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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2590

Rambling thoughts on security paradigm

By Asif Haroon Raja

The Taliban regime during its short rule in Afghanistan had done commendably well in restoring peace and order in the war-torn country that had remained soaked in blood since 1978. Apart from disarming and taming warring tribes, all social evils including prostitution, obscenity, war lordism, drug peddling, theft and robbery were curbed. Poppy growing was almost eliminated. Security situation improved to an extent that people didn’t have to lock their houses and shops at night.

The Northern Alliance supported by Russia, Iran, India, USA and western powers with its base HQ and training bases in Iran could only retain a toehold of 8% in the north. After the death of Ahmed Shah Masood in mid 2001, displacement of Northern Alliance from northern enclave was not far. The Indians that had traditionally enjoyed cordial relations with successive Afghan governments had to retreat during Taliban rule.

The Taliban achieved outstanding success in spite of inhuman economic sanctions imposed by USA and western powers and intense vilification campaign unleashed against them portraying them as human eating monsters. The ostracised and sanctioned Taliban having very little means to subsist did not have any magic wand to bring about semblance of order. The leaders imbued with honesty and sincerity of purpose lived a Spartan life and braved hardships equally with the people. Other than wrath of Allah, they feared none and stood to their stated principles. So much so that when the real test came they sacrificed everything to protect their guests.

The Taliban maintained very warm relations with Pakistan because of their indebtness to latter’s role in the Afghan war and sheltering over 4 million Afghan refugees at the cost of their own comforts. Most had received religious training in Pakistani Madrassas and had carried pleasant memories of their stay in Pakistan. They had not only offered their territory as a safe haven, which was referred to as “strategic backyard” or “strategic depth”, but also offered their services to take Kashmir freedom struggle to its logical conclusion. The impact of their good governance and dispensation of quick, speedy and cheap justice was felt in FATA and neighbouring settled areas and many admired them. The first demonstration of this infatuation was seen in Malakand Division in 1990 when Sufi Muhammad desired to establish Shariah.

FATA remained a peaceful area and was well managed by the Political Agents having the levies, Frontier Constabulary and Frontier Corps (FC) available to them to deal with any law and order situation. Punishment inflicted upon the wrongdoers by FC was taken in right spirit. The people were quite content with dispensation of justice through Jirgas. Their loyalty to Pakistan has never been in doubt. Their role in annexing Azad Kashmir in 1948 and making it part of Pakistan needs no emphasis. In the two Indo-Pak wars, the tribal took upon themselves to guard the western border, thereby allowing the army to withdraw 7 and 9 Divisions for beefing up defensive effort in Central Punjab. The Afghan war in eighties was kept on the other side of the border for ten years without the involvement of the army.

In short, the people of Fata have been a real strategic asset for Pakistan capable of fighting at their own for an indefinite period without seeking any military support. No amount of shock and awe overawe them since they have a rich past and jealously retain their heritage based on Islam, honour, chivalry and living a simple and hardy life. Unlike some of the Baloch Sardars in Balochistan, they have never sought foreign assistance against Pakistan or thought of breaking away. They have maintained their family links with their blood relations in southern Afghanistan and the Durand Line has never come as a barrier to keep them separated They consider it their moral and religious duty to come to the rescue of their brethren whenever invaded by a foreign power as was seen when the British, Soviets and Americans invaded and occupied Afghanistan.

The US and Jewish think tanks had contemplated that after the demise of communism, Islam was the only religion that could pose a challenge to capitalism. Governed by new threat perception, radical Muslim countries such as Iran, Syria, Libya, Iraq and anti-imperialism extremist groups within each Muslim country were marked as potential targets for pulverisation. Once it was found out that Pakistan was engaged in developing nuclear program secretly, Israel marked it as its number one enemy since nuclearised Pakistan was considered a threat to its very existence. In concert with India, it had attempted to destroy its nuclear program in infancy. Afghan war enabled Pakistan to continue with its nuclear program despite US strong reservations. While Israel was made the most powerful country in the Middle East after destroying Iraq’s nuclear plant and pulverising its military in the first Gulf War, India was planned to be built up as the unchallenged power in South Asia and a counterpoise to China. India’s military and nuclear capability is being vigorously enhanced by USA and Israel and latter has become India’s largest business partner.

