Global War on Terrorism
George Bush’s famous words after 9/11 said to garner support of his allies in to a coalition for launching the Enduring Freedom, “…either you are with us or against us” changed the discourse and definition of the campaign against terrorism. The Pakistani establishment, which found itself at the crossroads, was left with no other choice but to go the US way. General Musharraf who toppled Nawaz Sharif’s government after a failed Pakistan army’s adventure in Kargil now stood with the West fighting against those very own Jihadis they had bred in the past decades, integral to their grand strategy. This u-turn polarised the already radicalised society further and now threatened the establishment and the army as never before.
The strategic idea though was always India-centric and Soviet intervention was merely a God-sent opportunity…
The new circumstances forced him into the hard choice of opposing the growing clamour of religious fundamentalists as a matter of survival. The credibility of the army under Musharraf had plummeted to its lowest ebb since the 1971 defeat. He tried to regulate the madrasas and carried out military action on Lal Masjid followed by armed action against Islamic terrorists in the Swat Valley. But he persisted in excluding popular politicians from this process. Limitations imposed on the secular parties by General Musharraf created a political vacuum that was easily filled by the Islamists. It was Musharraf who promoted the idea of the good and the bad terrorists shielding the India-centric Jihadi organisations like the LeT and JuD, duality of policy lay exposed.
Edging Towards A Failed State
A heavily politicised army that lives in self-denial, ever willing to throw down the gauntlet against India despite repeated reversals is what characterises the military idea of Pakistan. Ideological division of this heavily Islamised society on the lines of Shia, Sunni, tribal affinities, Ahmadiyas, Deobandis, Barrelvi and the Wahabis has created many faultlines, now difficult to manage. In pursuit of their domestic, political and trans-border strategic agenda, the establishment has at convenience helped in creation of armed groups and armies of various tribes and theological groups.
Lots of funds pour in from the Sheikhs in oil-rich countries of the Middle East into these organisations of different followings for preaching and spreading the ideology. These organisations run madrasas and carry out charity work alongside supporting armies of terrorists. These madrasas are thus the epicentre around which society spins and economy of the area under influence flourishes. Ideological differences lead to armed clashes largely beyond the control of administration, thus a state within a state goes unchallenged.
As per SATP, Pakistan has 12 domestic organisations and 32 trans-national terrorist organisations. All these terrorist organisations have had the support of the ISI at one time or the other. Out of these who acquiesce with domestic and strategic agenda laid down by the army are categorised as “Good” while those not complying are termed as “Bad”. Tehrik-e-Talliban Pakistan (TTP) are the bad terrorists while the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jamat-Ul-Dawa are the good ones.
A heavily politicised army living in self-denial and ever willing to throw down the gauntlet against India is what characterises the military idea of Pakistan…
Unfortunately, the Pakistani military always thinks of the advantages in letting the Islamists dominate domestic politics and uses them as leverage against India. This obsession with ideology is edging the country into the status of a failed state. There have been numerous instances of military officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted men co-operating with jihadists or deserting their service to join jihadist ranks. But the Pakistani military tends to hold back information on the matter, making an assessment of the extent of this problem difficult. Incidents such as the attacks on the Pakistani naval base ‘Mehran’ in 2011, the Air Force base Kamra in 2012 and the 2014 foiled attempt by Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) to take over a navy frigate in Karachi harbour, point to the persistence of jihadi influence within the ranks of the armed forces – a trend that needs to be arrested at the earliest by this nation possessing nuclear weapons.
The turn of events post the Lal Masjid military action, Pakistan entered the most challenging phase of its struggle for existence. As per US intelligence reports, an estimated 22,000 soldiers were reportedly deployed in Swat and the desertion rate was estimated at around six per cent, a high number but not a crippling one given that some of the soldiers hailed from the areas where they are fighting. The fatwa, which was issued by Lal Masjid leaders Maulana Abdul Aziz and Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, stated that Pakistani soldiers killed while fighting against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in South Waziristan did not deserve a Muslim funeral or a burial at Muslim cemeteries. This fatwa had an impact on Pakistani soldiers and many refused to fight or abandoned their units.
Unfortunately, Pakistan has failed to learn the desired lessons. General Kayani did mention the terrorism as number one enemy of the state. But months later during the passing out parade at Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul, he said to the cadets, “Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and Islam can never be taken out of Pakistan – a reminder to secular Pakistanis, Indians and the West that this country will not abandon its support to religious groups with which Islamabad seeks to take leverage in Afghanistan and Kashmir.”
This obsession with ideology is edging the country into the status of a failed state…
The shooting of Malala Yousafzai, two deadly assaults against the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad and the Pearl Continental in Peshawar and the terrorist attack on June 08, 2014, on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi by the TTP led General Rahel Sharif to finally launch Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan going against the wishes of the civilian leadership. The Peshawar school attack was the Pakistan Taliban’s answer to that initiative. The genocide of 132 children has once again shaken the establishment as the monster it created stands staring straight into its eyes. This could well prove to be a watershed provided the Army decides to abandon the ideology that it has held so dear since 1958.
