“Two Veteran Today Columnists with Questions and Answers”
by Ken Smith and Brig Asif H. Raja
Two VT columnists, one from America and one from Pakistan exchanged ideas, concepts and concerns. This posting reflects questions and answers that are important to both of our countries. Brig Asif Haroon Raja and Ken Smith share their personal ideas and suggestions on how our two countries can move forward in 2012
Here are 10 questions that each collumnist answers. Look for the common ground in each answer.
1. ” Do you have any comment or examples on the Perception that America favors India over Pakistan?”
Answer from Brig Asif H. Rajas: No examples, but in Pakistan there is no doubt about it. The US favored India when it was on the wrong side of the fence and Pakistan was its most allied ally. Since 1990, India is a strategic partner of USA. If USSR had not fragmented in the early 1990’s, India would have continued to remain in its orbit. While India holds a special position in the US security paradigm, just like Israel, Pakistan doesn’t figure out in the NWO. Pakistan is at best a tactical partner for a short term only and then it will be dumped as had happened on several occasions in the past. Even during the ongoing honeymoon, the US has been treating Pakistan like a foe and not like an ally. The US finds all the faults in the world in Pakistan and none in itself or in India.
Answer from Ken Smith: I somewhat agree here with Brig. Asif H. Raja. I do think that America’s relations with India are significantly different than those with Pakistan and wonder if that is a perception or a reality? I am almost sure that India does not receive as much financial support as we provide to Pakistan, but perception can become reality in some peoples minds.
2. “Do you feel that America didn’t announce the raid to get Bin Laden because they were fearful that Pakistan would alert him to the raid?”
Answer from Brig Asif H. Rajas: I do not agree with this assumption. CIA had secretly established its forward base at Abbottabad and the alleged compound of OBL was under its close scrutiny. Hence there was no possibility of OBL slipping away even if ISI had alerted him. You will agree that it is still very doubtful whether OBl was actually present there on 2 May or it was stage-managed. There are many in USA who are convinced that OBL died long time back.
Answer from Ken Smith: It’s hard to express the feeling that Pakistan couldn’t be trusted to keep a secret that Bin Laden was in Abbottabad without sounding smug, but what could have been the alternatives? If the Pakistani military and ISI were alerted, and if Bin Laden did in fact get away, the US public would have exploded with anger at a whole country when that news was released. Many in Pakistan still don’t believe that OBL was present in that compound, even after senior members of the Pakistani Military were briefed with forensic evidence to the contrary. Pak intelligence was handed the wives of OBl and yet nothing has ever been announced about any intelligence findings there, so, how can we prove that OBL was there in that compound beyond belief to the average citizen in Pakistan? What if we did? How would they react? Would it matter? Here I disagree with my colleague.
3. How do you feel about the perception that Pakistan’s (ISI) is helping the Taliban?
Answer from Brig Asif H. Raja: I put a counter question. How do you feel about the widely held perception in Pakistan that the TTP led by Hakimullah in FATA and Baloch rebels in Baluchistan are aided by CIA and RAW? While the ISI may have some reason to be affiliated with Taliban because of old connections and neighborhood affiliations. But CIA has no moral justification to support anti-Pakistan outfits. Don’t forget that Pakistan ditched Taliban regime and helped the US in occupying Afghanistan and also arrested dozens of Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders and handed them over to USA.
Answer from Ken Smith: I would think, that the perception in Pakistan that the TTP, led by Hakimullah in FATA and the Baloch rebels in Balochistan are aided by the CIA and RAW would be something that needs to be further explained to the average American who sees the complexities of the region in very simple terms. They hear from our media that we are fighting the Taliban and of course al qaeda in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and yet, the whole region is tribal and there are many battles within battles of tribes that have been at war with each other for centuries. I have no knowledge to answer your counter question.
4. What could be done to increase the military cooperation between Pakistan and America?
Answer from Brig Asif H. Raja: Pak-US relations date back to 1953-4 when Pakistan became a member of SEATO, CENTO. Military officers of two countries have been attending courses in Pakistan and USA regularly and both have enjoyed excellent relations. Military relations soured only when the US stabbed Pakistan in the back on 2 May and secretly set up a CIA network to destabilize Pakistan.
