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Confessions of a Pakistani Leader

Osama bin Laden was a jolly good fellow. After one fluke hit on September 11, 2001, he largely confined himself to producing hilarious videotapes or carrying out verbal terrorism against the infidels. I liked him particularly because, unlike some of those Taliban riff-raffs you see these days, he liked to listen to us in the Pakistani establishment. In fact, he enjoyed being dictated  by us. That’s why I put him up in a nice mansion outside our capital where he could retire to a peaceful life that he denied to so many people around the world. Pity I couldn’t friend him on Facebook because I was told he wasn’t easily searchable. I also have a fund of dirty jokes about Indians he would have enjoyed reading, but then, he didn’t have a mobile phone I could text them to. Otherwise, our relationship was excellent.

Osama a jolly good fellow? Reuters

Why then, you may ask, did I rat him out to the Americans and let him be killed.
I can explain. You know, there comes a point in every man’s life when he is more useful dead than alive. Osama himself had applied this principle to many of his followers. He had been a great asset in the past and God knows I had rewarded him enough for that. But how long can you entertain a retired terrorist with a mumbling accent, especially one the whole planet was hunting for?
Until 2001, he had an army of 1,000 I could ask him to employ for a few errands here and there, but as of last week, it had been reduced to a Playing XI, mostly made up of substitutes. I can’t hijack a prone-piloted Wee Bee monoplane with this crowd. Infiltrating Kashmir? Forget it.

Now, the Americans have built these intrusive satellites that could identify a mole on your balls. And Osama had ‘em big ones (I meant the moles). It is not easy to hide such an obvious target from the prying eyes from the skies. And, given that Americans find it easier to gatecrash into the sovereign territory of Pakistan than into a Ronald Perelman soiree, it was clear to me that our Abbottabad resident would be found  sooner or later. My only thought was on how I could convert this to my advantage.
It was then I remembered Afghanistan.

For quite a while, I had been searching for an excuse to get the Americans to vacate Afghanistan and look the other way when I install a puppet regime in Kabul. For reasons I shall explain in a moment, this is of vital strategic importance to Pakistan under me. I can’t bribe them with a market like India does or threaten them with exports like China does.
I had only Osama to offer.

I figured that the only way Obama (these rhyming words are a diplomatic nightmare) can call back his boys from Afghanistan and still not lose face is by capturing or killing Osama. As long as the bearded mascot of global terrorism was untraced, it would be difficult to go away entirely.
So I entered into a deal with the greatest deal-making nation in the world. I told the Americans their search for Osama would prove successful this time provided they agreed to hasten their departure from Afghanistan and let my ‘good’ Taliban take over at Kabul. I also told them I wouldn't insist on being told about their operation against Osama.

I had almost forgotten about it when I woke up with Monday morning blues on May 2.And there it was! All over the TV and Internet and Twitter and Facebook. Osama bin Laden was dead. His fate was sealed in a 40-minute operation that the US had not informed me about.
By afternoon, I had expressed my surprise and read out my pre-written condemnation of the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. Then I retired to my siesta.

Afghanistan is a pretty mucky place. If you don’t watch your diplomatic step, somebody will gladly help you down the cliff and take your place. You know, the Great Game and all that.

Pakistan had a friendly regime in Afghanistan during 1996-2001, but in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Taliban was thrown out. With that, we lost our standing in the country. While we have not been able to wrest the initiative back, the wily Indians have slowly wormed their way into Afghanistan, worked on reconstruction projects, built its Parliament hall and generally, gained an upper hand. The Taliban too has become a hydra-headed entity and one of the factions has turned against us.

I need to bring Afghanistan back into Pakistan’s sphere of influence. Decisively. For one, I don’t want our military to be busy on both sides of the border. All our resources, overt or covert, must be focused on weakening India. The military should be able to spend all its trouble-making energy on the eastern border. This won’t happen unless we have complete security on the western border, with Afghanistan.

