The Army and Counter-Terrorism
Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan is rife with inherent contradictions, caught between an inclination to fight militant forces and yet having to partner with some to strengthen its bargaining position. While this is no doubt a truism, it is also correct to state that its global strategy on the war on terror is dictated by the ISI and therefore, contradictions abound.20
“¦military is the only weapon in the armoury of the state to fight terror, particularly of the jihadi kind in Pakistans North West frontier. But more than the military option, it is the exercise of political will that is most important.
In the present context, there are plenty of problems because of the conflicting priorities. But General Kayani opined in 2008 that one of the challenges faced by the Pakistan army in its anti-terrorism strategy is the “centuries’ old traditions and enmities” prevalent in many areas in Pakistan. This, in his opinion, made it difficult to secure the confidence and support of local communities. Hence, Kayani felt, that only a “pure military solution” would not yield results but it needed to be supplemented with civic and economic assistance that would bring basic services to remote areas.21
It may be argued that the military is the only weapon in the armoury of the state to fight terror, particularly of the jihadi kind in Pakistan’s North West frontier. But more than the military option, it is the exercise of political will that is most important. The developmental strategies allied to engaging the tribal genius in this war is going to be all important. This is where the army has to concentrate.
Intensifying military operations has the danger of collateral damage. One option is to use the special forces route, as the US did in Abbottabad, to take out the al Qaeda and Taliban leadership. The military has to reinvent its counter-insurgency strategy and make it clear that it is fighting terrorism, period. That is the challenge before General Kayani today.
So where does the military stand today in this regard? The press release of the ISPR of the 139th Corps Commanders Conference states that Kayani told his colleagues that that the Army was following a “well thought out campaign plan” and was under no pressure to carry out operations at a particular time. The army chief also noted that “future operations, as and when undertaken, will be with political consensus.”22
“¦the growing clout of the militants in Pakistan and their penetration of institutions indicates that a terrorist strike on a nuclear facility is not an improbability.
The hearts and minds strategy is the common strategy followed by militaries the world over to curb and contain insurgencies. General Kayani has taken this a step further and makes a political statement when he calls upon the ”brave people” of North Wazaristan Agency [NWA] to “evict all foreigners” from their soil and “take charge of their land and destiny once again.” He emphasized that it was wrong, in principle, to allow others to use our land for fighting their battles. So Kayani informs his Corps Commanders that the Army in NWA is “committed to supporting the people of NWA in this effort.”23 Seen one way this means that the military has left it to the people to fight terror. Are we seeing withdrawal symptoms? Or is Kayani planning a new offensive that is premised on the hearts and minds strategy?
The Army and Nuclear Weapons
The assault on PNS Mehran and the Abbottabad raid by the US had two important implications. First, it sent out a signal that a country with nuclear weapons is not necessarily immune to specific and targeted strikes. Second, the growing clout of the militants in Pakistan and their penetration of institutions indicates that a terrorist strike on a nuclear facility is not an improbability.
In the first instance, if the Abbottabad operation was conducted by the US without the tacit consent of the Pakistani establishment then it means that Americans were not too bothered about that threat. Secrecy and surprise being the key elements the US calculated that Islamabad would not get a chance to respond.
It is Beijing that should be most worried about the safety and security of Pakistans nuclear weapons. China has had a close link to the development of the nuclear programme since the 1970s.
On the other hand, the Mehran base attack and killing of the journalist Shahzad shows the impact of jihadi elements within Pakistan and the risks involved of their coming into possession of nuclear weapons. In the worst case scenario, these terrorists will use the nuclear weapons, not in Pakistan or Kashmir as is commonly believed, but in Europe and America.24 That is the reason why it must be impressed on the military and government in Islamabad that the security of the nuclear facilities, both physical and manpower, must be of the highest order.
It is Beijing that should be most worried about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. China has had a close link to the development of the nuclear programme since the 1970s. Beijing has not only provided Islamabad with nuclear bombs, uranium, and plants (all three Pakistani nuclear plants—Kahuta, Khushab, and Chasma—have been built with Chinese assistance) but also their delivery systems: ready to-launch M-9 (Ghaznavi/Hatf), M-11 (Shaheen), and a number of Dong Feng 21 (Ghauri) ballistic missiles.25