Pakistan On Operation Image Make Over in US

Pakistan turns to lobbyists in US, Europe for image make over, says analyst

Faced with the sigma of aiding and abetting Islamist terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba, and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Pakistan army and its intelligence wing, ISI, have turned to lobbyists in the US and Europe for an image makeover, says an analyst. They are also co-opting low key think tanks like Centre for Security and Science (CSS) at Liberty University to ‘manage’ a favourable media exposure under the garb of an ‘Agreement for Research Services’, according to him.

Quoting American academic sources, the analyst, Vazeer, says the campaign is designed to demonstrate that the Pakistan Army has distanced itself from Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its front organization, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). The UN Security Council has banned the JuD, which claims to be a charity, and LeT in the wake of Nov 26 attack on India’s financial capital, Mumbai which claimed 180 lives.

Investigations by Indian and American sleuths have identified LeT as the perpetrator of the attack and a terrorist caught during the attack has confessed that their mission was facilitated by ISI.

Compounding Pakistan’s problems, NATO supply vehicles are increasingly coming under militants’ gun fire and rocket attacks in and near Peshawar. The US and Britain are putting pressure to take action against terrorist groups which are hitherto on the rolls of ISI. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called for ‘transparent’ and verifiable’ action, British Prime Minister on a visit to Islamabad told Pakistan leadership that three fourths of terrorist attacks on his country had their roots in Pakistan.

In his paper posted on his website, Vazeer, says, Pakistan agencies have given a clear brief to the selected lobbyists. It is that Pak army and ISI now consider these terrorist groups as ‘dangerous’ because ‘they have been infiltrated and co-opted by foreign extremists and also turned against the Pakistan state itself’.

The web site claims ‘Some less known American think tanks have offered their services to publish favourable articles’ and also get ‘friendly’ journalists in prominent newspapers to put out ‘positive’

Says the analyst: “Lobbying or image building is allowed under the American law but the Pakistan effort is a scandal in the making as the American law expressly prohibits financing of such effort by covert agencies”.

Pakistan’s tie-ups for ‘Operation Makeover’ are being entered into in the name of the Pakistani embassy but the actual financiers of the agreement (with the think tanks) are the Army and the ISI.

The ‘Operation Make over’ appears to have met with some success as a ‘research paper’ has come out making out a strong case that the ‘Pak Army has lost all sympathy for the groups involved in armed struggle against India’. It also reports that the ISI’s Kashmir Desk has been shut down.

American sources familiar with the subject, however, assert that the claim is ‘baseless’. ‘There is no truth in the assertion as ISI’s Kashmir division is still as active. It is being handled by Brig. Javeed Aziz Khan’.

Another report attributed to Director of Military Assessment Program at the Centre for Security and Sciences (CSS) strongly counters the criticism that Pakistan has failed to deal effectively with resurgence of Taliban and that it even helped the Taliban gangs escape American raids. It also terms as a ‘myth and baseless’ the charge that Pakistan has been diverting US aid to fight Al Qaida and Taliban to anti-India operations, according to Vazeer.

He writes: “The research paper builds up a case for up-gradation of the F-16s to give the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) capability to deliver precision guided munitions against militant groups in the tribal areas of the North West Frontier Province. It asserts that there is no danger of F16s targeting the neighbour on the western border (India)’.

While on the issue safety of Pakistan nuclear bomb and technology, these ‘papers’ argue, according to Vazeer, the most sensitive posts, like the ISI chief, X Corps commander, or anything involving nuclear devices, are given only to ‘trusted’ officers and therefore, there should be ‘no worry’ about radical Islamists in the officer corps ‘overthrowing the government’.