As a consequence to 1997 elections, PML-N led by Nawaz emerged as a heavy mandate democratic government. It earned the distinction of making Pakistan the sole Muslim nuclear power with missile systems superior to that of India. Pakistan thus became an eyesore for USA, Israel and India. The Lower House passed the 15th Amendment in mid 1999 to introduce Shariah in the country. In March 2000, PML-N was sure to gain majority in the Senate elections and get the Shariah Bill passed. A Muslim country laced with nuclear weapons and Islamic system of governance when seen in context with Islamic governments in neighbouring Afghanistan and Iran and enjoying cordial relations with each other gave currency to the idea that an Islamic bloc backed by China and Russia was in the making. The 54 Muslim states ruled by secular and pro-American leadership were seen to be in danger of getting out of the American loop. This was too frightening a scenario to be tolerated by our adversaries particularly when viewed in the light of America’s plan to encircle China and control the oil and mineral resources of Central Asia and Middle East. As a sole super power, USA nurtured grandiose plans under the concept of globalisation and corporate economy and looked forward to rule the world with the help of its allies Europe, Japan, Israel and India for the next 100 years.

A plan to occupy Afghanistan had been made as early as 1997 when Washington failed to convince Taliban regime to agree to oil pipeline project on its terms. Afghanistan otherwise was considered as a vantage point wherefrom Russia, Central Asia, China, Iran and Pakistan could be kept under close scrutiny. The plan could not be operationalised because of US heavy commitment in re-integration and reconstruction of Eastern Europe and fluid situation in Central Asia. 9/11 gave a ready-made excuse it was looking for to invade Afghanistan.

To conquer Afghanistan, apart from weakening it from within through sanctions, it had to be isolated and encircled. India, Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, China and Russia were taken on board. UNSC gave its approval and there was no dissenting voice from anywhere. Without Pakistan’s consent, the invasion would have become time consuming and very costly. It is a coincidence that whenever USA had certain objectives to achieve in the region, Pakistan’s reins were in the hands of a military dictator with whom it felt much comfortable. This time again, Gen Musharraf was at the helm of affairs and he quickly conceded to ditch Taliban and help US forces by providing intelligence, military bases and logistics. He thus betrayed his friends and embraced Pakistan’s traditional enemies.

Left friendless and surrounded from all sides, the Taliban considered it prudent to carry out a tactical withdrawal and recommence their fight at a later date. Easy victory intoxicated the victors and gave strength to Musharraf’s vision that it will be a short and intense war. He did not visualise the long drawn protracted war and its negative impact on Pakistan. Contrary to much touted assessment that only remnants had fled to Pakistan and the bulk destroyed as a result of dropping of tons of daisy cutters, cluster bombs and cruise missiles and deadly rockets, in actuality reverse was true. It took the Taliban only one year to regroup and strike back. After gaining a small toehold in southern Afghanistan, they spread their influence into other parts rapidly and now they have their tentacles in every nook and corner of the country. The invasion and fight back has so far resulted in over 100,000 Afghan fatalities but the resistance is growing in strength with every passing day. The Taliban are also inflicting casualties on NATO forces and their morale is very high. Since there is no dearth of reinforcement or suicide bombers, casualties do not bother them. Bogging down of US troops in the quicksand of Iraq has also disadvantaged USA and favoured Taliban.

The puppet regime headed by American stooge Karzai was brought in power by USA by spending huge amounts to buy loyalties of ill-famed warlords. The country is ruled by a small minority of non-Pashtun belonging to Northern Alliance while the Pashtun that are in great majority have been marginalised. Karzai has become so unpopular that he cannot move out of his palace without security guards provided by USA. Except for Kabul and Kandahar, rest of the country is ruled by warlords. The common people sympathise with the Taliban since all the social evils they had controlled have resurfaced on a much bigger scale. Apart from decline in moral turpitudes, opium growth has risen from 45 tons to 8000 tons. Other than local drug lords, American and other western allies are involved in drug trade. However, they do not want drug money to be utilised by Taliban to sustain their war effort. The Afghans are convinced that the Taliban are fighting a just war to rid the country of alien occupation and are thus flocking towards them.

USA began to establish its stronghold in Afghanistan by co-opting the services of spy agencies of India, Britain, Israel and Germany and forming a massive intelligence centre at Jabal-us-Seraj near Kabul to destabilise neighbouring countries of its interest. RAW was assigned to carryout sabotage and subversion in Baluchistan, FATA and Northern Areas in particular. The purpose was to destabilise, de-Islamise and denuclearise Pakistan and make it a failed state. India already excelling in this art undertook its work in real earnest by establishing 17 consulates and 80 training camps all along our western border geared towards destabilisation of Pakistan. India also opened up tens of cultural and educational centres to poison the minds of Afghans against Pakistan.

