Saturday, June 22, 2013

What is Nawaz Sharif's Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Pakistan?

After about a month-long lull, terrorists and insurgents have struck in Pakistan yet again, killing dozens of people in multiple attacks.  These attacks have brought in sharp focus the following questions:

1. Does Nawaz Sharif government have a pro-active strategy to deal with terrorists and insurgents?  Or will it continue to operate in a reactive mode like its predecessors in the last 5 years?

2. If there is a strategy, is it entirely dependent on stopping US drone attacks? Or the success of peace talks with the Taliban which do not yet appear to be in sight?

3. What if the Pakistani government is unable to stop US drone attacks? Would it then throw its hands up and allow the Taliban and their affiliates to continue to slaughter innocent Pakistanis? Is it not the responsibility of the Pakistani government to protect all of its citizens?

4. Have the PML(N) leaders forgotten the lessons of Swat where ANP negotiated with the Taliban and agreed to allow them to run the region under their "Nizam-e-Adl"? Do they remember that the military had to eventually intervene to clear Swat of the Taliban to achieve peace there?

5. Will the history of the last 5 years repeat itself with the loss of tens of thousands of more innocent lives?

6. The US is talking with the Taliban to ensure their troops withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014. Can we honestly compare US-Taliban talks with Pak-Taliban talks as desired by Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan? Are Nawaz and Imran planning to withdraw Pakistan from Pakistan (if that's possible) and hand over control to the TTP?

For a lively discussion of the above, please watch this video:

Ziarat Residency, Quetta attacks on Hazara, Imran Khan’s parliament speech, Drone Attacks and Dialog with the Taliban from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Nawaz Sharif's Silence on Taliban Terror in Inaugural Speech

Taliban vs. Pakistan

Yet Another Peace Deal and Shia Blockade

Taliban Insurgency in Swat

Musharraf's Treason Trial

General Kayani's Speech on Terror War Ownership

Impact of Youth Vote and Taliban Violence on Elections 2013

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

Pakistan Elections 2013 Predictions 

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube 


Batman said...

logicly very logical questions razed here?
bt what about US afghan taliban talks, which are just a begging of a new suni super power to delt with shia iran?
for which our great leaders nawaz & imran keeping thier lips zipped?
thats why all the boggies of house of sauds pushing nawaz to do the trick for them?

Riaz Haq said...

Batman: "logicly very logical questions razed here?
bt what about US afghan taliban talks"

Americans are talking with the Taliban to withdraw from Afghanistan. But what is the objective of Pak-Taliban talks? Surely, Pakistanis can not withdraw from Pakistan and hand over control of the country to the TTP terrorists. So the objective of Pakistanis should be to significantly degrade the TTP's strength to force them to accept peace on Pakistani terms, not the TTP terms.

Hopewins said...

You keep talking of the Taliban. But of the new violence, Taliban has denied involvement in all except the killing of MQM officials and the attack on the army as retaliation for Waliur Rehman's killing.

So the recent violence:
1) Suicide bombing of funeral
2) Suicide bombing of University
3) Suicide bombing of Hospital
4) Suicide bombing of Imambara
5) Assasination of PTI workers

is NOT being done by the Taliban. So just addressing the Taliban issue (whether by talk or action or both) will NOT address the issue of terrorism as a whole.

We have a LOT of groups that we need to fight, talk to or both....

Please address all this in your next blog article.

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: " But of the new violence, Taliban has denied involvement in all except the killing of MQM officials and the attack on the army as retaliation for Waliur Rehman's killing."

LeJ, SSP and other sectarian groups (also known as the Punjabi Taliban) work hand-in-hand with the Taliban who are just as anti-Shia as the sectarian outfits. They are known to be Taliban affiliates and receive explosives training and other help from the TTP.

The source of much of the terror is in North Waziristan where the TTP have a safe haven that needs to be dealt with by a military operation similar to the ones in Swat and South Waziristan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an NBC report on the killing of aid workers since the US raid that killed UBL in Abbottabad:

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – When U.S. Navy SEALs stormed a compound in Abbottabad to kill Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, two young female polio workers - Sharafat Bibi and Sunbal Bibi - had no idea it would one day be a justification for their murder.
Sharafat and Sunbal were killed by unidentified armed men on May 28 in a village in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where they were administering anti-polio vaccines to the children.
They are among 20 people, three of them security personnel, who have been gunned down by suspected militants during the last two years for vaccinating children against polio.

