Asif Haroon Raja : –
Pakistan is burning in the flames of war on terror since 2003. Fratricidal war has claimed 55, 973 human lives and the numbers of injured run into hundreds of thousands. This appalling figure of casualties owing to over 5000 bomb blasts, hundreds of suicide and terrorist attacks surpasses the total fatalities suffered in the 1948, 1965 and 1971 wars and local conflicts with India. While wars/conflicts with India were of very short duration, this war is being continuously fought for over a decade and still there are no signs of its termination. It has given birth to more than 60 terrorist groups and all have married up to fight the security forces and cause harm to Pakistan. The war has caused Pakistan an economic loss of over $80 billion while the social trauma suffered by the people is incalculable.
The war on terror was started by the US and its allies in Afghanistan in October 2001 but was treacherously shifted into Pakistan. The ISAF comprising military contingents from over 40 countries handed over the security to 350,000 strong Afghan Army and Police, trained and equipped by the US and British military trainers on December 28, 2014. Although ‘Operation Endurance’ has come to a humiliating end since it failed to achieve any of the stated objectives, the US has announced launching a fresh operation codenamed ‘Resolute’ from 01 January 2015 onwards with the help of Afghan security forces backed by 12000 residual force stationed in 8 military bases. This force is likely to stay on till end 2016 in accordance with Bilateral Security Agreement and in return the US and its allies would provide $8 billion economic/military assistance annually to bolster Ashraf Ghani’s not so stable regime and to keep Taliban out of power if they refuse to share power.
This step has been taken grudgingly in the backdrop of the wide scale criticism the US had to face on account of abandoning Afghanistan in 1989 in haste after all its objectives were achieved by the Afghan Mujahideen assisted by Pakistan. Leaving them in a lurch without forming a broad based interim government and helping in reconstruction of devastated country resulted in bloody internecine war between various Mujahideen groups in Afghanistan. It is generally opined that but for the US blunder, Afghanistan may have become a peaceful and prosperous country. This great betrayal bred frustration, resentment, anger and hatred against USA.
Bloody civil war from 1990 to 1994 gave rise to war lordism, religious extremism and also gave birth to Al-Qaeda under Osama bin Laden, who was the blue-eyed boy of CIA during Afghan Jihad. Although the Taliban stabilized the country after taking over in 1996, but the fallout effects of the nine-year war and the instability of the civil war in Afghanistan was entirely borne by Pakistan. Presence of over three million Afghan refugees added to the socio-economic burden and security problems. The democratic era from October 1988 till October 1999 remained enmeshed in internal squabbles and paid little heed to control arms smuggling, drug peddling and sectarianism duly propped up by Saudi Arabia and Iran. Economic sanctions levied by the US in 1990 had also impacted the democratic rule. When PML-N government started to deliver by dealing with sectarian threat firmly, it was axed by Gen Musharraf on October 11, 1999.
9/11 changed the geopolitics of the world. The whole focus shifted towards terrorism and Pakistan was sucked into the GWOT. After occupying Afghanistan with the help of Pakistan, the US and its strategic allies cleverly shifted the direction of terrorism towards Pakistan under a calculated program. To start with FATA which was peaceful was made restive by forcing Pakistan to break the 1948 Agreement with the tribesmen by sending regular troops into South Waziristan. Insurgency was then ignited in Balochistan which was also peaceful. Nawabs of Bugti, Marri and Mengal tribes readily agreed to play the foreign game. KP and other parts of Pakistan were subsequently made turbulent.
Whereas Pakistan was made an ally to fight GWOT in return for monetary benefits, in actuality it was a target. Pakistan was on the hit-list of India, Israel and USA after it had conducted nuclear tests in May 1988 to neutralize Indian nuclear belligerence. In fact, India considers Pakistan a thorn in its flesh. Reason of its undiminished animus is Pakistan’s principled stand to maintain good neighborly relations based on equality and refusal to accept Indian hegemony. India also resents Pakistan’s stance on disputed Kashmir, which it foolishly claims to be its integral part. Armed freedom movement in occupied Kashmir since 1989 keeps Indian leaders scared. They keep devising Chankyan strategies to maintain illegal control over occupied Kashmir. They also resort to lies and engineer false flag operations to keep Pakistan on the defensive.
Ever since India became a strategic partner of the US, Indian leaders have been constantly whispering into the ears of US leaders that Pakistan is abetting and aiding terrorism in Kashmir and that it should be declared a terrorist state and Kashmiri fighters seeking right of self-determination as terrorists. New laws framed on terrorism after 9/11 provided an opportunity to India to paint Kashmiri freedom movement as terrorism and to project Pakistan military/ISI as abettors of cross border terrorism.
Installation of India friendly regime under Hamid Karzai in Kabul by the US made it easy for India to undertake covert war against Pakistan from Afghan soil at a massive level. RAW duly beefed up by 17 Indian intelligence units, four Consulates and Embassy was backed by CIA, Mossad, MI-6, BND, Afghan government/intelligence to destabilize, denuclearize, de-Islamize and balkanize Pakistan. Biggest intelligence centre was set up at Sehra Neward north of Kabul where heads of six intelligence agencies sat under one roof to cook up plans to undermine Pakistan, Russia, China, Iran, Middle East and also to gain influence over resource rich Central Asian region. Ironically, ISI was excluded although Pakistan is immediate neighbor of Afghanistan and was nominated as front line state.
RAW was made the overall in-charge to conduct clandestine war against Pakistan because of the expertise it had gained in 1971 East Pakistan insurgency, Balochistan insurgency in 1970s and sabotage/subversion in Pakistan in 1980s. RAW had a hand in training militant wing of MQM and Al-Zulfiqar. TTP in FATA, BLA, BRA and BLF in Balochistan were raised, funded, equipped and trained by foreign agencies to achieve their sinister objectives. RAW established 70 training camps in Afghanistan along Pak-Afghan border. It also helped Baloch insurgents in establishing over 60 Farari camps in interior Balochistan.
