Friday, January 24, 2014

Is Pakistan Ready For Long Sustained Anti-Terror Campaign?

The year 2014 in Pakistan began with 27 deadly terrorist attacks in the first 20 days, claiming nearly 200 lives, according to South Asia Terrorism Portal. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for most of the attacks. In response, Pakistan ordered air-strikes against TTP targets in Tirah Valley (Khyber Agency) and Mir Ali (North Waziristan) in FATA. This was the first time in several years that the Pakistan Air Force jets pounded TTP hide-outs.

Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal 

While I believe the air-strikes were needed to send a message to the terrorists, there was no word from Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif as to his strategy to deal with the TTP terror campaign that has so far claimed over 50,000 lives in the last few years. The strikes raise several questions: 

1.  Is Pakistan now ready to engage in a long and sustained campaign to eliminate terrorism as Sri Lanka did

2. If Pakistan is launching a war on TTP terrorists, why is it being done without first taking the people of Pakistan in confidence? 

3. When will the Prime Minister launch a communication offensive to build public support required for a war that could take many more years and lives? 

4. How will the Prime Minister deal with the pro-Taliban forces active in Pakistan's politics and media and other walks of life? 

5. If the Prime Minister has finally decided to end the menace of terrorism, is he prepared to stay the course when there are many more casualties on all sides? Is he preparing the nation to pay the price? 

6. What are the consequences of failure in this war? Will Pakistan fall to the Taliban? Will military directly intervene and take control of the government if the politicians fail to do what is necessary? What if both the politicians and the military fail? Will there be a massive multinational force intervention to keep Pakistan's nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of the Islamic militants? Will US and China join hands to prop up Pakistani state to protect themselves?  

For a discussion of the above and other current topics, please watch the following video:


Anonymous said...

If you are an apologist, supporter or sympathiser of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), you’re not on their target list and the state tries to appease you. If you are critical of TTP-led terror, you’re marked and the state leaves you to fend for yourself. In this situation what side should a rational mind pick?

Remember Swat? Within a year or so we saw a coercive consensus transformed into a conformist consensus under the brutal Fazlullah regime. Wouldn’t you fear those who demonstrate their intent and capacity to maul fellow citizens without any qualms? When those under threat don’t resist coercion in the interest of self-preservation, a conformist consensus is born. But this doesn’t happen until the state acts as a neutral bystander twiddling its thumbs watching one set of citizens force another into submission by threat or use of force.

We have slowly degenerated to a point where the state has lost its monopoly over violence and state officials their autonomy and anonymity. Now we have general and specific terror targets, both within the state and society. The state institutions — the armed forces, intelligence and law enforcement agencies — are general targets. And then there are individuals within institutions who are specific targets either due to their sensitive posts or personal convictions.

Any citizen who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time is a legitimate general target for terrorists. Then there are specific group and individual targets: Hazaras, Shias generally, and now journalists are group targets; religious leaders who speak against the terror-driven tyrannical model of faith or anchors critical of terrorists or perceived as liberal are on individual hit lists. Political parties, of liberal persuasion, and individual leaders, vocal about their opposition to terror, have been marked as group and individual targets respectively.

Aren’t TTP sympathisers forcing officials and citizens to follow their lead and strike a Faustian bargain? If the state cannot protect you, why not seek patronage of terrorists who can hurt you at will? This could work for political parties and citizens who aren’t on target lists.

But what about those who are? What can Hazaras do to appease terrorists? What can non-journalist media staff do to save their lives? Caught in the crosshairs by virtue of their work, what should policemen and soldiers do? What should ordinary citizens do who are at the wrong place at the wrong time?

The gamble of pro-talkers is simple: so long as there is a bigger target, the lesser target is safer. The state and society is thus confronted with prisoners’ dilemma: you can be anti-TTP and a target, or a sympathiser and relatively safe. We have created this dilemma because we fail to unite on basic principles: there can be no justification ever for one set of citizens to kill fellow citizens in pursuit of any political or ideological objective; and the state can never agree to share monopoly over violence with non-state actors.

