By Talat Masood
The military operation in North Waziristan has clearly met with some notable success. Apparently, more than 80 per cent of the area has been cleared and the TTP has become factionalised and is under considerable pressure. Last week, there was also the good news that the security forces killed a top al Qaeda commander, Saudi-born Adnan el Shukrijumah, in an encounter in South Waziristan. Undoubtedly, a lot of credit for turning the tide against the militants at the operational level goes to General Raheel Sharif and to our valiant soldiers who continue to sacrifice their lives to defend and maintain the integrity of the state. But this is only the clearing and to some extent the holding phase of the operation. The major work of rebuilding the devastated areas and rehabilitating the IDPs still remains.
The larger security threat facing Pakistan, however, is multi-dimensional and complex. In contrast, the interest, comprehension and response of our national leaders are intangible. We have four categories of militants — globally oriented, Afghanistan specific, India and Kashmir directed and domestically oriented. These groups work independently but also form alliances to boost their overall capability. In addition, there is an ongoing insurgency in Balochistan. We also cannot be oblivious to the potential emergence of the Islamic State (IS). There are unconfirmed reports that more than 15,000-20,000 volunteers from Pakistan are fighting in Syria and Iraq. Some of these may return and pose a threat, especially in less-governed parts of the country. Karachi remains a perpetual battleground for militant groups of the main political parties and the country frequently suffers at the hands of sectarian militias. This problem is allowed to fester and left to the provincial governments to deal with in a half-hearted manner. On the external front, volatility on the Line of Control and the working boundary has acquired a new life of its own. What I have described is well known, but lost in the din of everyday life and as we are distracted by ego battles of our leaders, we fail to grasp the grave implications of this overarching threat landscape. Our leaders have shielded themselves by living in houses that are fortresses and travel in vehicles with contingents of bodyguards to keep them protected. The most disturbing aspect is that the responsibility of dealing with all these threats has been left to the army. State institutions like the committee on national security and Nacta lie dormant although in a democratic country, security matters are major responsibilities of the civilian government. No wonder Narendra Modi’s government takes the convenient cover that there is hardly any point in talking to the Pakistani civilian government when the military (or the militants) seem to control policy. The Indian point of view is reinforced when Hafiz Saeed, who has a $10 million dollar bounty on his head, brazenly takes out a procession of jihadi elements on the streets of Lahore and makes scathing remarks against India and the US. The government, by giving him a free rein, undermines its case on Kashmir and weakens the political and moral basis of its stand.
On the one hand, the army chief has categorically stated that there are no good or bad militants and the army is operating against all of them without any discrimination. And then the world is presented with this spectacle.
This clearly indicates that we do not treat the Lashkar-e-Taiba, or its other face, the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), in the same category. It seems that it is used to pressure India to show flexibility on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
Pakistan has been repeatedly accused of playing a double game and is pursuing a different policy in handling the Kashmiri jihadis and those of the TTP and its affiliates.
Such demonstrations reinforce this impression. Even if Pakistan were to ignore the negative aspects of the international fall-out, it has to seriously consider whether it would be possible to fight radicalism and extremism if it tolerates militant outfits that are spewing hatred and promoting violence as the primary tool of the freedom struggle in J&K. As it is, the spread and influence of militant organisations in southern Punjab is growing rapidly. Many of these groups have global and regional jihadist aspirations. Support for the JuD in Pakistan can even be found among some educated youth and professionals, which could be ominous. The world has changed after the 9/11 and Pakistan cannot remain oblivious to the tectonic shifts in the global security structure. The JuD and other Kashmir-oriented outfits should now focus primarily on the political and humanitarian aspects of the freedom struggle. Major terrorist attacks occurred in four places in J&K on the same day when the JuD was taking out processions in Lahore. For India, it becomes easy to put all the blame on Pakistan and then justify the reticence in engaging in inter-state dialogue.
The PML-N had used its rapport with militant groups in Punjab to broaden its electoral support with obvious long-term deleterious affects. Moreover, our claim that the military is dealing with all militant organisations alike needs to be qualified. It would amount to far less change in policy and would be no different from that pursued for several decades when it comes to India.
It seems that we are unwilling or unaware that the world has changed and is not prepared to tolerate any militant groups irrespective of how just their cause may be. Pakistani elements promoting jihad are out of sync with the rest of the world.
The Indian establishment is myopic and too short-sighted, and fails to see the serious discontent in occupied Kashmir that has to be addressed politically and not through brute force. Of course, a negotiated political settlement with India on J&K will greatly reduce the incentive and support for the militant organisations. But that is unlikely to happen in the near future. The jihadists in Pakistan and the Indian hardliners are pulling the two countries further apart and holding the region hostage.
The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board
Courtesy: The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2014.
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