The jury is still out on how the Arab Spring first appeared on the Maghreb region. The romantic version is that a street vendor in Tunis took his life in sheer desperation one fateful day last December and the pent-up anger of the nation frothed up against the corrupt regime of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The mystique of the ‘colour revolution’ still remains largely unexplained. Again, why it took place in Georgia on the eve of the commissioning of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline in 2005; why it erupted over Ukraine despite that country having had the best economic record in the entire post-Soviet space; why Kyrgyzstan and why not Uzbekistan; why Lebanon and why not Jordan — these are indeed rather difficult questions to answer.
After all, we needed to wait 56 long years for US president Barack Obama’s historic ‘confession’ in his 2009 speech in Cairo for gaining clarity that the West did stage the coup against Mohammad Mossadeq in Iran in 1953. Incidentally, now we also know that it was an Anglo-American coup where Britain was in the driver’s seat. The archival materials show that the CIA chickened out at the last minute and thereupon the British intelligence outpost in Cyprus took over the operation to stage a ‘colour revolution’ against Mossadeq. (Try to lay your hands on an utterly fascinating book The Cyprus Conspiracy: America, Espionage and the Turkish Invasion, co-authored by the British journalists Brendan O’Malley and Boyd Tonkin of The Guardian.)
The point is that the report based on Pakistani intelligence inputs that the Hizb-ut-Tahrir [HT] intended to stage an Arab-Spring style ‘colour revolution’ in Pakistan sometime in the early part of the year soon after the successful regime change in Tunisia and Egypt gives an altogether new dimension to the fractures that have appeared in the Pakistani security cooperation with the US and Britain. The Indian experts have hastened to view HT through the Islamist prism as if it is an al-Qaeda affiliate. They should check out the perceptions in Central Asia, where HT is active. (Recently, Tajikistan which detained for questioning the BBC correspondent in Dushanbe over his alleged links with the HT, was finally forced to release him under immense ‘diplomatic pressure’ from London and Washington.)
Indeed, any serious student of Islamism would agree that the HT is a many-splendoured thing. It is headquartered in London. Its well-heeled, media-savvy, articulate, intelligent, well-educated spokesmen sit in groovy cafes and endlessly talk about an ‘Islamic Caliphate’ with the world media under the watchful eye of the British intelligence and still nothing happens to them. Remember those exciting cold-war times when the western intelligence used Maoist outfits that were most robustly espousing ‘anti-western’ rhetoric as their favourite proxies?
What makes the HT’s abortive revolution in Pakistan very intriguing is the timeline when Pakistan’s security tie-ups with the US and Britain began taking a nosedive. Now we know in retrospect that it was around March-April when the British SAS men assigned to train the Pakistani military units were summarily expelled by the Pakistani military. Were the two developments related? The crisis was so deep that the chief of the MI6 rushed to Pakistan overnight for talks. The British prime minister David Cameron swiftly followed up these talks at his level. As I wrote at that time, it was unprecedented that Cameron was accompanied on that crucial mission by the trinity that heads Britain’s defence and security establishment — National Security Advisor Sir Peter Ricketts, Chief of Defence Staff David Richards and the MI6 head Sir John Sawers.
From all indications, the Raymond Davis affair (March) was very much connected with these reports that are now surfacing regarding the western attempts to infiltrate the Pakistani military. By revealing some of the pages of ‘Top Secret’ intelligence dossiers concerning the HT, Pakistani security establishment could be gently warning that if Washington chooses to go forward on the present senseless track in its muckraking spree against the Pakistani military and the ISI, it may very soon turn out that this is a game that both sides can play. What emerges is that the Pakistani military establishment is most certainly holding on to some stunning details that can cause serious injury to the reputation of the US and British intelligence in the entire Muslim world. After all, it is no simple matter to have tried (and failed) to stage a ‘colour revolution’ with Islamist hue in a major Sunni Muslim country.