So what would Imran Khan or Chaudhry Nisar negotiate with Fazlullah? How to abide by his vision of the Sharia and ways to implement it? Would they take his counsel on how to raise their kids or be ‘better’ Muslims? Would they endorse the revisionist mission of changing world geography, invading foreign territories and forcing their denizens to embrace the TTP’s brand of faith? If support for talks is meant to be more than a personal insurance policy and thus not an end in itself, shouldn’t the object of proposed talks and non-negotiable redlines be clearly stated?

If negotiations are meant to mainstream Fata and elicit the support of tribesmen for Pakistan, its Constitution and policies, let’s talk to leaders of all tribes and not those of a terror outfit.

Riaz Haq said...

#‎Pakistan‬ Army, ISI whispering in ‪#‎PTI‬ chief's ears? ‪#‎Imrankhan‬ now supports govt's anti-terror campaign against ‪#‎TTP‬

Hopewins said...

^^RH: "The year 2014 in Pakistan began with 27 deadly terrorist attacks in the first 20 days, claiming nearly 200 lives, according to South Asia Terrorism Portal. "

But did you NOTICE something astounding about the SATP statistics?

From 2008 through to 2011, the number of terrorists killed was more than the number of civilians.

After that, however, the civilian death toll has been higher than the number of terrorists killed?

See for yourself. 2012 & 2013 has been a BLOODY year for civilians, but not so bad for the terrorists.

Why is this? Is this because the Army stopped targeting them? Or is it because they are using new tactics? What is your analysis of this strange phenomenon?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a WSJ story on Pakistan PM Sharif offering to talk with the Taliban:

...Mr. Sharif has been trying to bring the Pakistani Taliban, known formally as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, into negotiations since September. The group has said it is interested in dialogue but no substantial talks have taken place while the violence has increased.

Mr. Sharif said Wednesday he formed a four-member committee to steer the renewed effort at talks. For the first time, he also set a condition: that the violence must cease.

"A peaceful solution will be given one last chance," Mr. Sharif told parliament. "Terrorist attacks and peace talks cannot go on together at the same time."

Pakistan's Taliban, which works closely with al Qaeda and is responsible for the killing of thousands of civilians and soldiers, said it welcomed the offer, but would give a detailed response after its leadership meets.

Since Mr. Sharif offered dialogue in September, the group and its allies have blown up a church in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing more than 80 worshipers, and assassinated an army general. This month it killed at least 34 soldiers in bombings in Bannu in the northwest and in Rawalpindi in the north. Three journalists and three polio vaccination workers were also shot dead in attacks in the southern city of Karachi. On Wednesday, three bombs in Karachi killed at least three paramilitary soldiers.

The Taliban has said that it doesn't accept the Pakistani constitution and wants to turn the country into a strict Islamic emirate.

Senior members of Mr. Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party acknowledge talks may be futile, but that because of political opposition to a major military offensive, they are giving talks with the Taliban every opportunity.

A military operation would have to target the Taliban's base in North Waziristan, part of the tribal areas, where last week there were limited airstrikes, in retaliation for the latest bombings of soldiers. Washington and Kabul have pressed for an offensive in North Waziristan, which is also a sanctuary for al Qaeda and Afghan militants.

Mr. Sharif made clear he wasn't ruling out an offensive. "We have to win this fight, whether by dialogue or by war," he told parliament.

Imran Khan, a lawmaker who has campaigned for peace talks, and whose party rules the militant-plagued northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said that Mr. Sharif should have secured a halt to U.S. drone strikes in the tribal areas before calling for talks.

In November, a U.S. drone strike killed Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud. "Dialogue was sabotaged by drones," said Mr. Khan.