Pakistan aid workers say their woes began when it emerged that Dr. Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani physician, ran a fake vaccination campaign in the garrison city of Abbottabad to collect DNA samples from bin Laden and his family to prove his presence there to the CIA.
There is outrage in Pakistan that Afridi helped the U.S. government capture and kill the terror mastermind on their sovereign territory. He was sentenced to 33 years' imprisonment for treason on May 23, 2012. Afridi is appealing the verdict; his next hearing is scheduled for July 18.
But many Pakistani aid workers say they are paying the ultimate price for Afridi’s actions. Ever since his role in the bin Laden compound attack was revealed, their job has become increasingly dangerous and now most parts of the country have become “no go” zones for aid workers.
‘We cannot move freely’
Dr. Janbaz Afridi, deputy director Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), in Peshawar believes the day people learned about the “dirty work” of Afridi in Abbottabad, they started opposing polio drops being given to their children and started to suspect that all polio workers were spies.
Militants have tried to block the vaccinations, saying they are part of a conspiracy to sterilize and reduce the world's Muslim population.
Janbaz Afridi, no relation of Shakil, said that since then UNICEF and the World Health Organization have spent millions of dollars on communication experts to create awareness campaigns, but that the strategy appears to have backfired as the number of parents refusing vaccines to their children is on the rise.
WHO said at the end of March that as many as 240,000 Pakistani children have missed getting their polio vaccinations in the North and South Waziristan regions - Taliban strongholds - since July 2012....

Hopewins said...

^^RH: "The source of much of the terror is in North Waziristan where the TTP have a safe haven that needs to be dealt with by a military operation similar to the ones in Swat and South Waziristan."

But what happened to Pakistan as a result of the Swat & Waziristan operations?

If you recall, there were waves of suicide bombings all over the place. Islamabad & Lahore were under siege. Army & Police camps were being attacked everywhere. It was the worst year for terrorist-attacks in Pakistan.

If the Army attacks Waziristan again, we can expect the same results. Is Pakistan willing to pay such a high-price? Can we justify 10 billion$ worth of infrastructure being destroyed in key cities as a result of any army operation in remote Waziristan?

Would it not be more practical to just give the Taliban what they want-- Islamic Law in Pashtun areas?

After all, the whole of Pakistan SUPPORTED the Taliban when they brought Islamic Law to Pashtun-areas of Afghanistan. So how can we deny them the right to impose the same law in Pashtun areas on our side? After all, the Pashtuns have never recognized the Durand line; so they see little difference between Afghan-Pashtunistan and our Pashtunistan.

Yes? You have something to say?

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "But what happened to Pakistan as a result of the Swat & Waziristan operations? If you recall, there were waves of suicide bombings all over the place. Islamabad & Lahore were under siege. Army & Police camps were being attacked everywhere. It was the worst year for terrorist-attacks in Pakistan."

Normal life has returned to Swat and South Waziristan since the mil ops there.

As to the blow-back, it's been possible mainly because the Taliban simply moved to North Waziristan and continued to operate their terror network from's now their last safe haven which needs to be taken away from them.

HWJ: " Would it not be more practical to just give the Taliban what they want-- Islamic Law in Pashtun areas?"

ANP tried it in Swat. It didn't work. Eventually the military had to go in there to rescue the Swatis from the Taliban terror.

H. Khan said...

Riaz Sb, you made some interesting (and emotional) comments in the fresh episode of 'Viewpoint from Overseas, June 22 2013)

Here are my recommendations about counter-terrorism:

A) Dissolve and Restructure Pakistan Rangers into Homeland Security. And use the local recruits in the same neighborhood, rather than bringing in troops from Punjab to Sindh and KPK.

B) Upgrade Police to the level of Pakistan Rangers. Get them Choppers (not even a single helicopter in any provincial police department), better Pay/Benefits Pacakge, and arms and ammo.

