Mowahid Hussain Shah, an intellectual and writer who was the first Pakistani admitted to practice before the Supreme Court Bar of the United States, says America’s exit from Afghanistan will not be early and easy.
“The bottom line on Afghanistan: No early exit; no easy exit”, he said in a written interview to The Nation via email.
He was asked what situation he visualized in Afghanistan after the drawdown of the US forces from that country.
“The US commitment in Afghanistan is going to be rebranded. It is hard to visualize that, after investing so much blood and treasure, for Americans to suddenly pack up and quit. And the Obama Administration would not like to be blamed for ‘losing’ Kabul”.
He said: “And can they, after all this, afford to quit under the perception of defeat?”
He pointed out that recently released US intelligence estimates predict more chaos in the war-ravaged country.
“Extended US presence in Afghanistan provides America an influential location from which to eye Iran, Pakistan, and China. The US already has gotten the important endorsement of the Loya Jirga for the post-2014 Bilateral Security Agreement and has said that it would find acceptable the signature of someone other than President Karzai. Karzai is caviling, not because of any nationalistic purity, but because he finds his power slipping with no guarantees that his brother Qayyum Karzai (who ran a restaurant near Washington) or other hand-picked nominee would succeed him in the upcoming presidential elections”.
Asked what in his opinion the US has gained after invading Afghanistan and spending trillions of dollars during the past 12 years, Mowahid Shah said: “America is a nation in a hurry. And the takeover of Afghanistan was hurriedly conceived and executed amidst a climate of fear, hate, and anger. The panic and paranoia that enveloped Americans, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, left little space for sound reflection and dissent.”
He said: “Ostensibly, Americans came to fight militancy. But the two underlying issues which fuel militancy – globally, Palestine, and regionally, Kashmir – remain unresolved. Another hidden factor that inflames militancy is the venal character and conduct of ruling elites”.
According to him, what the Afghan misadventure did achieve was to diminish America’s moral authority and leverage on the global stage. Left largely unexamined for politically inconvenient reasons is the intertwining role of the Arab Establishment in the Osama episode and the unintended consequences of their myopic policies.
“Clarity of American goals remains fogged by confusion and ambivalence. The new book, “Duty”, by former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, substantiates the deep divisions within on Afghan strategy.”
Mr Mowahid Shah said gaps in Islamabad’s policy and diplomacy gave space to US policy makers to bolster India’s presence in Afghanistan. General McChrystal had already warned Washington that this would force Pakistan to take counter-measures. He said Afghanistan is a quagmire from which it will be difficult for America to extricate.
Replying to a question about the likely nature of Pak-US ties in the future, Mowahid Shah recalled that when President Ayub arrived in Washington on an official state visit in July 1961, he was received at Andrews Air Force Base by President Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline. In the history of the White House, the most elaborate reception was organized by Mrs. Kennedy for Ayub, at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, the first US President. It’s a far cry from today.
He said US indifference to the occupation of Kashmir and Palestine, the utilitarian attitudes of US policymakers and allying with “like-minded” venal elites are three important factors that could have poisoned the relationship
According to him, the 9/11 jolt has certainly been a globally awakening moment. Much of the opportunity to present a fresh case has been squandered. Yet, there is still ample scope to reframe issues and question the unjust arrangements of the prevailing status quo.
Poor presentation and representation by those at the top have further weakened Pakistan’s case. When the messenger is weak, the message is never going to be taken seriously, said Mr Shah.
America’s do-more mantra, he pointed out, was never met with counter demands on resolving Kashmir pursuant to applicable UN resolutions and on the West tamping down its Islamophobia. Instead of challenging the Indo-US nuclear deal as illegal under US and international law, Pakistani diplomats, in effect, swallowed it by asking to be given the same deal.
“The seismic humanitarian fallout after the US invasion of Afghanistan including, but not limited to, the deployment of drones, led to a surge of anti-Americanism in Pakistan and shrinkage of America’s perceived clout. The pattern of being subservient to US policy dictates and dependence on US money humiliated the Pakistani public’s core dignity values of self-esteem and sovereignty and is now causative for the present-day rancor and resentment”.
According to Mr Mowahid, because of mishandling from both sides, it has been reduced to a transactional alliance of convenience”.
Asked how he saw the PML-N government’s keenness on improving ties with India, keeping the Kashmir dispute on the backburner, Mowahid Shah said Kashmir is like a simmering volcano. You can ignore the volcano, but the volcano won’t ignore you. Would the 2008 Mumbai attacks (what the Indians call 26/11) have occurred but for Kashmir?”
He said: “It is not well understood that the Kashmiri leadership is asking for independence. This has dangerous repercussions for Pakistan. Kashmir is the unfinished business of Partition. Applicable UN resolutions on Kashmir, which urge plebiscite, give Kashmiris a choice either to opt for Pakistan or for India. There is no third choice in the UN route. The third choice now being aired can shift the focus from Indian-held Kashmir to Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Taking a detour from the established international law avenue toward resolving Kashmir serves India’s interests.
“The cream of Pakistani military has not sacrificed their lives to have Kashmir put on the back-burner”.
Mowahid Shah said: “You don’t sacrifice so much just to walk away from it. It depicts a defeatist mindset. The present set-up is close to Jeddah. It can avail the hitherto dormant OIC platform to renew the Kashmir cause on the global stage”.
Questioned as to how the civil-military relations would be affected as a result of Gen Musharraf’s trial in high treason case, Mowahid Shah said the hunt for Musharraf, irrespective of its intent, has the potential impact of being perceived as laying siege to the institutional military castle.
He said when British prime minister Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement with Hitler in September 1938, he came back to London to proclaim that he had achieved “peace in our time.” Exactly a year later, on September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland triggering World War II.
He said: Instructive here are the words of Nelson Mandela, when he left prison: “As I walked out the door toward my freedom, I knew that if I did not leave all the anger, hatred, and bitterness behind, that I would still be in prison.”