RAW has converted Sarobi as the major base where terrorists are motivated, trained and equipped and then sent to forward bases at Ghazni, Khost, Gardez, Jalalabad, Asadabad, Wakhan and Faizabad. From there they are launched inside FATA and NWFP. RAW is also funding Islamic movement of Uzbekistan and Uzbeks are used in FATA. RAW’s another major base is at Kandahar with its forward bases in Lashkargarh and Nawah to target Baluchistan. BLA under Zaman Marri with its HQ at Helmand and sponsored by RAW and CIA helps in providing dissidents from Baluchistan. Over sixty Farari camps were established in rural Baluchistan with the help of foreign agencies and Nawab Bugti as well as Sardars of Marri and Mengal tribes were won over to destabilise Baluchistan. Chinese working in Gwadar, Saindak, Hub and other places are being targeted to spoil Pak-China friendship. CIA’s covert operations against Iran from Baluchistan are being pasted on ISI to mar Pak-Iran relations. A declared terrorist group Jandullah cultivated by ISI and used in Iran is projected as ISI sponsored. Occupied Kashmir and Siachen are utilised to foment trouble in Gilgit where Balwaristan movement demanding an independent state is being supported.

Under the cover of road project, India is importing explosives, arms and ammunition shown as construction material, and inducting training staff and commandos for security of the project. RAM and other security agencies including police and customs under the influence of Northern Alliance are helping RAW in cultivating Afghans and dissidents from Pakistan for using them against Pakistan and facilitating covert operations. Even some terrorist camps have been established in Helmand and Nimroze provinces where suicide bombers are trained. Northern Alliance is also playing a pivotal role in spoiling Pak-Afghan and Pak-US relations.

When things started to get out of their control in Afghanistan, NATO forces were roped in. Advised by India, USA forced Musharraf to push Pak army into the inferno of Fata in 2003 to kill two birds with one stone. Our adversaries concluded that Pakistan could be brought to its knees only if its army was discredited. Earlier on, Musharraf had allowed CIA and FBI agents to move around freely. He placed the services of own security agencies and police at their disposal to be able to hound and nab suspected terrorists. Over 600 Al-Qaeda operatives and hundreds of Pakistanis were handed over to CIA in return for reward money. Thousands of Islamists dubbed as terror suspects were put in local secret detention centres run by own intelligence agencies whose whereabouts are still unknown. Large number sent to dreadful Bagram and Guantanamo Bay Prisons were later on found to be innocent. Appalling tales of torture narrated by the freed prisoners further steeled the resolve of the militants to push out their tormentors from Afghanistan at whatever cost.

The mindless war on terror initiated in FATA at the behest of USA has sunk Pakistan into a chasm of religious whirlpool and extremism and rendered the heretofore peaceful tribal area restive. While tens of thousands have been displaced, 6000 tribals have so far been killed and thousands injured, their houses destroyed and fragile economy ruined. FATA has become a nightmare where Predators, jetfighters, gunship helicopters, artillery and heavy mortars are used liberally and no one is safe. Excessive use of force has alienated the people. Fissures have been created within the ranks of tribals of each Agency and pro-government tribals are fighting Jihadis.

RAW and CIA are busy misusing the cultivated elements for destabilisation purposes. Army is paying a very heavy price in terms of suffering over 1200 combat soldiers and a large number injured and seems to have got irretrievably stuck in FATA. It has earned the everlasting enmity of the tribals and its image sunk low. Insurgency has engulfed all the seven agencies and has also infected neighbouring settled districts of Frontier Province. Heat of Talibanisation can now be felt up to Karachi. The people of FATA having suffered the most in the cross fire for the last five years are gravitating towards TTP since it promises superior governance and justice system and has a valid cause. The wounds inflicted upon the people are too deep to be healed through normal pacification measures.

In my view the TTP is best suited to restore peace in FATA and settled districts of NWFP and remove the ills afflicting the tribal belt. It is the only force which has earned the respect and confidence of the tribals. The army can neither subdue the Taliban nor win over the people of FATA and restore peace. It will be a fruitless war in which both sides will continue to shed blood and at the end of the day it will be the government which will give in and that too when it will have nothing in its hand to bargain with.

Instead of the TTP getting hijacked by our adversaries and used against us, it should be won over by us and made to confront our real enemies that are all set to break Pakistan. The policy of stick and carrot will not work in FATA. The stick will have to be sheathed and all out efforts made to balm their wounds with due care and affection. The army will have to play a major role in removing their misperception that it is on the payroll of USA to promote its agenda. The army must extricate itself from the quagmire of FATA and the web woven by our adversaries before it is too late. Gilani led government must make a distinction between friend and foe and show its mettle by calling a spade a spade.

Asif Haroon Raja is a retired Brig based in Rawalpindi and a defence and political analyst.

- Asian Tribune -

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