In FATA, CIA and FBI established outposts on the pretext of nabbing al-Qaeda runaways. On the quiet the two agencies established an outfit called Spider Web, whose task was to kill all pro-Pakistan Maliks, elders and clerics, shunt out civil administration and create space for anti-Pakistan TTP to take control over FATA. Over 400 were gunned down. ISI was pushed to the back seat and intelligence acquisition and dissemination taken over by CIA. Even immigration on airports in major cities was taken over by FBI. In 2008, Blackwater got established in Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore, Quetta and Karachi. It became easier for RAW to outsource this outfit for performing its dirty works. While Kerry Lugar Bill facilitated large numbers of NGOs with a precise agenda to step in, Pakistan’s Ambassador in Washington Husain Haqqani helped thousands of CIA agents and Special Operation operatives to sneak in without ISI clearance in 2010-11.
On one hand trained and well equipped terrorists were launched to create chaos and fear in Pakistan and also hit specified targets like GHQ, ISI set ups, PC-3 Orion, AWACs, airports, on the other hand Pak Army was belittled and accused of being either complicit or not doing enough. Pakistan was repeatedly told by the US to do more and India and Afghanistan joined the chorus. To make their coercive tactics more biting, an orchestrated defamation campaign was launched by Indo-US-western-Israeli media. Pakistan was dubbed as nursery of terrorism, most dangerous place in the world and a failing state. Its nuclear program was censured on the plea that it was vulnerable to fall into wrong hands because of lack of security. Idea behind multi-pronged bashing was to exhaust Pakistan socially, politically, economically and militarily, make it vulnerable to Indian aggression and force Islamabad to abandon its nuclear program in return for survival. India’s war terrorism is also part of the overall scheme to make Pakistan subservient.
This discriminatory attitude against an ally which had put the security of the state at stake to fight the US dictated war on its own territory and against its own people and had sacrificed the most was most unfortunate. To rub salt in Pakistan’s wounds, the US continued to bestow India with all possible goodies despite the fact that it didn’t contribute a single soldier in the GWOT and created problems for ISAF. Likewise, the US continued to support highly corrupt, inept and unpopular regime of Karzai for 13 years.
Once the stark reality dawned upon the US leadership in December 2010 that ISAF was in no position to win the war and defeat was inevitable, it not only declared its drawdown plan starting July 2011 and ending in December 2014, but also established secret contacts with Taliban to arrive at a political settlement and ensure safe exit. This effort failed because of Karzai’s fickleness and US lack of sincerity. Pentagon didn’t like Obama’s decision and started selling a fake story that Taliban had been pushed on the back foot and sooner than later the pendulum would swing in ISAF’s favor. To hide its failings, Pakistan was chosen as the scapegoat and all its failings put in Pakistan’s basket. It was in this context that intense pressure was put on Pakistan to launch a major operation in North Waziristan. When Pakistan didn’t comply, it was punished by undertaking false flag operation in Abbottabad in May 2011 and then a revengeful attack on Salala border posts in November that year.
Unlike Soviet forces which withdrew under Geneva Accord, ISAF troops have withdrawn without an agreement and leaving everything in a state of flux. Unlike Pak military’s brilliant successes against foreign supported militants in FATA and in Balochistan, the ISAF together with ANSF couldn’t achieve single battle victory against Afghan Taliban despite two troop surges and huge resources. Pakistan and not ISAF broke the back of Al-Qaeda by nabbing 600 of its leaders/operatives. All the societal vices that were doctored by Taliban during their five year rule under insalubrious circumstances have reappeared in a big way and Afghanistan has become the biggest narcotic state in the world. Despite investing $1.4 trillion, Afghanistan continues to grind in poverty and suffer from women disempowerment, illiteracy, corruption and insecurity. 65% Americans feel the war was needless.
While the US-NATO has lost the war, Pak Army under the valiant leadership of Gen Raheel Shareef has taken up the gauntlet to root out all manifestations of extremism and terrorism from Pakistan no matter what the cost. He has stated that losing war on terror is not an option. The Army had remained handicapped because of lack of political will, failure of civilian administration to take over secured areas, too many flaws in investigative and criminal justice system to prosecute and convict terrorists, ban on hanging, heavily politicized police, unproductive dharnas and above all foreign interference. Peshawar tragedy in which 132 children were martyred by fiends has galvanized the whole nation. Moratorium on hanging has been lifted and few terrorists hanged. Political/religious leaders stand behind the Army and have resolved to collectively fight the menace. Unanimously agreed upon 20-point Action Plan has been devised and committees formed to monitor progress. Despite initial reservations, all have agreed to amend the constitution and set up special military courts for 2 years to ensure speedy justice. These are need of the nation and not that of Army. Happily, Kabul has come on board and is willing to fully cooperate in fighting terrorism.
To ensure 100% results, all concerned will have to perform on war footing. Politicians will have to display greater maturity and become role models by changing their lifestyle. Bureaucracy should shun its lethargic way of sitting over files and creating unnecessary impediments. The judiciary must come out of its hibernation and carryout in-house refurbishment to deliver evenhanded, cheap and speedy justice to all. The media should change its course and show greater patriotism and sense of responsibility. Civil administration should play its part more efficiently and honestly. Ulema and Mashaikhs should strive to bridge the religious divides. Academic circles must guide the youth towards productive channels and inculcating in them sense of nationalism. Last but not least, grievances of the have-nots must be addressed on priority.
The writer is retired Brig, war veteran/defence analyst/columnist/author of five books, Director Measac Research Centre, Member Board of Directors TFP.