INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

February 18, 2017

RED ALERT

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 4:37 am

What has happened within a week in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mohmand Agency, Quetta, Lahore, Karachi and Sewan Sharaf was a matter of time. According to counter terrorism analysts it was long overdue. Two years of military led operations in North Waziristan with a napping National Action Plan (NAP) scattered militants like flies on a heap of filth (Nation: 17 September 2016, NAP or Napping). Now they have regrouped and returned with vengeance. With NAP in deep slumber, a government preoccupied with Panama and frail linkages of the center with the provinces, the environments were most lucrative for militants to swim like fish in water.

I have remained a fierce critic of NAP for deliberate inaction on political, judicial and social responsibilities. I had cautioned the military that in absence of political and social responsibility, it was impossible for it to handle counter terrorism like a comical Western Lone Ranger. Absence of a comprehensive policy aggravated by lack of political will and expediencies brew a lethal mixture. The paragraph below sums up the appraisal on terrorism.

“As time passes, the suspicions will become the obvious. At that point of time, Pakistan will pass through another phase of bloodshed. This will happen when the LEAs, even in absence of orders will be head on with many islands of militancy lying dormant in Punjab and operating in Sindh/Balochistan. It could also happen if militant organizations on a nod for any reason, take on the LEAs at their own” (Nation:  21 January 2017, Pakistan, the dependent state Part 2). Unfortunately, as events indicate, Pakistan has passed that point of time and terror is revisiting urban Pakistan. It is now Red Alert; creating panic that propagates the narrative of militants.

What makes the situation more ominous is that Pakistan’s internal security has linkages to the international environment. Militant sanctuaries within the Kacha Areas of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan with Punjab’s reluctance to take on sectarian outfits combine with hostile intelligence agencies supporting intrusions from Afghanistan. This is now a very serious security threat. Government’s leverage to equate these outfits to negate the larger policy interests of Pakistan in order to appease India is now ‘talk of the town’.

Many assessments by me and other analysts are remarkably similar. Given the environments and politician’s games of expediencies, terror is revisiting urban areas of Pakistan with more ferocity.  The strategic appraisals on incomplete counter terrorism operations were validated by Quetta Commission Report that singled out Punjab with hideouts and open presence of sectarian organizations.  The Federal and Punjab government frowned over these assessments but facts float on the surface. As I wrote, “Threats from Punjab are always implied. They leave enough room for Houdini acts,” (Nation:  21 January 2017, Pakistan, the dependent state Part 2). Local body elections in Jhang (Punjab) and Dawn Leaks provide linkages to this assessment.

It was no coincidence that after the departure of General Raheel Sharif who had kept the civilian establishment on toes, a malicious slandering campaign began against him. This campaign was a reflection of a carefully planned and astute thinking to slander the armed forces for the ends of civilian supremacy even before the military had completed 50% of its task in counter terrorism operations. As General Kayani had assessed, a 100% military success would bring only a 20-30% success in counter terrorism. The remaining 70-80% pertained to politicians and civilian establishment. As the government reluctance and inaction continues, the 10% portion of military success will also erode for two reasons. First, treating people of FATA like disposable commodities and secondly, by providing space to militants in urban areas and allowing them to propagate.

This reinforces the dictum that unless the hammer and anvil are not used immediately, the sacrifices of civilians and Law Enforcement Agencies that account for over 100,000 lives and many more maimed, Pakistan could return to square one. The anvil was and remains missing in the external and internal environment. Ominously, the battle for winning hearts and minds has not even begun.

Counter Terrorism Operations were never a choice but a compulsion. The government and Parliament have treated it like a choice. But most, it is the responsibility of the government and it cannot shy away from taking bold decisions.

For whatever Zarb e Azb stood for, the government failed to pursue an effective foreign policy that required Afghanistan and USA to seal the Pakistan Afghan Border like an anvil in North Waziristan and Tirah Valley. Yet the military tried sealing it on the Pakistan side. But due to the rugged nature of terrain, most militants found sanctuaries in Afghanistan and were facilitated to fight another day. This was a continuation of the policy of 2002, when India helped denude Pakistani forces on Afghan Border by mobilizing with a very threatening posture in the East. Pakistan has failed to garner allies of peace. The third dimension is that that an anvil on the internal front is also missing.

As I have maintained, Middle East, Afghanistan and Ukraine comprise a triangle of instability. (Nation: 22 March 2014, The Devil’s Triangle). Russian intervention in the region was a matter of time. It came first in Ukraine followed by Middle East. Now it is also getting involved in Afghanistan.  The space on ISIS is shrinking in Middle East. The theatre along with the ISIS threat is shifting to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The regrouping of old hands with new names has already taken place. A loud battle cry has been made in Lahore and Sewan Sharif. Militants are more emboldened in attacking security forces along the Pak-Afghan Border and also in depth. Ultimately, this new game will hit CPEC.

More so, due to government inaction and non cooperation, Zarb e Azb never reached the political objective of forcing militants into negotiations on Pakistan’s terms. It is the government and not the military that is to be blamed. Sparing them to flee to Afghanistan was no solution for extremist whose narrative was up and running.

So the conclusion is that though the tactical battles were won and FATA garrisoned, nothing was done to inflict a crushing defeat to the foes. Ill conceived notions of peaceful co existence in Punjab are too wishful at best, or too dangerous at worse.

The threat dynamics explained above are neither new nor an impulsive reaction to latest events. They are a continuation of a thoughtful analysis by many analysts in Pakistan and abroad. Successive governments rather than read the winds showed complacency and lack of political will. Deep down, they are guilty of complicity by allowing their ambitions and expediencies to override national concerns. Though alarming to comment, the truth is that destruction of the edifice is coming through own hands. Redoubts in Waziristan may have crumbled but the state is being consumed from within.  Then many redoubts like termite citadels will come up.

It would be wrong to assume that all this has come to pass due to incompetency. The script that counters Pakistan’s interests is well articulated and extremely well executed. It is RED ALERT and let’s brace for battle. To eat ‘Lohay ke channay’, the country needs teeth of tungsten carbide.

Samson Simon Sharaf

The writer is a political economist and a television anchorperson

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1 Comment »

  1. Very accurate analysis Sir. Unless Punjab curbs the sectarian militants, they will continue to operate with impunity and collaborate with militants and terrorist outfits of a wide spectrum from within and without. Unless Government has a policy to absorb FATA in the mainstream and uplift them in war footing, there will continue to be the vacuum that militant and terrorists will exploit to fill and set up their sanctuaries again. It has to be policy, plan and executions of 1) war against terrorism, militancy, 2) Winning of hearts and minds and 3) Effective mobilization of international opinion and support to our cause.

    Comment by Abdul Ghafoor — February 18, 2017 @ 10:41 am


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