The situation is even worse in 2014-2015 as the Pakistan Army faces the blowback of Zarb-e-Azab. The TTP attacked the Army Public School at Peshawar in revenge killing 132 children on December 16, 2014. Pakistan is probably the only democratic country that has used its armed forces with tanks, artillery, helicopter gunships and fighter jets against its very own civilian population. They killed in thousands in East Pakistan before the creation of Bangladesh. In the past, they have used all their might in Sindh, Baluchistan to suppress sub-nationalist voices. And now in Waziristan and Khyber Paktunwa displacing sizeable population out of their homes for counter insurgency, has further polarised the society.
Going by Pakistan’s instinct, they will mount more such initiatives to avenge this carnage. But this will not buy the country enduring relief so long as extremists continue to receive aid and comfort from their Afghani overlords, who themselves are under the protection of the ISI. For example, Mullah Omar, the Taliban ring-leader to whom all Taliban chapters swear fealty and on whose head America has a multimillion-dollar bounty, is widely believed to be holed up in Quetta or Karachi with the ISI’s blessings. The ISI is also in bed with the Afghanistan Taliban’s right-arm, the Haqqani network, which allegedly runs its jihadi operations in Kashmir. Pakistan cannot rid itself of Islamist terrorists without going after their ISI protectors. However, it is hard to see how the country’s civilian rulers, who serve at the pleasure of the army and the ISI can undertake such a task and still survive to tell the tale.
The turn of events post the Lal Masjid military action, Pakistan entered the most challenging phase of its struggle for existence…
In order to achieve long-term stability and recover the state of Pakistan out of its perilous spin, they need to revisit the prophetic words of Suhrawardy who had warned Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly in March 1948 against building Pakistani nationalism around the notion of Islam being under threat. He had advised the elite and the law-makers at that time to refrain from using the rhetoric used to mobilise Muslims for the creation of Pakistan. This was no longer needed after independence. Raising the cry of Pakistan in danger for the purpose of arousing Muslim sentiments and binding them together, he had said, “…may succeed in the short term and you may preserve power to yourself for some more time”. However, Suhrawardy had warned against transforming Pakistan into a state “founded on sentiments, namely that of Islam in danger or of Pakistan in danger.”
A state which is held together by raising the bogey of attacks and friction with enemies will be full of alarms and excursions. In such a country there will be no commerce, no business and no trade. There will be lawlessness and those lawless elements that may be turned today against non-Muslims will develop such fratricidal tendencies which once aroused will act against the Muslim gentry itself.
He also defined the two key issues for the new country. The “fundamental aspect of the foundations of Pakistan”, he had asserted, should be “the goodwill of the people and of the citizens of Pakistan within the state” and “the mutual relationship between the Dominion of Pakistan and the sister dominion, Indian Union.”
Today, Pakistani society is highly radicalised and militarised…
The Army and the ISI have played theological groups against the political parties, sub-national movements and the neighbouring countries for decades now. Pakistan has been a country where the national priority has always been on building stronger armed forces, something that leaves health and education at the lowest ebb of planning. The demographic dividend by some estimate projects 60 per cent of the country’s population between the age group of 19 to 25 years. Out of this population, 80 per cent do not go through the formal education. Instead, they get indoctrinated in various religious seminaries. These are, in fact, the ideal recruitment catchments for terrorist outfits.
The dangers of Pakistan’s demographics being radicalised steadily to alarming levels are a high risk to global peace and stability. In the words of Craig Cohen of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “One possible way to think of the correlation between the nuclear weapons and country’s population is that nuclear weapons are the deadly tip of the iceberg, while demographics are the danger lurking far below the surface. The size, security, and possible use of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal in 2020 will be a function of individual decisions by Pakistani leaders and its national security community. These decisions, however, will be shaped by a broader domestic and international context. Demographics will play an important role in determining this context, helping to shape Pakistan’s politics, social cohesion and economic growth. The demographic effects will be indirect and they will operate on a longer timeframe than any democratic political calendar. Demographic change, in the words of one recent study, “shapes political power like water shapes rock. Up close, the force looks trivial. But viewed from a distance of decades or centuries it moves mountains.”
The dangers of Pakistan’s demographics being radicalised steadily to alarming levels are a high risk to global peace and stability…
Today, Pakistani society is highly radicalised and militarised. The thought of a country with its nuclear arsenal under the control of terrorists sends jitters. The American troops pulling out of Afghanistan and leaving it at the mercy of Pakistan who nurtures a dream of wresting control of so-called strategic space makes the region highly volatile. Pakistan Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif’s recent visit to USA saw the waxed ecstatic and assurances of military aid from the Americans.
The strategic relevance of Pakistan leaves Uncle Sam with no other option other than buying guarantees of peace in Afghanistan through aid. And all this even after the Pentagon report on Pakistan’s role in supporting terrorism as a state policy, should not shock many going by their past record of turning a blind eye. However, working towards short term gains ignoring the long term lurking dangers may be detrimental. The US along with other powers must exercise tact in shaping the long-term security scenario in this region towards lasting peace and stability and not otherwise.
India should also refrain from counter rhetoric and work its foreign policy along with other regional powers to force Pakistan change course or else all would be lost in time and space. A sharp u-turn should not be expected from the Pakistan army where conflicting interests are so deep seated. Nonetheless, there is no option other than killing the ideology before the ideology kills them.