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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2527

Seething lavas of FATA and Baluchistan

By Asif Haroon Raja in Rawalpindi

During the rule of Taliban, Pakistan’s western border had become safe for the first time and India lost its influence completely. After Musharraf’s infamous u-turn, which many in Pakistan regarded as wise and thoughtful, he embraced untrustworthy USA, arch enemy India and Afghanistan ruled by American puppet Karzai and India-friendly Northern Alliance.

While Pakistan lost its influence in Afghanistan, regarded as its strategic backyard, India gained excessive influence in that country from where it is undertaking major covert operations against FATA, NWFP and Baluchistan destabilise Pakistan. India had all along vied for a base in Afghanistan from where it could launch covert operations against Pakistan’s provinces adjoining Afghanistan.

India has so far invested over $ 1 billion in Afghanistan for reconstruction and has become one of the largest donors. Besides its 17 consulates and 80 cultural and educational centres, it has about 4000 men working on a road project since 2002. This project is utilised for shielding RAW’s covert operations against Pakistan. Under the garb of importing construction material, explosives, ammunition, weapons and security personnel are being shipped in regularly. The consulates are infested with RAW agents.

In our bid to earn friendship of USA and monetary assistance, Pakistan lost its only genuine friend that had opened its territory as a safe haven. The “strategic depth” that had been achieved after rendering massive sacrifices for ten years during the Afghan war was lost in no time. As if this blunder was not enough, the war on terror that was being fought in Afghanistan was brought into Pakistan and FATA was converted into main battleground where army was pitched against tribals.

In his bid to please India and USA, Musharraf took another u-turn on Kashmir when he first brokered ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC), reined in all Jihadi groups engaged in Kashmir freedom struggle, allowed the Indians to fence and mine the LoC and then started to talk of out of box solution to Kashmir dispute. He at his own pushed aside Pakistan?s principled stand of resolving the conflict based on UN resolutions.

All-wise strategist ignored the track record of Indian leaders known for doublespeak and deceitfulness and extended series of concessions without any negotiations and without extracting anything in return. He failed to comprehend that Kashmiri Mujahideen in both parts of Kashmir had rendered colossal sacrifices and had pinned down over seven lacs Indian security forces in occupied Kashmir and their morale had sunk low. Far too many physiological and discipline cases had begun to occur within Indian army involved in counter insurgency operations since 1989 and Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) had become a bleeding wound for India. While he silenced the guns on the LoC positioned against Indian forces, he opened the guns in FATA and Baluchistan against own people.

No military or civilian leader howsoever pro-American or pro-Indian had gone to such extremes of compromising our national interests. He rightly became the blue-eyed boy of USA, India and Israel. While he was pampered and rewarded, Pakistan and its people were made to suffer grievous wounds. The Jihadis engaged in Jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir turned their guns inwards and militancy proliferated. Noted US intellectual Noam Chomsky stated that the US was responsible for the growing unrest in Pakistan and warned that it was in danger of collapsing.

The role of Pak army in FATA has become as tainted as that of security forces of India in IHK. The Indian security forces are oppressing the Kashmiri Muslims to prevent them from making Kashmir part of Pakistan or become independent. Pak army on the other hand is killing own Muslim fellows and preventing them from helping their brethren in Afghanistan and establishing Shariah. It is seen as a mercenary army hired by USA and serving US interests. It is perceived as an alien army which hands over Pakistanis to USA in return for reward money. These perceptions have lowered the image of the army in the eyes of tribesmen of FATA in particular and Pakistanis in general. No one shares the government point of view that war on terror is Pakistan’s war and that extremism is the chief threat to the security of Pakistan and that there is no external threat. They mock at our leaders who tenaciously cling to the coattails of USA in spite of its rebukes, double standards and betrayals.

The militants have an edge over security forces because of superior cause, home ground to operate, locals support, ideological motivation, expertise in guerrilla warfare, availability of safe sanctuaries in rugged mountains along Pak-Afghan border to withdraw and recoup. They select the target of their choosing and strike it when it is off guard or most vulnerable and then quickly melt away. Pitched battles are avoided as far as possible. Suicide bombers are their most potent weapons since the human bombs have the ability to reach any target anywhere and each detonation results in numerous fatalities. Their reinforcement camps never dry up since there is no dearth of volunteers lined up for enrolment as Mujahids. Aerial threat is their only weakness since they have no means to hit back at jetfighters, predators and gunship helicopters. Having identified this weakness, NATO forces as well as Pak army is making use of air weapons more extensively well knowing that it enhances collateral damage. The day tribals find means to counter the aerial threat; the balance will tilt heavily in their favour.