I am already facing a growing campaign for uniting the lands of the Pashtun tribals on both sides of the Af-Pak border. The British had employed their well-proven genius for messing up borders by drawing up the Durand Line in 1893 dividing the Pashtun ethnic group between the two countries. I want to resolve this festering situation in my favour once for all. The reason we propped up the Taliban earlier was to have a say in such matters from both sides of the border. Now we need to get back that leverage or else, the campaign could lead to the third partition of this country.

Indians have already been using Afghanistan as a base to work against Pakistan. They are expanding their diplomatic presence on a scale never seen before. Apart from the embassy in Kabul, consulates are being set up in Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, Herat and even Kandahar. Why should they set up consulates miles away from the Pakistan border unless they want to spy on us from the other side?

For instance, sitting in Jalalabad, they could watch the happenings in Pakistan Occupied Kash.. er… Azad Kashmir. I can’t allow them that luxury. And don’t even get me started on the RAW deal we are getting in Baluchistan.

So I need my government in Kabul to restrict the Indians to Kabul, at best.

Afghanistan has huge mineral reserves estimated to be worth $1 trillion. It is especially rich in iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium. It also has some oil and gas reserves. Pakistan must exploit most of these resources. The only viable port that this land-locked country can access easily is Karachi. So, we have to make Afghanistan’s global trade, whenever it begins to happen, go through us. But I am painfully aware that India is eyeing the same resources too. And Indians seem to enjoy more goodwill among Afghans than we do. So, unless we have a friendly regime in Kabul, this treasure chest of resources would be lost forever.

I just made a list of Indian actions in Afghanistan and it appears as if these projects have earned a stronger strategic foothold for India than the $50 billion or so that the Americans spent there.

* $750 million pledged in aid before the bombing of Indian embassy in 2008 (Wasn’t that fun?).
* $450 million more pledged after the bombing.
* Completed construction of Zaranj-Delaram highway in Southwest Afghanistan.
* $109 million for Salma Dam power project in Herat.
* Largest regional donor in Afghanistan. Second largest donor after US.
* Four thousand Indians working in Afghanistan on reconstruction projects.
* Five hundred soldiers to protect its workers.

We, from Pakistan’s side, have a slightly different profile of projects in Afghanistan. But the scary part is that India is surrounding Afghanistan with more projects in neighbouring countries, especially Central Asia.

* India signed an agreement with Turkmenistan for a natural gas pipeline that will pass through Afghanistan and Pakistan.
* Has given a $17 million grant to Tajikistan to modernize a hydropower plant.
* Built a military airbase in Ayni in Tajikistan, not far away from the Pakistan border.
* Has invested in the port of Chabahar, Iran. The idea is to mine the mineral resources of Afghanistan and ship them out through this port. This way, the Afghans will be able to bypass Karachi altogether.
* India’s iron and steel companies are coming together to bid for iron ore reserves in the Bamiyan region.

I know that Afghanistan is vital to India’s energy security. Central Asia has got huge oil and gas reserves which the region can’t trade with the world because it lacks the infrastructure to do so. As much as 30 billion barrels of oil and 13 trillion cubic metres of gas lie untapped there. The region is a veritable mineral treasure chest.

It is very expensive to send oil or gas from here to the US or even Europe. The most viable market is South Asia but there is no pipeline serving this route. The Turkmenistan-India line could solve the problem.

It is my job to ensure the problem is not solved. Sabotaging India’s energy plans is a key part of my foreign policy.
With all these considerations forcing my hand, I had to sacrifice Osama bin Laden so that I may get Afghanistan back. And when I do, I will reinstall my friendly Taliban. They will reduce the Indian presence, throw all their projects, choke their pipeline and manufacture enough terrorists to retake Kashmir and more.

So good-bye al-Qaeda. But I won’t miss you. I have the equally ambitious Lashkar-e-Tayyaba that will keep the buzz alive in South Asia and beyond.

With all the international questions settled so nicely to my satisfaction, I can then turn my attention towards fighting my rivals and backstabbers on the domestic arena. And that, my dear friends, is a different ball game. Give me the global terrorists, any day.

As (never) told to S. Srinivasan & Abhishek Raghunath