C) Keep Pakistan Military / Defense Ministry out of Homeland Security. Those folks have become a joke in our society - hurricane/earthquake/flood/massive-rally/fire-in-building - everyone starts to call for Army.

D) Prepare professionals for National Security, and Homeland Security. Universities should start highly prestigious programs with tough entry conditions, and invite faculty/lecturers from worldwide to train these folks !

E) Economics/Social/Education reforms are needed in KPK / Baluchistan / Gilgit-Baltistan so that parents stop sending their kids/teenagers to madrases and other places of question. May be zero cost 'Beacon House Schools' or free 'LUMS / FAST Universities' would help ?

My 0.02 cents from Chicago, IL. Say my salam to Sabahat Sb., and Ali Hasan Sb. !

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Indian Business Standard's report on US leaving some hardware for Pakistan after withdrawal from Afghanistan:

Along with the Taliban, Pakistan will be a massive gainer from America's troop drawdown from Afghanistan by end-2014. A top-level US official, speaking off-the-record, has told Business Standard that Pakistan will get first call on all the American military equipment that costs too much to be transported back to the US.

Washington believes it is obligated to Islamabad for bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table at Qatar, for discussions aimed at reducing violence in Afghanistan, which would smoothen the American troop drawdown this year and the next. Furthermore, Washington relies on Pakistan for overland transit from Afghanistan to Karachi, where heavy equipment is loaded onto cargo vessels bound for the US.

Uzbekistan, which also provides transit routes to the US, had earlier sought to buy the surplus US equipment in Afghanistan. But routing through Uzbekistan, and then over a road and rail network in Central Asia and Russia called the Northern Distribution Network, is four to five times more expensive and time consuming than transiting through Pakistan. Washington has now decided conclusively in favour of Pakistan.

An earlier report in The Washington Post had estimated that the US military would leave behind some $7 billion worth of defence equipment, one-fifth of what is deployed in Afghanistan. US military officials tell Business Standard that aircraft, heavy weapons, vehicles and equipment are likely to be repatriated to the US. Much of what Pakistan will benefit from will be ammunition, vehicles, construction material, air-conditioners, etc.

Much more could be left behind if the situation deteriorates; Taliban resistance would determine what could feasibly be transported. Sceptics in New Delhi point out that Pakistan controls the spigot of violence.

It has not been revealed how much Pakistan would pay for the equipment left behind, but US officials say it would be a fraction of the real value. Given that the US is paying billions of dollars each year to build up the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP), it remains unclear why Washington has not given Kabul the first call on the surplus equipment being left behind.

The cost of repatriation, says Bloomberg News, could be about $7 billion. Danish container giant, Moeller-Maersk A/S, Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines, and German company, Hapag-Lloyd AG will ship out some 22,000 container-loads of equipment, says US Assistant Secretary of Defence for Logistics, Alan Estevez.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Time mag article on Malala Day in Pakistan:

Last Friday, Malala Yousafzai took to the podium at the United Nations. It was her 16th birthday, and her first major public appearance since the Taliban’s attempt to assassinate the Pakistani schoolgirl last October for her efforts to promote girls’ education. Traces of the near-fatal attack were still visible, as the disfiguring on the left side of her face showed. But as she demonstrated in a powerful and moving speech, her resolve had not dimmed.

Yousafzai issued a simple plea: she wanted the world’s leaders to offer children free and compulsory education. She said that she wanted to wage a war against illiteracy and terrorism, but had no use for the tools of violence. “Let us pick up our books and our pens,” Yousafzai urged. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” The audience, both inside the U.N. hall where she spoke and among the many who saw the speech live on television around the world, responded with tearful applause. Former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown hailed Yousafzai as “the most courageous girl in the world.”

Back home in Pakistan, however, the reaction was depressingly mixed. Yousafzai’s supporters were thrilled to see her defy the Taliban militants who tried to silence her. They were impressed by her message of forgiveness, saying that she did not “even hate the Talib who shot me.” Some of the country’s main television channels showed her speech live; most did not. There were a few politicians like former cricket legend Imran Khan who tweeted tributes to her bravery. But even as the world was marking “Malala Day,” as the UN had named it, the Pakistani government didn’t bother to register the occasion.

