by Asif Haroon Raja
This US agenda for Pakistan prepared by the neo-cons after 9/11 was similar to that applied throughout the broader Middle East Central Asian region. US strategy, supported by covert intelligence operations, consisted in triggering ethnic and religious strife, abetting and financing secessionist movements while also weakening the institutions of the central government. The broader objective was to fracture the Nation State and redraw the borders of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistan under Gen Musharraf was induced in September 2001 to become coalition partner and frontline State to fight the US dictated Global War on Terror. By the time Musharraf was deposed, Pakistan had been sufficiently bled in the war and the TTP under Baitullah Mehsud had captured 18 administrative units in the northwest. His successor Gen Ashfaq Kayani managed to recapture 17 units in 2009 and 2010. It resulted in overstretching of 150,000 troops employed in Swat, Malakand and FATA, besides battle fatigue and wear and tear of equipment. He considered it prudent to let alone the last bastion of the militants in North Waziristan (NW) since it housed friendly groups of Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Haqqani network.
While he kept pending the operation, the US and its strategic allies kept applying pressure by holding back aid, intensifying drone strikes and the covert war. Inflow of funds and arms from Afghanistan to the militants and hesitancy on Pakistan’s part allowed disarrayed TTP and its affiliates to regroup in NW, marry up with additional groups including foreign groups, and spread its terror tentacles all over Pakistan. Hafiz Gul Bahadur could do nothing to restrain Hakimullah Mehsud and later Fazlullah operating from Kunar.
Change of government in May 2013 opened vistas for peace talks with militants but acts of terrorism continued. Gen Kayani handed over the baton to Gen Raheel Sharif in November at a time when peace talks had run into difficulties. Incident of beheading of 23 captive FC soldiers by the men of Umar Khalid Khurasani in Mohmand Agency on February 18, 2014 and airing the video distressed him. It became difficult for Gen Raheel to see his men dying in acts of terror and the government insisting to give peace a chance without reciprocity from militants. He was constrained to hit back by launching selective surgical airstrikes against known hideouts. These strikes helped in dividing TTP in South Waziristan (SW) where Khalid Mehsud alias Sajna group rebelled and clashed with Sheharyar Mehsud group. Infighting weakened TTP and created better situation for striking it. Peace talks made no headway because the TTP refused to honor ceasefire, continued hitting military targets and made unreasonable demands of asking the Army to vacate SW and free militants before holding direct talks.
Matters came to a pass when the militants struck Jinnah airport in Karachi on June 8 and threatened to carryout similar attacks. The government and military leadership backed by all political parties and religious groups agreed to launch the much delayed operation in NW. Operation Zarb-e-Azb launched on June 15 preceded by airstrikes is delivering decisive results and is aimed at ridding the country of terror forever. Major towns of Miranshah and Mir Ali and 90% of territory have been cleared. Over 1000 terrorists have been killed, suicide jackets and IED making factories, ammunition and explosive dumps and hideouts destroyed and command & control centre dismantled. Many have surrendered. In anticipation to the much feared blowback in urban centres, the Army teams carried out hundreds of intelligence based raids against known hideouts in other parts of FATA and also nabbed terrorists in cities, thus preventing many attacks. Apart from dealing with terrorists, the Army is mindful of one million IDPs and is doing all it can take to make their stay in camps easy and to keep them motivated.
In spite of the fact that the ISAF-ANA combine has lost all battles against Taliban in Afghanistan and Pak Army has won all against array of militant groups supported by foreign powers, the US is still not satisfied and wants it to do more. On its part, it has taken no step to dismantle Fazlullah’s safe havens in Kunar and Nuristan from where his men are carrying out cross border terrorism. While deeply concerned over the threat posed by the IS in Syria-Iraq, it is still instigating India to deal with terror groups in Pakistan. Encouraged by Obama-Modi’s Pakistan focussed joint statement in Washington last month; Indian leaders are hurling threatening statements to vitiate the atmosphere.