Answer from Ken Smith: May 2 is a point of contention that is far reaching and one that has two sides to the story. Most US military commanders respect the military commanders of Pakistan from what I have been told by unit commanders in the field, but higher up the ladder, some American commanders are fearful of sharing intelligence on some subjects, as they believe that elements of the Pak Military are anti-American and look for any way to point a finger. There have been terrible mistakes that I have researched and found, mistakes committed by both sides, and both sides need to find a common ground from which to start, and from that common ground, build a trust. The military of Pakistan is a proud institution and should not be treated with disrespect. Saying that the US stabbed Pakistan in the back on May 2 is not an opinion that is shared by many Americans. Most Americans see May 2 as the day that America found and killed one of the most hated men in our history. The military did it by violating a countries borders and did it without permission from anyone. Americans believe that hunting for this killer superseded any agreements with any country. Would the US have alerted MI6 if they knew OBL was in London? I would venture to say yes. Now, it is common for those in Pakistan to share the suffering of her people and highlight the innocents who have been killed on both sides of the battle, but here in the US, OBL changed everything about everything. In the US, 9-11 is still so very fresh to us, even 10-years later. Americans see that day as the start of a war upon us, one that was kept from them, alerting Americans to the danger by so many in our own intelligence community. My readings on Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah outline how his charisma and diplomacy had made him a great national leader and the most visible supporter of Hindu-Muslim unity. His strong belief in gradual and peaceful change was in contrast to the civil disobedience strategies of Mohandas Gandhi, and in the ’30s Jinnah broke from the Indian National Congress to focus on an independent Muslim state. In 1940 he demanded a separate nation in Pakistan and by 1947 he managed to get it from the British and India. Through civil wars, and millions of displaced refugees, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (“the great leader”) pretty much built a country from scratch. I would imagine, that while we have George Washington, and you have Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah as our founders, neither one of them would want us to be in the position we find ourselves today. Distrustful and wondering what the other is going to do before they do it, and not capable of asking each other a simple question without wondering about the answer.
5. Do you feel that anti-American sentiment in Pakistan is fueled by either the military or the government of Pakistan ?
Answer from Brig Asif H. Raja : Anti-Americanism is neither fueled by military or civil govt, but is the outcome of unjust and discriminatory policies of Washington.
Answer from Ken Smith: Here I disagree, as I think anti-Americanism and anti-Pakistani sentiments are fueled by both the military and the government of both sides. Pakistan does this and so does Washington. The solution? I would think that acceptance of the differences and acknowledgment of the similarities would help. Why isn’t the US broadcasting on national TV in Pakistan explaining our positions to the people of Pakistan? I think that a spokesman for Pakistan should be explaining the same things to Americans without the urge to blame each other for actions.
6. If the perception in the US is that Pakistan is helped by drone attacks, who is helped? Military leaders or political leaders?
Answer from Brig Asif H. Raja: Drones have become a choice weapon of USA. It is detested in Pakistan since it amounts to a breach of sovereignty and it also fuels terrorism. 300 drone strikes have killed 97% innocent men, women and children.
Answer from Ken Smith: Drone attacks are explained here in the US as weapons against an enemy that hides behind borders that are not transparent nor marked. I would tend to agree that innocents are killed in these attacks and wonder what other methods can or could be used to counter the cross border strikes from both sides against both sides. In any war the innocents are who pay the price. Pakistan has experienced this and so has the US.
7. Does Pakistan acknowledge the attackers of Mumbai 26/11 were from Pakistan?
Answer from Brig Asif H. Raja: Pakistan does not acknowledge that attackers in Mumbai on 26/11 were from Pakistan. The general perception is that it was a put up show with ill-motives against Pakistan.
Answer from Ken Smith: Hatred is hatred. Indians are convinced the attackers came from Pakistan and Pakistan is convinced otherwise. There are technical methods to review and monitor the conversations that were ongoing during this attack by the attackers. Here in the US there is a saying ” If it quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, its a duck”, but again, hatred is hatred, and this hatred needs to be bridged before any dialog can begin.
8. What is the solution in your opinion on the status of Kashmir?
Answer from Brig Asif H. Raja: Giving Kashmiris right of self determination as provided for in UN Resolutions.
Answer from Ken Smith: I have read the UN Resolution dated August 13, 1948 and agree here with my colleague. Kashmiris need the right of self determination.
9. One perception in the US , is that Pakistan has two faces, the face to the US in private and the face to the world in public, agree or disagree?
Answer from Brig Asif H. Raja : I disagree. In Pakistan the general view is that the US is playing a double game.
Answer from Ken Smith: It’s hard to argue with anyone who honestly believes that your playing a double game. This answer belies the underbelly of the relationship. Pakistan does not trust nor believe America and it seems that the same is also true going the other way.
10. If you could speak to the American public via our TV systems, what would you say?
Answer from Brig Asif H. Raja : I would say that Pakistan’s huge sacrifices must be acknowledged and it should be respected, trusted and treated like an ally rather than a target.
Answer from Ken Smith: I would attempt to tell the Pakistani people that Americans are not what they have seen or been told by the media or religious leaders of Pakistan. Most Americans are somewhat like Pakistani’s, they have families, they have work they do and they struggle to get things done. America is a better friend than an enemy. We would like the people of Pakistan to understand that in America our differences are what makes us strong. We are not all Muslims, we are not all Hindu, nor are we crusaders as portrayed by some in the Pakistani press. We value the differences in our neighbors and live by the rule of law. We protect those who are weak and cherish our young as Pakistani’s do the same. We value education and want each of our citizens to prosper. We are not perfect and we make mistakes and when we do, we hope to have the courage to admit that mistake and ask for forgiveness.
Please submit your comments and additional questions that you would like answered by both columnists.