It is a known fact that 1, 20,000 troops are bottled up in FATA and 25000 in Swat with little hope of their extrication in near future. All hopes of withdrawal of army from tribal belt dashed when the new government made a volta-face on its stated policy of dialogue and has opened new fronts in Khyber Agency, Hangu, Kurram and Bajaur Agencies. Matani and Badhber near Peshawar are still restive where militants are attacking their targets with regularity. A deadly suicide attack had taken place on a PAF bus in Badhber recently. Bloody clashes in Hangu are continuing. In Kurram Agency, Shia-Sunni strife is continuing unabated for the last few months. Bangash tribe is reportedly assisted by the local Taliban and Tori tribe by RAW-RAM from adjoining Khost, Paktia and Nangahar provinces. In the last 14 days 294 people have been killed and hundreds injured.

Despite efforts by security forces, flames of sectarianism could not be doused. Gunship helicopters are continuing to pound militants in Swat. The worst affected is Bajaur where jetfighters, gunship choppers have rained rockets ruthlessly. Rehman malik has threatened that Bajaur operations would continue till all anti-state elements are eliminated. Another military operation in neighbouring Mohmand Agency is in the offing. There is hardly a place in the entire Pashtun belt which is peaceful.

Meanwhile, US Predators continue to fire missiles on chosen targets in FATA to add to the chaos. On 12 August, four hellfire missiles were fired and two missiles fired on 21 August in South Waziristan Agency.

All told, so far the CIA controlled predators have fired missiles in FATA 23 times. Cycle of suicide bombing that had terminated in the wake of change of government has recommenced. This year so far 25 suicide attacks have taken place claiming 400 lives.

The last two attacks took place at the gates of Ordnance Factory Wah on 21 August. TTP claimed responsibility and threatened that many more would follow if military operation in Bajaur is not terminated. With the ongoing fighting in restive areas in FATA and Swat which has taken a heavy toll and displaced over 700,000 people, aversion of militants against the army has intensified.

300,000 people have been rendered homeless from Bajaur alone. Recruitment of suicide bombers from within the displaced people would accelerate. In Baluchistan, foreign sponsored insurgency is simmering unabated and sense of alienation of locals is increasing.

Since start of this year, the army’s training is attuned to fight low intensity war. It will take time to reorient it to fight conventional war. In the given scenario, what if India mobilises its troops as in 2002 and Afghan army heats up western border by deploying troops and carrying out few incursions inside FATA in accordance with a devised plan to pose a coordinated twin threat duly backed by USA and Israel. Do we have a contingency plan and the means to confront such a challenge? If not, should we not take urgent steps to extinguish the seething lavas of FATA and Baluchistan and concentrate towards our real enemies?

If our rulers are really interested extinguishing the lavas and in resolving the problem of so-called terrorism they should take following steps:

One. Stop towing US dictates and charter independent foreign and internal policies suiting national interests.

Two. Withdraw the army from FATA, Swat and interior Baluchistan.

Three. Address the inequities of smaller provinces by providing greater job opportunities and educational facilities to the people and carrying out development works.

Four. Remove the misperceptions among the people of Baluchistan, and FATA as fed to them by vested interests and inculcate spirit of patriotism and nationalism in them.

Five. Regain the trust of religious forces by treating them as patriotic Pakistanis. S

ix. Bridge the widening gap between the Islamists and liberals.

Seven. Radically improve Anglo-Saxon system of justice which has caused deep sense of frustration among the under privileged.

Eight. Allow imposition of Shariah in Malakand and FATA as desired by the people of those regions.

Nine. Improve system of governance and minimize sufferings of the poor.

None of the above mentioned suggestions would be acceptable to the ruling elite since implementation of these would upset their grandiose living style achieved at the cost of the poor.

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

- Asian Tribune -

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