EDITORIAL: Pakistan’s position if US attacks Iraq
Qazi Hussain Ahmad has warned General Pervez Musharraf against supporting the United States attack on Iraq when that happens. He has threatened that, in the event, “the MMA will make the government unmanageable”. He said that the US had killed thousands of innocent Afghans in its so-called war against terrorism and was now ready to attack Iraq on the pretext of putting an end to its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). Such WMDs were in fact in the possession of Israel but Washington was not prepared to apply the same standards to it because it was in complicity with the Zionists.
The issue that Qazi Saheb has raised agitates the mind of all Pakistanis, including the Pakistani press, which has opposed the coming attack on Iraq in very clear terms. One must also recall that when President Bush first expressed his intention in 2000 to attack Iraq, General Pervez Musharraf issued a statement advising Washington against it. Thereafter, Pakistan’s Foreign Office consistently opposed the unilateralist and pre-emptive stance of the United States in conformity with the rest of the world that wanted the United States to take recourse to the United Nations instead of going it alone — as it had in Serbia without the backing of the UN Security Council, thereby creating a precedent for such pre-emptive action.
In the face of almost universal opposition, America’s most loyal ally, the United Kingdom, now advised President Bush to go back to the UN Security Council whose resolutions Iraq was accused of having violated by earlier forcing the UN inspectors of WMDs to leave Iraq and then refusing to have them back. Finally, in November, America obtained another resolution from the UN Security Council which was okayed by all the 15 members of the Council, including Syria. The new resolution, under which the inspectors have gone back to Iraq, is very tough, but the Arab League has endorsed it and asked Iraq to submit to it. After that, Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein has prevailed upon his “parliament” to accept the resolution.
The inspection for WMDs is on, and at the end of it the UN Security Council will reconvene to decide on future action. But any Pakistani refusal to accept a UN resolution is out of the question since the Kashmir issue, to which we desperately cling, is also based on a UN resolution. Therefore, if and when the Security Council decides once again to give permission for an attack on Iraq, it would be equally out of the question for Pakistan to reject it. As for the decision to actually participate in this war, Pakistan probably will not have to take it simply because it is not as strategically placed as, for instance, Turkey and some of the Gulf States. Of course, it should be kept in mind that at least three Muslim Gulf States have already provided military bases to American forces and are committed to supporting the American efforts against Iraq.
It may also be noted that Pakistan’s present position within the international campaign against terrorism is based on another UN Security Council resolution and not on any American diktat. The facilities provided to ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) and other actions taken against terrorists inside Pakistan are also based on Security Council resolutions. In 1990, when Pakistan joined the international alliance against Iraq side by side with the other Islamic states, it was after Kuwait was attacked by Saddam Hussein, and there was a consensus in the Arab League on a counter-attack against him. Even then, however, Pakistan offered “defensive” support without taking part in the final offensive action against Iraq. But this “midway” position was criticised by experts because it did not benefit Pakistan financially, unlike Turkey and Egypt which fully supported the American war effort and reaped billions of dollars worth of weapons and loan write-offs. Pakistan’s military support, though, should have been considered only natural. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistani overseas workers were resident in the region, and a large number of them had been brutalised by Iraqi troops in Kuwait. In the event, while some religious parties in Pakistan were recruiting soldiers to fight on the side of Saddam Hussein, memoirs printed by Pakistani refugees from Kuwait told a story of heart-rending dispossession and physical suffering.
Threats were also posed to the state by our religious parties in 1990. The result was that the state and the national economy were destabilised without doing any good to the Iraqi dictator. Unfortunately, the then Pakistan army chief, General Mirza Aslam Beg, did not help matters by flying off the handle and uttering “predictions” about America’s inevitable defeat, a position that eventually hurt the civilian governments of Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto and, by implication, Pakistan.
All Pakistanis should be clear about the developing international scene. What is happening in Palestine does not cover America with glory, especially since the Palestinian cause rests on a number of UN Security Council resolutions. But in the case of Saddam Hussein, a new set of Security Council resolutions has come in the wake of a defeat, as terms of Iraq’s military surrender, for which Saddam Hussein himself is to blame. That is why any threat delivered by a Pakistani politician to the state of Pakistan on this issue at this juncture is completely unjustified. *