One must acknowledge Prime Minister Imran Khan’s relentless efforts in bringing Kashmir dispute in focus, and highlighting oppression, repression and brutalities of Indian forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Today, Kashmir dispute and human tragedy in the making due to lockdown in Kashmir is being discussed in the UN and all important capitals of the world, which is unprecedented. In response to a question at an event at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) think tank in New York, Imran Khan reportedly said, “When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan, helped by the US, organized the resistance to the Soviets. The ISI trained Afghanis and militants that were invited from all over the Muslim world to do jihad against the Soviets.” But it wasn’t a secret, as many books have been written in this regard. Anyhow, Al-Qaeda was formed in 1988 hence training of Al-Qaeda militants did not arise.
It was unfortunate that some analysts and leaders of PML-N and PPP perhaps with a view to creating a wedge between Imran Khan and military gave a twist to his statement; however they miserably failed. In fact, leaders of the above political parties have been critical of the ISI and military and considered them an obstacle in peace with the neighbours. Memogate scandal and Dawn Leaks were reflective of their devious plans and penchant for denigrating military establishment. They often give cue to the enemies of Pakistan to paint Pakistan in poor colours. However, ‘India Today’ while commenting on Imran Khan’s statement wrote: “Imran Khan’s statement that Pakistan trained militant groups during the Soviet War, who later transformed into al-Qaeda, would be the right and factually correct”. It is an irrefutable fact that ISI was just a conduit of distribution of CIA-supplied weapons amongst the Afghan Mujahideen.
After Soviet forces had invaded and occupied Afghanistan in late 1970s, Pakistan supported Afghan resistance that resulted in defeat to Soviet forces and later disintegration of the Soviet Union (SU). Of course, inspired by the tough resistance given by Afghans, the US had decided to make Afghanistan as Soviet Union’s ‘Vietnam’, and tried to channelize the Afghans’ energies and their passion for jihad; the rest is history. As regards Pak-US relations, the then Pakistani leadership in the 1950s deemed it appropriate to have strong relations with the West and the US. At the time of independence, the world was bipolar one; there were two super powers at that time — one was the US and the other was the SU. The US and SU were trying to increase their area of influence everywhere in the world. However Pakistani leadership believed that the US could help Pakistan strengthen its defence and economy.
During 1950s, Pakistan received one point five billion dollars aid and three billion as a loan, which helped Pakistan in promoting at least consumer-goods industry and also strengthening the armed forces. Pakistan for its part continued to look after the American interests in the region. However, during Indo-Pakistan war in 1965 the US stopped military as well as economic aid, ascribing the reason that all the pacts and agreements were against the Communist threat. During 1971 war also the US and other allies remained silent spectators when Pakistan was dismembered. Pakistan had cooperated with the US after the Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan. However, after withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, the US left Pakistan in a lurch. Through Pressler Amendment, the US had banned most economic and military assistance to Pakistan unless the President certified on an annual basis that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device.
After 9/11, President Bush had said “either you are with us or with our enemies (terrorists). Pakistan lost more than 70000 people and about 5000 military personnel, and suffered a loss of $200 bn, which fact was highlighted by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Yet so-called analysts and chattering classes across the spectrum have been proclaiming that army and the ISI had trained and unleashed the jihadi fighters in the Soviet Union-occupied Afghanistan. But they would never ever tell who recruited those fighters and who funded the adventure. Without this essential evidence to corroborate their charge, they had been yelling that the two establishments had begotten the monsters that later turned to us and became a millstone around our necks. Surely, the then rulers must take all the blame for providing piggyback in the American adventurists to take on Soviet invaders in Afghanistan with lethal proxies to avenge their humiliating debacle in Vietnam.
Indeed, it was America’s helping hand and Arab monies that were predominantly and crucially in play in that adventurism and not Pakistan’s security establishment which had just a secondary role. The CIA was the principal arms supplier and recruiter of the jihadis for fighting America’s proxy war. Even Osama bin Laden was their find, and it was CIA that recruited zealots from all over the world and disgorged here to infiltrate into Afghanistan to fight on the side of Mujahideen. Coming back to Imran Khan’s address in the United Nations General Assembly, he has set the tone during his speeches at various forums and interviews, and by the time these lines go to the press, he would be addressing the august forum. He is respected by many leaders of the world; and international media especially ‘the Independent’ of UK had words of praise for his dynamic approach.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.