In October 2009, Operation Rah-e-Nijat (Path of Salvation) was launched on three fronts of South Waziristan. Kronstadt noted in his study that, “The early days of fighting saw Pakistani forces facing heavy resistance and even some reversals. After one week (from D-day), less than 100 militants were reported to have been killed.”
With its current emphasis on a negotiated solution to the Taliban problem, Pakistans political and military leadership would have even lesser motivation to undertake operations against those founts of Islamist insurgency who it considers to be its strategic allies.
At the time, when Pakistan army commanders began claiming that they have broken the back of terrorism in the province, the real toll on the terrorists was “548 killed” and “17 captured.” The huge majority had moved away through the mountains to the neighbouring North Waziristan, which was considered the new safe haven for the Islamists in Pakistan under the watchful eye of the Jalaluddin Haqqani network, against whom the Pakistan establishment was wary of acting.
This push for the terrorists into North Waziristan aided by the Pakistan army could well be a strategy by the country’s decision-makers to postpone the day of reckoning. This is as controversial as their decision to enclose the Islamist militants and terrorists, operating against their sovereign interests, in the tribal areas without allowing them to percolate into the hinterland. In the process, a large number of lives and resources were lost that could have been better safeguarded if the Pakistan military had acted with greater vigil and lesser collusion.
The army’s retired brigadier, Javed Hussain, who this study has quoted earlier, is a critic of the newly discovered American dicta of working on a “population centric” instead of a “enemy centric” milieu. The Indian army has perfected the art after initially experimenting with British lessons of working in the Malayan jungles and American experience of working in the Vietnamese paddy fields. It realised quickly that moving in with 3-tonne army trucks in the valley of Kashmir at 3 a.m. in the morning for a cordon-and-search operation might be good demonstrable power, but for being effective, the Border Security Force was better for being mobile on nippy Maruti Gypsies. Pacification exercises of the population can seldom be carried out by bombing from F-16 fighters or by spreading Agent Orange on standing crops.
Pakistan army is yet to learn these lessons. Moreover, in its tactics in the past three years, it has shown a marked propensity for choosing as its targets from among the array of Taliban groups, those who are the least formidable. It has not shown any attempt at curbing either the Quetta shura or the Haqqani network or even Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami. This shows that it is being picky in its strategy of countering the insurgency that emanates from its territory and threatens the security of the region.
Pakistans elite would still continue to argue that their core interests lie in safeguarding the security of the country from an imminent Indian attack.
With its current emphasis on a negotiated solution to the Taliban problem, Pakistan’s political and military leadership would have even lesser motivation to undertake operations against those founts of Islamist insurgency who it considers to be its strategic allies.
These positions would only harden with reports that Mullah Omar periodically transmitted messages to the Taliban fighters that their objective should be to defeat the U.S. and its western allies and not to take on the Pakistan security forces. The U.S. has shown marked awareness of this situation—unlike its naiveté of the 1980s—and Washington seeks to calibrate its material assistance to Pakistan on the basis of the latter’s motivation to fight the Taliban.
But as Pakistan’s government is able to contain its own insurgency problem from spreading into the crucial hinterland of the Punjab and Sindh—a possibility that can emerge after protracted military operations in KP and FATA—even this U.S. ploy will founder. Besides, Pakistan’s military has an inherent tale to spin about India’s supposed threat to its existence. With six of its nine corps stationed in the Punjab, the Pakistan army would always like to portray to the world that its main threat is India.
With six of its nine corps stationed in the Punjab, the Pakistan army would always like to portray to the world that its main threat is India.
Even this had shown signs of change during the latter years of General Pervez Musharraf’s rule, when he had convened his corps commanders and told them that the threat perception of Pakistan’s army needs to undergo a change—it was no longer India that was the threat; but the challenge to its internal cohesion was from the Islamist militants and terrorists.
But General Ashfaque Parvez Kayani had possibly realised that this raised even more troubling questions about the role of the Army GHQ for all these decades to raise and support Islamist terrorists as parallel forces to take on India. So, he had quickly reverted to the refrain of India being the primary threat.
In this revised scheme of things, it would be immaterial to Pakistan’s military leadership if the Indian army chief deprioritises an enigmatic military strategy like Cold Start designed as an offensive-defensive military manoeuvre. For, Pakistan’s elite would still continue to argue that their core interests lie in safeguarding the security of the country from an imminent Indian attack. They would, in the process, seek to deflect the attention of their Western benefactors from their main agenda of neutralising the Taliban and the al-Qaeda.
How these elite strategies of Pakistan are affecting the real interests of the country is signified in the debates on issues like how to get the next tranches of Kerry-Lugar largesse or even the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) Pakistan stabilisation loan.