and utter fool-ishness of our political class honing a flawed national security narrative.
Since the OBL operation is there any doubt that the US has a well-entrenched intelligence network within Pakistan? Doesn`t the success of the US drones programme depend not just on superior technology but also human intelligence? Maybe the US relies on ISI`s intelligence when it comes to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). But would it not seek to double-check such information apart from gathering intelligence on the Afghan Taliban and the ISI itself? It would be remarkable if the world`s sole superpower didn`t fund clandestine activities in a war it has a direct stake in and not the other way round.
The fishing-in-troubled-waters part is easy to understand. All countries with ambitious national security interests and the ability or desire to pursue them do so. Is Pakistan an exception? Do we have an interest in other countries whether India, Bangladesh or Afghanistan pursuing certain policies? We do. Do we fund groups within these countries to realise our goals? We probably do.Remember Ghulam Nabi Fai who was charged and convicted in the US for concealing funds received from the ISI for trying to influence the US position on Kashmir? Acknowledging evil is not the same as endorsing it. The point is that states fund clandestine activities in other states. It is the ef ficacy of the national security policy of a state that determines whether or not the subversive acts of other states succeed.
In that regard there are three sets of problems with the foreign hand argument in our terror debate: its use is selective; it projects facilitation as cause; and it is a product of (and further entrenches) a sense of disempowerment rooted in denial of human agency within Pakistanis.
India and the US have an interest in funding clandestine acts within Pakistan, but so do Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Arab friends. That our Arab friends funded jihad factories inPakistan is a historical fact. There is no evidence that such funding has dried up or that we have acquired control over funding channels. That Saudi Arabia was a key driver instigating US-led armed action in Syria is before us. Thus, to present the foreign hand as a subset of the Western imperialist design against Pakistan is intellectually dishonest.
Whether funding of suicide attacks is a manifestation of US designs to preempt government-TTP talks, Indian desire to sow confusion and discord, Saudis paying us back for our position on Syria or difference of opinion between pro and anti-talk factions within the TTP, we`ll never know with certainty.
What we must understand, however, is that the designs or plans of foreign states would never succeed if it were not for the presence of an armed and motivated militia that sees the state and fellow citizens as legitimate targets of terrorism.
What we have in the form of the TTPled terror syndicate is a loaded weapon.
Now whether the weapon is being guided exclusively by indigenous merchantsof terror or occasionally also by our foreign enemies (or allies) is a moot point.
To the extent that the loaded weapon exists and is lying around, it will remain susceptible to abuse. And such use or abuse might not be the inadvertent outcome of poor simple Taliban being misled by the conniving US-Euro-ZinoHindu-imperialist nexus. It could be by design: the enemy of the enemy is a friend.
So to stop those pillaging our state and society, is the best strategy to start with the world-at-large casting an evil eye on us, or with the means being used to carry out the evil designs? Should acquiring control over flow of money that funds terror be a part of our anti-terrorism policy? It must. Should tweaking our foreign policy to deter states funding terrorism within Pakistan be part of our national security policy? It must. But should we do so without disassembling the terror infrastructure being greased by the foreign funding we`re complain-ing about? The most devastating aspect of the pro-talks argument that justifies terrorism as a foreign conspiracy or a reaction to acts of foreign states (drones or US war in Afghanistan) is that it conceives citizen asdevoid of human and moral agency. Can an abettor be more guilty than the perpetrator himself? The foreign hand argument has hidden within it a dehumanising aspect: as enemy states are funding acts of terror, the militants themselves are not cognisant of the choices they make in killing fellow citizens and thus not liable for the consequences of such choices.
No human society or justice system is conceivable without the basic organising principle that able-minded adults ought to be responsible for the choices they make. The pro-talks argument is morally flawed for it places the responsibility for loss of innocent Pakistani lives not on those citizens willingly carrying our terrorist attacks will full comprehension of their consequences, but on foreign actors whose actions are projected to have angered these terrorists into believing that fellow citizens are legitimate proxy targets.