The most troubling were the many voices that denounced Yousafzai and her speech as “a drama” – a colloquial expression commonly used to describe “a stunt” or “a hoax.” When Yousafzai was shot nine months ago, there was widespread sympathy. On television, messages of solidarity were broadcast. Children in mosques, churches, and temples were shown holding candlelight vigils. But since then, the mood has turned dark, and Yousafzai has become the object of widespread and lurid conspiracy theories.....
It becomes more comforting to cast blame on “outside actors.” Incidents like the appearance of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who shot two men in Lahore in 2011, do end up lending some substance to these claims. It is perhaps inevitable that Pakistanis wonder how many other foreign intelligence agents lurk in the streets and bazaars. Enduring drone attacks, seen to kill many innocent civilians, have seen sharp rise in anti-American feeling. It is part of the reason why some spurned Yousafzai as a local hero. Her acceptance by the West led to her being rejected at home.

But a deepening sense of denial makes it difficult for Pakistan to confront its enemies at home. The new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had said that it would like to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban to end domestic terrorism. But the militants don’t appear willing to talk. In the few weeks Sharif has been in office, a reported 32 terrorist attacks have claimed some 250 lives. For that trend to stop, more Pakistanis will have to see past the conspiracy theories. It is impossible to take on a threat you refuse to see.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters' story suggesting Sharif taking tough-line against militants under pressure from Pak military:

Sharif's tougher line signals that Pakistan's powerful military still has the upper hand in policy-making, despite hopes that the government would have a larger say after he came to power in the country's first transition between civilian administrations.

"Of course we want to try talks but they are a far off possibility," said a government official, who has knowledge of discussions between civilian and military leaders on how to tackle the Taliban.

"There is so much ground work that needs to be done. And when you are dealing with a group as diverse and internally divided as the Pakistani Taliban, then you can never be sure that every sub-group would honor talks."


"Today it would be incorrect to say that the army has full control over policy making," said one retired senior army officer. "It is just fashionable to say the army doesn't let civilians work. Question is, do they want to work?"

But for now, when it comes to the Taliban, there is more confusion than clarity.

"On the ground there is no policy as such," said one senior police officer posted in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region on the Afghan border. "Should I fight them or talk to them?"

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of a Dawn editorial on DI Khan jailbreak by the TTP:

The KP administration led by PTI has not even gone as far as owning the war. This head-in-the-sand approach can only boost the confidence of the militants, while demoralising the people that resist them. It may well be that the militants are changing their tactics to springing their men out of jail as opposed to negotiating with the government for their release. This necessitates an urgent fortification of detention centres, not just in KP but across the country. Perhaps even more importantly, it necessitates the recognition that it is the state of Pakistan itself that is under assault.

Anonymous said...

A Punjabi Prime Minister who has the Punjab provincial assembly behind him is the only entity that can solve our militancy problem. It is Punjab silence and in many cases tacit to open support of the Jihadi nexus that has kept this war against Pakistan alive. If Pakistan as a federation is to beat this scourge then Punjab must take the lead. We all know what happened to PPP and ANP!

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a WSJ piece on Nawaz Sharif's stand on Iran-Pakistan pipeline and Taliban Talks:

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he would proceed with a plan to build a gas pipeline from Iran, despite objections from the U.S., and said that he plans to use his speech at the United Nations on Friday to hit out against American drone strikes in his country.

In an interview in New York with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Sharif also spelled out, for the first time, the conditions that Pakistani Taliban would have to accept if his government proceeds with a peace deal with the militant group, demanding that they lay down arms and recognize Pakistan's constitution. At the same time, he voiced fears that continued U.S. drone attacks would wreck his policy to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban, a group closely linked to al Qaeda.


In the interview Wednesday, Mr. Sharif acknowledged frictions with the U.S. but said he believed that the issues could be overcome. "President Obama was very kind to call me up immediately after my election and express his desire to work with Pakistan. I also want to work with the United States of America," he said.

The White House said Thursday that President Barack Obama and Mr. Sharif will meet Oct. 23 at the White House, part of what officials said was a broader effort to deepen ties.

