Former Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan, who has a reputation as one of the least corrupt politicians in the country, had warned the US government against the Pakistani government’s exaggeration of the terror threat and “stage management” of attacks to fleece money from it.
In a meeting with a delegation of the US Congress Representatives led by Stephen Lynch last year, Khan warned the US Government against being taken in by such tactics carried out by the Zardari government “blinded by dollars” and urged cessation of drone attacks.
He also advocated a more thoughtful policy towards handling the tribals in the North Western region of Pakistan to show them the dangers posed by the terror groups and persuade them to stop offering the latter their traditional hospitality.
Khan said the Lal Masjid operation, in which armed radicals took control of one of Islamabad’s most prominent mosques and held off the Army for several days, was one of the operations managed by the Government itself to prove their anti-terror credentials in front of the US.
“Khan charged that the Government of Pakistan is “blinded by dollars,” and consequently lacks an accurate view of what is happening on the ground,” Anne Patterson, the US ambassador to Pakistan, wrote to Washington in a cable written in February last year.
She pointed out that Imran Khan too seemed to share the opinion that the Government was less interested in bringing the Taliban and others into the mainstream through talks than in keeping them out and using them as bait for attracting further US funds.
“He further claimed that the Government of Pakistan “whips up the threat of the Taliban” in order to get more money from the U.S. He claimed last year’s Swat operation, which he termed a “debacle,” was one such exaggeration that was “stage managed” in order to gain U.S. funds; there was no imminent threat of militants marching on Islamabad, he said.
“Khan also claimed that the Lal Masjid operation was similarly stage managed by Musharraf. He called for an end to Pakistan’s “insane military action” in the tribal areas, adding that the Army has failed to secure any significant areas of South Waziristan despite Government statements to the contrary,” Patterson said.
Khan wanted the US government to stop talking with its guns and adopt a more considered policy towards of the Taliban and the tribal groups who control the North West of Pakistan.
He pointed out that the US did not seem to know the code of ethics of the tribes and this seemed to be making the situation worse.
“On the current security situation in Pakistan, Khan advised that the US Government should use local tribes to deal with Taliban and other militant forces.
“He said that, in order to be able to work with tribesmen, we have to understand the “tribal character,” which, he said, is primarily marked by hospitality and revenge.
“He denounced the use of aerial bombings and drone operations, arguing that they have created animosity and caused local tribesmen to join militant forces in order to seek revenge.
“(Note: Khan also pointedly stated that the GOP allows the “drone attacks” to occur, then lies to the Pakistani public that it has no control over them to deflect the public’s anger. End Note.)
“Khan argued that such operations were radicalizing Pakistani youth, not just among the poor but also among the educated, middle classes.
“Dialogue, policing, and intelligence gathering should be the cornerstone of anti-militancy efforts in the tribal areas instead of the use of military force, Khan contended.
“Noting that he was recently in Swat, he went on to accuse the Pakistan Army of extrajudicial killings, summary executions, and “sexual humiliation” of residents in some villages.
“Khan urged the US Government to seek “alternative points of views” about what is happening in the tribal areas of Pakistan, and he recommended speaking with General Orakzai, former NWFP Govenor, for starters,” Patterson said, according to the cable leaked by Wikileaks.
Similarly, Imran Khan’s suggested approach in Afghanistan too revolved around talks, rather than guns. “He said our mistake in Afghanistan was failing to isolate Al-Qaeda from the Taliban. Khan called on the U.S. to scale back its operations in Afghanistan to make way for talks,” the cable noted.