The biggest opposition party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, demanded that a deadline be set for the talks. The party's 25-year-old leader, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, compared the situation to the eve of World War II.

"Support NS [Nawaz Sharif]. I want him to be our Churchill. Unfortunately he is becoming our Neville Chamberlain pursuing policy of appeasement," Mr. Zardari said on Twitter, his usual way of making his views known.

The committee formed for the talks is made up of private citizens who are thought to have influence with the militants, including veteran journalist Rahimullah Yousafzai, former Pakistani ambassador to Kabul Rustum Shah Mohmand, and retired intelligence operative Mohammad Aamir. The current head of Pakistan's Taliban, Mullah Fazlullah, studied at a hard-line religious seminary run by Mr. Aamir's family in northwest Pakistan....

Anonymous said...

What goes unsaid in your articles is how much Indians were right.

Didn't we in the 90s and after Mumbai attacks tell Pakistan how these "non-state actors" will eventually threaten the very state, they claim to "NOT" represent and get support from?

But, Pakistanis have not learned the lesson. Yesterday, there were news about how Pakistan is slowly activating all the anti-India Terrorists like Masood Azhar, who have links with Al Qaeda and Taliban.

We also told Pakistan how all this will affect the Pakistani Economy and we were again proved right.

We will again provide a prediction : Pakistan will face widespread isolation. 2015 will be the most bloodiest year in Pakistan.

Pakistan will go a long way towards becoming the next North Korea. And, India-Pakistan will be similar to South-North Koreas.

Not even the Chinese will not be able to help Pakistan, unless Pakistan dismantles all anti-India Terror groups and prosecutes Mumbai attackers and forgets about Kashmir.

The only way Pakistan can come up with resources to fight the insurgents is by removing troops from LoC/IB with India to Karachi, South Punjab, FATA and other places.

Cancer has metastasized and has affected all the organs.

Pakistan is haunted by 2 Is. India and Islam. India without lifting a finger and Islam by ensuring TTP will have endless recruits.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Hindu report on Pakistan's National Internal Security Policy (NISP announced by Ch Nisar Ali Khan:

Pakistan’s first ever National Internal Security Policy (NISP) apart from addressing critical issues related to threat perceptions ranging from street crimes to nuclear terrorism, envisages a deradicalisation programme which involves looping madrassas into mainstream education.

The policy tabled by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in the National Assembly recently, is aimed at protecting the national interest of Pakistan and includes three key elements — a dialogue with all stakeholders, isolation of terrorists from their support systems and enhancing deterrence and capacity of the security apparatus. The NISP said dialogue offered a political means to end internal disputes but this is not the only option though it is the most preferred way to bring peace and reconciliation. Doors were open for negotiations with all anti-state and non-state groups within the limit of the Constitution and without compromising the primary interests of territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state.

The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), designated as the focal organisation for coordinating counter terrorism efforts in Pakistan, in consultation with other institutions supporting NISP, will develop and coordinate a National De-Radicalization Programme Design. The policy envisages the integration of mosques and madrassas in the national and provincial educational establishment by mapping and then mainstreaming and integrating the existing and new madrassas and private sector educational institutions.

The policy said a large number of terrorists, either are, or have been students of madrassas where they were brainwashed to take up arms against the state. Therefore, the madrassa and mosque remains an important point of focus for any government policy to stem the spread of extremism in Pakistan. The policy recognised a need to develop a national narrative based on tolerance, harmony and the right of the people to make religious, political and social choices. De-radicalisation programmes will be conducted in jails for prisoners and terror convicts.

The madrassa system cannot be excluded from the internal security parameters of the country, the policy stated. Controlling funding of the terrorists is a major challenge especially when the curriculum in these madrassas does not prepare the youth for the job market.