Indian military calculatedly heated up the LoC in Kashmir and Working boundary in Sialkot sector on October 1 and has been resorting to unprovoked and indiscriminate firing/shelling, killing/injuring dozens of civilians and forcing large numbers to migrate to safer areas. Pak Army is responding to the aggression befittingly. Gen Raheel stated on 18th October that “let there be no doubt that any aggression against our beloved country will get a befitting response and no sacrifice will be too great in this sacred cause.” He added that lasting peace in the region could only come through with a fair and just resolution in accordance with the will of Kashmiri people as enshrined in UN Resolutions.
Indian bouts of belligerence in various forms are a routine matter and are designed to keep Pakistan overawed and its attention deflected from Kashmir. Rather than resolving the core issue of Kashmir which is the main bone of contention between the two archrivals, India keeps harping upon terrorism. Composite dialogue is a farce to keep Kashmir issue on the back burner for good. Nothing good can be expected from bigoted and Hindutva loving Modi regime. India’s mindset can be gauged from the recent article written by Dr. Amarjit Singh in Indian Defence Review, June 2014 Edition. In his view, Pakistan has no right to exist and is a thorn in the flesh of India. In his desire to obliterate Pakistan, he suggests fragmenting it by absorbing whole of Kashmir into Indian Union, making Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab independent but under Indian control; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa-FATA merged with southern/eastern Afghanistan and formed into Pakhtunistan, and northern Afghanistan comprising non-Pashtuns to shape into a separate country.
He is confident that the West will not shed tears on the demise of troublesome Pakistan. Finding the environment conducive, he forcefully urges the Indian leadership to knock out Pakistan when it is dizzy and imbalanced. His map and thoughts are similar to Lt Col Ralph Peters. Self-opinionated Amarjit doesn’t have the moral courage to say that it is India which has given tens of thousands of cuts to Pakistan from 1947 onwards and made it bleed profusely and that it is Pakistan which is the biggest victim of terrorism and India is an old hand in promoting terrorism in the region. But he is not the only one entertaining such devious thoughts.
The entire lot of Brahmin elite (2.8%) yearns to dismember Pakistan and for this purpose RAW has been employed in Balochistan, FATA and Karachi to do the needful as it had done in 1971. MI-6, CIA, Mossad and Afghan agencies are providing full assistance for the achievement of common objectives of destabilizing, denuclearizing, secularizing, balkanizing Pakistan and making it a Satellite State of India. Efforts are in hand to isolate Pakistan by spoiling Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran relations and also delinking it from China. A subtle propaganda has been unleashed to depict China’s investment in Pakistan as harmful. Pak-China planned joint venture of constructing ‘Economic Corridor’ and development of Gawadar are giving night mares to the US and India and schemes are being hatched how to stop these projects. Unstable political conditions and establishment of interim government of technocrats or national government as suggested by some suit the conspirators to accomplish their nefarious objectives. Unproductive sit-ins without a roadmap are slowing down development works and foreign investments.
While India is continuously building up its naval power in the Indian Ocean, the US is trying to contain China by roping in Indian Ocean Littoral States within an ‘Indo-Pacific’ framework. Besides boosting economy, science and technology, China must step up its efforts to protect its energy security interests by securing Sea Lines of Communications in Indian Ocean by deploying bigger naval force and developing Gawadar into a deep seaport and a strong naval base. Only then it can hope to make profitable use of the planned ‘Energy Corridor’ linking Kashgar with Gawadar. Development of Gawadar seaport must be expedited to allow Chinese exporters to export goods to the markets in Africa. At the same time, greater understanding between Pak-China economic managers, foreign policy handlers, military and intelligence officials should be developed to accrue mutually beneficial gains in all the fields. Further fortification of Pak-China strategic relationship will help in thwarting Indo-US policy of encirclement.
Internally what is urgently required in these critical times to frustrate the designs of enemies of Pakistan is political stability, unity between all political/religious parties/groups, harmonious civil-military relations and cooperation between State institutions.
– The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books and Director Measac Research Centre. He can be reached at email@example.com