In the wildest of macabre irony to the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban theory that Pakistan successfully sold to the US, comes the ghastliest of terrorist attack at the Army Public School, Peshawar snuffing out some 132 young lives and injuring over 200 children and staff. If Jeff M Smith writing in Washington Times of 23 April 2011 said, “Pakistan is playing a double game… The ISI supports Islamist militants…Pakistan believes it needs a pliant, anti-Indian regime in Afghanistan and – as it has for decades – Pakistan is using Islamist militants as an extension of its foreign policy”, BBC Documentary ‘Secret Pakistan’ provided further proof of Pakistan’s ISI training, advising and directing the Taliban. Nawaz Sharif may lament in Peshawar and pronounce that guilty may be punished but not without reason the editorial by Najam Sethi in Friday Times, March 16-22, 2012 (Vol XXIV, No. 65) surmised, “The ISI has walked into GHQ and seized command and control of the armed forces”.
The Pakistan army consists of 500,000 active duty troops and another 500,000 on reserve. If Pakistan truly wanted to capture the Haqqani Network they would be able to drag them out of their caves by their beards within a few days…
The obvious fact that he didn’t need to elaborate was that the military had taken control of the country called Pakistan, what with its institutionalized radicalization and continuing state policy of terrorism. That Pakistan (read the military) has been supporting Al Qaeda, Taliban, Haqqani network is well acknowledged by Western scholars as well as officials – including US-NATO officials posted in Afghanistan. As for the terrorist attack on Army Public School, Peshawar media reports that the innocent school children were lined up and shot in the head and chest – as if the Taliban wanted to prove they were as barbaric as the ISIS. But then the Pakistani army has been as barbaric, if not more, while the West and China have looked the other way, one example on the social media being:
Akin to the Taliban, Pakistan has also been playing the game of good and bad Haqqanis. Michael Hughes, Geopolitical journalist had written as far back as 06 July, 2010, “Pakistan’s army chief General Ashfaq Kayani asserted his forces were too bogged down fighting the Pakistani Taliban elsewhere in South Waziristan, Orakzai Agency and various districts across the NWFP. I contacted an Afghan intelligence analyst and he assessed General Kayani’s claim with one single word: rubbish.
The Pakistan army consists of 500,000 active duty troops and another 500,000 on reserve. If Pakistan truly wanted to capture the Haqqani Network they would be able to drag them out of their caves by their beards within a few days…..In a movement that should have floored US policymakers, Kayani was brazen enough to try and inveigle Afghanistan to strike a power-sharing arrangement with the Haqqanis. And Kayani, apparently the spokesperson for the Haqqani group, said they’d be willing to split from and denounce Al Qaeda, which is President Obama’s primary rationale for the war. However, there is a higher probability of General Kayani converting to Hinduism than there is of the Haqqani Network ever being decoupled from Al Qaeda.”
Both Taliban are inexorably linked and in turn are linked to Al Qaeda, ISIS and Pakistan’s ISI. Bulk TTP declared allegiance to ISIS while Al Qaeda chief has declared full support to Mullah Omar.
What are the Taliban today – both in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Both Taliban are inexorably linked and in turn are linked to Al Qaeda, ISIS and Pakistan’s ISI. Bulk TTP declared allegiance to ISIS while Al Qaeda chief has declared full support to Mullah Omar. While ISIS pamphlets were distributed in Peshawar (including to Afghan journalists) and in border provinces of Afghanistan, number of Wahabi-Salafi groups in Af-Pak backed by Saudi Arabia including in Nuristan & Kunar Provinces of Afghanistan have pledged support to the ISIS. Groups like Ahraul Islam (another TTP splinter) and ETIM also think on lines of ISIS – rule of Sharia, Islamic Caliphate / Emirate. Significantly, Pakistani Asim Umar nominated Al Qaeda’s South Asia head. Sartaj Aziz, Advisor on Foreign Affairs to Pak PM talking to BBC recently said, “Pakistan should not engage in a war with those [insurgents / militants] whose target is not Pakistan.” He obviously was talking with organizations like LeT in mind but his advice hardly matters to the Pakistani military. That is why Pakistani military operations against TTP and Haqqanis (Operation Zarb-e-Azb) remained superficial as per eye witness accounts since radical leaders were forewarned and permitted to flee.
Yes, Pakistan is suffering from terrorist attacks but that is the price that must be paid for spawning decades of terrorism. US ignored LeT on premise it would only target India but then LeT cadres started joining Al Qaeda and calling for global jihad. Post the Army Public School, Peshawar massacre, Indian media poser is whether this will be a turning point in Pakistan. Such an idea may appeal to the utopians but is unlikely to happen. By all accounts, terrorism in the region is only going to go up.
Myra MacDonald wrote about Pakistan’s newfound confidence thus on 10 Dec, 2014, “When Lt-Gen Asad Durrani, a former head of Pakistan’s ISI agency, delivered a speech on Afghanistan in London last month, it was hard to miss the note of triumph. Afghanistan, he said, had already seen off two major world powers – the British Empire in the 19th century and the Soviet Union in the 20th. Now a third, the United States, was heading for the exit. For anyone who believes Pakistan’s aim in Afghanistan all along has been to turn the clock back to September 10, 2001 – when it exercised its influence over the country through its Taliban allies – it could almost have been a victory speech.” It is for this reason that Pakistan has been training 20 Mujahid battalions to operate as / in conjunction Taliban after the already ended ISAF mission in Afghanistan.
To think that Pakistan (read Pakistani army) will have change of heart because of the massacre of school children in Peshawar would be naïve. Pakistan’s policy of terrorism against India and Afghanistan is not likely to change.
An editorial in Pakistan’s Express Tribune on 04 April 2012 read, “Just as the Soviet Union was defeated by a combination of Afghan Mujahedeen and Pakistani warriors, this time too Pakistan could infiltrate its non-state actors to achieve the ‘strategic depth’ it requires to feel safe about its northwestern neighbor. What is scarier for the world is the perception that Pakistan doesn’t control its non-state actors hundred per cent, as demonstrated by the Punjabi Taliban fighting the Pakistan Army in parts of FATA.” The areas / regions of Afghanistan that come under Taliban control will give “Pakistan’s ISI the ability to create a clandestine empire composed of the likes of Jallaluddin Haqqani, Gulbuddin Hekmetyar, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba : able to confront India in the manner that Hezbollah and Hamas confront Israel”, as described by Robert H Kaplan in his book ‘The Revenge of Geography’. Pakistan’s opportunity in Afghanistan needs to be viewed in context of the Independent Assessment of the Afghan National Army (ANA) conducted by CAN, as authorized by the US Government under the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, Section 1215, findings of which published in January 2014 stated, “Reduction in US and NATO CI-CT operations combined with the continued existence of insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan will make the insurgency a greater threat in the 2015–2018 timeframe than it is now” and “The ANSF will continue to have significant gaps in capability that will limit their effectiveness after 2014.”
To think that Pakistan (read Pakistani army) will have change of heart because of the massacre of school children in Peshawar would be naïve. Pakistan’s policy of terrorism against India and Afghanistan is not likely to change. Let up against Afghanistan is only possible if the Kabul government is anti-India and pro-Pakistan, which is not the case today, or if the Taliban are adequately represented in the Afghan government, which too appears an unlikely scenario. As far as India is concerned, we should have no hesitation to acknowledge that Pakistan will keep upping her proxy war to the maximum extent possible, official support to Hafeez Saeed’s recent anti-India rally in Lahore, state security to Dawood Ibrahim, non-closure of ‘Karachi Project’ and not punishing perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks being just few examples.