It is proposed to tighten control over foreign funding to non-governmental organisations and madrassas by involving banks, the Federal Board of Revenue and taxation departments to monitor the flow of money to suspected organisations.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's National Internal Security Policy (NISP) Strategy; three tiers of strategy (short-, medium- and long-term); fire-fighting (short-term; police reforms/CT efforts); overhaul of laws and the criminal justice system (short- to medium-term); narrative-building (short-, medium- and long-term). The the policy has been approved by the federal cabinet and some of its salient points have come into the public domain

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall St Journal story on Pakistan's heavy losses in terror attacks:

Each day, Cpl. Hamid Raza helps strap Cpl. Mohammed Yakub to a physiotherapy bench, lifts it and wipes the sweat off his bewildered comrade's forehead. Eyes darting, Cpl. Yakub often screams and grunts through the procedure, flailing his hands.

"Traumatic head injury," Cpl. Raza says softly. "He realizes it's me, and he tries to speak, but he can't. He can't eat, he can't talk, he can't remember the words."


The Pakistani army has lost roughly twice as many soldiers in the conflict with Taliban fighters as the U.S. It is a toll that keeps rising as American forces prepare to withdraw from next-door Afghanistan by December amid an intensifying war on both sides of the border.

In Washington and Kabul, officials often accuse Pakistan of being a duplicitous and insincere ally, charges fueled by alleged covert aid to the Afghan Taliban from some elements of the Pakistani security establishment. In 2011, the then-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, described the Haqqani network, a group of insurgents operating from bases in North Waziristan who are affiliated with the Afghan Taliban, as a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Pakistan's government denied the accusation.

Murky as this war is, one fact is clear: The price ordinary Pakistani soldiers pay in the struggle against Taliban fighters is real and high. Since Pakistan's army began moving into the tribal areas along the Afghan border to confront the Pakistani Taliban in 2004, more than 4,000 Pakistani soldiers have been killed and more than 13,000 injured, according to military statistics.

By comparison, the U.S. has lost 2,315 service members, just over 1,800 of them killed in combat, in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.


Just last month, the Taliban executed 23 Pakistani troops they had captured, prompting the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to suspend tentative peace talks with the militants. That bloodshed followed several deadly attacks in January, including a bombing of a convoy heading to North Waziristan that killed 26 and a blast that killed eight soldiers here in Rawalpindi, just a few hundred yards from the army's headquarters.
A soldier with Pakistan's Northern Light Infantry, Pvt. Ali, 28, lost his right leg during a clearing operation in the Kurram tribal area in 2012. He has had three surgeries since then.

"The Taliban would fire rocket-propelled grenades and attack at night, never showing themselves," he says. Following one of the patrols, which involved a gunfight, Pvt. Ali was returning to his base. He stepped on a freshly planted Taliban mine.

"I didn't lose consciousness after the blast, and the other soldiers carried me down on a stretcher," he recalls.

A fellow amputee, Pvt. Ali Rehman, 21, had just arrived in the Kurram area when his unit was sent to retrieve the body of a soldier killed by the Taliban higher up in the mountains. "We were going through the valley in an open-backed vehicle, and that's when we struck an IED," he recalls. The explosion sheared off his right leg.

Amputees are usually able to serve in a desk job in the military once fitted with prosthetic limbs. The military hospital in Rawalpindi provides some of the most sophisticated such devices, says Maj. Zaheer Gill, its specialist of rehabilitative medicine....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a view of Pakistani-American Faiysal AliKhan, Carnegie Fellow, on Taliban's youth:

Speaking softly, Faiysal AliKhan points to an underlying truth he sees in tribal areas of his native Pakistan. “There is an intergenerational aspect to this conflict which is often not talked about. We talk about socio-economic, gender issues, but we don’t talk about who hostile groups engage with – they engage with youth, not elders, not anyone else.”

“There’s no militant leader over 30 or 35 years old, and their foot soldiers are even younger,” adds AliKhan, founder of the Foundation for Integrated Development Action, a Pakistani organization that works predominantly with youth in the southern Frontier Province and surrounding tribal areas

For AliKhan, engaging young people is missing in the strategic approaches being advanced by civil society, government and political parties. “Even the community itself doesn’t take on board young peoples’ opinions,” he notes.

