On diplomatic theater and strategic depth
May 21, 2009
Not cricket, just the ISI gaining strategic depth
Sri Lankan cricketers were shot at, and injured, by a group of young men in Lahore. Meanwhile, the Pakistani state signed a treaty with a fundamentalist group in the Swat region to impose sharia on the area. The real ruling power in Pakistan, the spy agency ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), is putting on a bit of a show in the first instance, and erasing the Durand Line (which anyway expired in 1993 according to the 100-year-old Afghan-British treaty) in the second instance.
The attackers were not terrorist or militants, because circumstantial evidence suggests a well-planned operation with blessings from the powers-that-be. If they had really wanted to kill the Sri Lankans, they could have used the rocket-propelled grenades they apparently had, or used suicide bombing tactics. Instead, they sauntered up from a grassy knoll (grassy knoll? JF Kennedy assassination redux?), shot off a few desultory rounds from AK-47s, and trotted off to waiting vehicles that whisked them away.
This was in the middle of Lahore, at a major traffic intersection, with large numbers of policemen providing security to the VIP Sri Lankan cricketers. Police snipers were positioned on nearby rooftops as well. Yet, they got away. Besides, it is rumored that the Pakistani team bus had altered its usual itinerary, traveling separately from the Lankans.
The casual observer might conclude that the operation was stage-managed (“see, we too are afflicted by terrorism”). The ISI previously staged several dramatic ‘assassination attempts’ on General Musharraf. Mysteriously, and miraculously, the roadside bombs always went off minutes after the general’s convoy had passed by. The ISI’s special effects team is clearly ambitious (a 2010 Oscar award?).
The ISI, like their mentors the Chinese, are very good at ‘diplomatic theater’, which is greeted by the US State Department with a willing suspension of disbelief, for reasons best known to them. The same was seen in 2001, when the US allowed Pakistan to airlift several hundred Taliban (no, I am not making this up) who were besieged and trapped by the Northern Alliance in Kunduz, Afghanistan (see my old column “What happened in Kunduz?”). It is rumored that those so-called Taliban were senior Pakistan Army officers under ISI direction.
The ISI’s fondest wish has been to gain ‘strategic depth’ to support their declared goal of dismembering India and creating a ‘Mughalistan’ there; before crushing the Americans, that is. The imposition of sharia in Swat just shows that the ISI and their protégés the Taliban are of one mind. The ISI in uniform rule Pakistani Punjab; ISI in baggy pants rule most of the rest of Af-Pak. The ISI has achieved their desired strategic depth by creating a Pushtunistan across Af-Pak that they control. The US and India can now look forward to more 9/11s and 11/26s.