September 11, 2001 and Change in Pakistan’s Foreign Policy

September 11, 2001 and Change in Pakistans Foreign Policy


Diplomacy accepts only the national interests of a nation as supreme and a permanent element in international relations. The modus operandi and means to realize these national interests keep changing according to the demands of national and international situation, the perception of national leaders, the long and short term goals and the nature of the crisis faced by a country. Again, the realization of these interests depends upon the maturity, strength and quality of public opinion and leadership. In this regard, national interests are to be envisioned and determined after profound thinking and national debate and discretion is to be used to safeguard them. They are determined in the existing environment with accurately predicting the future. 9/11, 2001 was the event which shook the tectonic plates of world politics and profoundly affected the foreign policies of many states. Keeping in view this scenario the aim of the present study is to answer the question “what were the impacts of 9/11 on Pakistan’s internal and external policies especially toward Afghanistan and Kashmir?”

Key Words: 9/11, Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, Taliban, Pakistan’s Afghan Policy, Pakistan’s Kashmir Policy and General Musharraf.

  1. Introduction

Devastating and fatalistic attacks in New York and Washington (USA) on 11 September (2001) which resulted in the killing of about 2752 people, had a profound and deepening effects on the world because the world at large had been tremendously shocked and jolted (Qazi, October 1, 2001). The UN Security Council passed Resolution No.1368 calling on all member states to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of the terrorist attacks, stressing that those supporting and harboring the terrorists would be held accountable. On September 12, 2001 the UN General Assembly too called for similar international co-operation for action to prevent and eradicate acts of terrorism (“Musharraf Attempts Tightrope Walk”, 2001).  George W. Bush‟s war against terrorism was more or less promptly endorsed by the international community. Bush made it clear that what the United State does would not be “a token act” but a “Continuing Sweeping and Sustained Campaign”. Not only the terrorists and their support organizations but also countries which harbor them would be dealt with. He said that he would do it with whatever “it takes”.

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In other word it will be a “no-holds-barred operation” (“Musharraf Attempts Tightrope Walk”, 2001). General Pervaiz Musharraf had a difficult task of leading the people of Pakistan through the US led war against terrorism whose time-frame, dimensions and effects on the region were unknown. It was practically a war against the people and country who were helped by Islamabad for about 22 years before September 11, 2001. General Pervaiz Musharraf took 24 hours to decide in consultation with corp. commanders to be with the US when he was confronted with the straight choice by the Americans “you are either with us or against us”.

Pakistan was forced to fall in line with US foreign policy objective of eradicating terrorism and terrorist from across the world. Musharraf in his address to the nation on September 19, 2001 said “we know that whatever the United State intentions are they have the support of the UN Security Council and the General Assembly in the form of resolutions.2  George W.  Bush and Colin Powel (Secretary of State) held talks and giving time to Musharraf to think over the five demands including giving over bases to the US fighter planes. Similarly on 13th of September, 2001 the newly appointed US ambassador to Islamabad, Wendy Chamberlain, met with Musharraf and conveyed him a formal message from President Bush with a list of demand which went as:

  1. Stop al-Qaeda operations on the Pakistani border, intercept arms shipments through Pakistan and all logistical support for bin Laden.
  2. Blanket over-flight and landing rights for US planes.
  3. Access to Pakistan‟s naval bases, air bases and borders.
  4. Immediate intelligence and immigration information.
  5. Curb all domestic expression of support for terrorism against the United States, its friends and allies.
  6. Cut off fuel supply to the Taliban and stop Pakistani volunteers going into Afghanistan to join the Taliban.
  1. Pakistan to break diplomatic relations with the Taliban and assist the US in destroying bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network.
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The nature and intensity of these demands show the intention on the part of the US that neutrality would not be acceptable to her. These demands required co-operation from Pakistan under threat of dire consequences. Consequently Musharraf immediately succumbed to all the demands of the US government. The submission on his part was so complete that he immediately accepted all the demands made on him and that also without any consultation. He agreed to completely the policy on Afghanistan and abandoned Taliban regime.

In his address to the nation, Musharraf said that the nation was passing through the most crucial period of history. Pakistan Air Force was fully alert ready for “do or die” mission. He warned the nation against the wrong decision and said “The choice is between saving Pakistan or the Taliban and I am opting for Pakistan. Pakistan comes first everything else come later. Pakistan situation is extremely hazardous and holds potential dangers to Pakistan strategic assets. Never had the country seen such perilous time since 1971. One wrong move at this stage can jeopardize the very survival of Pakistan and allowing the fortress of Islam come to harm would be a disservice to Islam. I call upon the nation to show complete unity and solidarity for any decision which his government may take regarding hunt Osama operation” (“Pervaiz Musharraf Address to Nation”, 2001).

Musharraf consulted services ex-chiefs, politicians, ex-foreign ministers (Hussain, 2007: 35). The state of emergency was declared and Pak-Army was put on “High Red Alert”3. Musharraf announced that Pakistan was ready to allow use of its air space for military action against Osama Bin Laden and Taliban in Afghanistan, in addition to extending logistics support for the campaign and sharing of information and intelligence. Musharraf said “Pakistan feels that there is evidence which is leading to an association between terrorist acts and Osama (Musharraf, 2001).

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The study will attempt to highlight the impacts of the event of 9/11, 2001 on the Pakistani politics, military organization and its interaction with the civilian institutions and specifically on foreign policy of Pakistan towards Afghanistan and Kashmir. The second part of the paper gives a brief summary of the Pak-US relationship.

It shows that there is a continuous crest and trough, warmness and coldness in their relations. Both the states are eager to co-operate with each other subject to the condition that the situation benefits and realizes the national interests of both the states. The third part highlights the Pakistan‟s  Afghan policy prior to 9/11. It shows that Pakistan‟s  Afghan policy has always been dominated by the concerns of the leaders in Islamabad to have a friendly and pro-Pakistani government in Afghanistan. This part also elaborates the cost which Pakistan bore while following the pro-Taliban policy. The fourth part shows the impacts of 9/11 on Pakistan‟s decision making in terms of internal and external policies specifically towards Afghanistan. It shows how the events of 9/11 affected the various institutions including the army, holiest of the institution, of Pakistan. The fifth part analysis the effects of 9/11 on Pakistan‟s Kashmir policy. It elaborates the pre and post 9/11 Pakistan‟s Kashmir policy. The sixth part provides the conclusion of the paper.

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September 11, 2001 and Change in Pakistan’s Foreign Policy

By: Jamal Shah

Lecturer in Political Science,Government College Takht Bhai, KP, Pakistan and currently a Doctorate Student, Department of Political Science, Hacettepe University Ankara, Turkey

Nasir Riaz

Doctorate Student, Department of Political Science, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey who is financially supported by The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) in the conduction of his study.

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