In Pakistan, especially the tribal areas, nearly 55 percent of the population is below 30-years of age. As Pakistan’s efforts to extend military and civilian authority in the tribal areas intensify, AliKhan’s organization is in a unique position to offer informed observations on youth and their tendency to be recruited by hostile groups, which he likens to attraction held by gangs.

“Take the seventh son of a tribal family who has no status in the family and doesn’t come from a prominent tribe – what is his future?” says AliKhan. “Who are his role models? Are there any positive role models? Not really.” Accordingly, with few opportunities, this youth is very likely to align himself with a hostile group, which provides many opportunities.

Number one, there is an economic opportunity; you have the ability to earn in your own backyard and need not seek work abroad or another city,” says AliKhan. “Number two, you get status, otherwise the seventh son has no status. And thirdly, another aspect in looking at these variables is looking at it like a gang. There’s an appeal for a young person to be part of a hostile group, you’re wearing your turban a certain way, you have guns – becoming Taliban gives this youth a voice, status.”

The son of a family with both business and military backgrounds, AliKhan was awarded a degree in Business Administration and Politics from the United Kingdom’s University of Kent in Canterbury and spent his early college years at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. Having family experience with some of the largest joint ventures in Pakistan, AliKhan is accordingly mindful of creating an enabling business environment in Pakistan and the importance of service delivery. With the success of their commercial activities, the AliKhans invested in making a social impact.

It was his grandfather, who was born in Dera Ismail Khan in the Northwest Frontier Province, that helped spark his interest in his ancestral area. AliKhan wanted to bring his learning from the private sector back to his grandfather’s birthplace. When a local government ordinance was issued in the tribal areas to empower grassroots governance in 2004, AliKhan established FIDA, which means “devotion” in the local language. “We felt we could get involved in terms of helping to build better governance structures, said AliKhan, “We thought, how could we affect service delivery based on our business successes — how could we institutionalize what we had learned?”

Riaz Haq said...

New York Times: Fractured State of Pakistani Taliban Calls Peace Deal Into Question

...Taliban fighters ambushed each other’s camps, bombed convoys, and took prisoners over six days of tit-for-tat bloodletting in the same remote, forested valleys where C.I.A. drones have attacked militant compounds. By the time tribal elders brokered a hasty truce at the weekend, 40 to 60 people had been killed according to most estimates.

Ostensibly the fighting stemmed from a simmering rivalry between two hotheaded commanders — Khan Sayed Sajna, a onetime contender for the Taliban leadership, and Shehryar Mehsud — who are battling for dominance of the Mehsud wing of the Taliban. Mr. Sajna, considered the stronger of the two, sent a message to his rival that “there cannot be two swords in a single sheath,” according to a senior Taliban commander.

But the fight was about more than clashing egos. According to militant and western officials, the Sajna group is partly funded by the Haqqani network, a notorious militant group that uses its base in the Pakistani tribal areas to mount audacious attacks on civilian and military targets in Afghanistan. The funding is part of a drive by the network’s leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, to draw more Mehsud fighters into his fight against the Afghan government across the border.

As ever in tribal politics, money is a deciding factor: The Haqqani network draws on the proceeds of a vast criminal and fund-raising empire that spans Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Gulf states. The Haqqanis also enjoy a close relationship with the ISI intelligence agency, which has cultivated ties for decades, although the extent of the Pakistani influence remains an open question.

The Haqqanis are pushing the Taliban to make peace, said Mr. Yusufzai, the journalist. So are Mehsud tribal elders. Weary of years of war, including Pakistani military bombardment and the displacement of tens of thousands of villagers, community leaders are pressing the Taliban to talk to the government, said government officials and Waziristan residents...