A White House statement said terrorism and the economy will be among the topics discussed, but didn't mention the controversial pipeline. "The visit will highlight the importance and resilience of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and provide an opportunity for us to strengthen cooperation on issues of mutual concern, such as energy, trade and economic development, regional stability, and countering violent extremism," the White House said in a statement.


An inadequate supply of gas, used to produce electricity, is one of the main reasons for the crippling shortage of power in Pakistan. Mr. Sharif said Pakistan had a contractual obligation to go ahead with the agreement, or face penalties from Iran of $3 million a day if it is not completed by the end of next year. He said that in Islamabad's legal opinion, the pipeline wouldn't trigger the sanctions.

He said that Pakistan would proceed "unless you give us the gas, or the $3 million a day."

However, Pakistan still needs to find $1.5 billion to build the pipeline, which is already completed on the Iranian side, according to Tehran. Islamabad is also hoping that a change in Washington's stance on Iran after the election of Mr. Rouhani could help Pakistan avoid the sanctions.

"The more the drones, the more the terrorists get multiplied. You kill one man, his sons, his father, his brothers, they become terrorists. So this is something that is not helping at all," said Mr. Sharif.

Washington believes the drones have been highly effective in killing senior al Qaeda commanders, Pakistani Taliban leaders and Afghan insurgents who use Pakistan's tribal areas, which border Afghanistan, as a sanctuary.


In words not used in the offer of talks, Mr. Sharif, in the Journal interview, laid out the terms that would be available to the militants.

"They will have to renounce terrorism," said Mr. Sharif. "They [Pakistani Taliban] will have to abide by the constitution of Pakistan."

"It's been often said by them that they don't recognize the constitution of the country," he said. "But the constitution has to be recognized. If we agree on addressing this terrorism, they will have to be disarmed, lay down their arms."

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's military said Tuesday it has launched a ground offensive against local and foreign militants in a second key insurgent stronghold near the Afghan border, as authorities rushed aid to over 800,000 people who fled the northwestern tribal region for safety.

The army spokesman, Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa, said government forces moved in the town of Mir Ali on Monday, triggering a gunbattle in which 3 soldiers and seven militants were killed.

"Our forces launched the ground operation against terrorists in Mir Ali on Monday, and they are facing resistance," he told reporters in the eastern city of Lahore.

Mir Ali is near Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region, where the military last month launched a long-awaited operation against the militants who have carried out numerous attacks in the country.

The insurgents were also behind scores of attacks on NATO, U.S. and Afghan forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

Washington has been urging Pakistan for years for a crackdown in North Waziristan. Unable to send in troops itself, the U.S. has relied on CIA drone strikes, many of which have hit Miran Shah and other nearby border villages. Pakistan had previously said its troops were too spread out across the tribal regions to launch such a crackdown.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pushed for negotiations with the extremists. It wasn't until a shocking attack on the Karachi airport on June 8 that the government approved the operation.

Authorities say over 800,000 people have poured out of North Waziristan, raising concerns of a humanitarian crisis.

Bajwa said the security forces would never allow militants to return to North Waziristan.

He said the military had cleared Miran Shah of militants, killing 447 of them while losing 26 soldiers there since the start of the June 15 operation.

Also Tuesday, a top opposition leader, Imran Khan criticized Sharif's government for failing to provide basic facilities to people affected by the military operation.

"Prime Minister (Nawaz Sharif) should resign for his failure," he told reporters in Islamabad.

Khan said Sharif's government had done little to help those displaced by the military operation in the northwest.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Moves to End Policy on ‘Good Taliban’
School Massacre Stirs Optimism Pakistan Will Stop Supporting Jihadist Groups.

ISLAMABAD—In the wake of the Peshawar school massacre, some U.S. and Afghan officials are beginning to express optimism that Pakistan may finally be changing its decadeslong policy of supporting jihadist groups.

Pakistan’s military for several months has been moving away from the policy, under which these militant groups have long been used by the country’s spy agencies and security establishment against India and Afghanistan.

Then Tuesday’s attack by Pakistani Taliban gunmen at the school in Peshawar led Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to declare that there would be no more “good Taliban,” an acknowledgment of the country’s ambivalent attitude that has nurtured some militant groups even while fighting others. All militants “would be dealt equally with an iron hand,” Mr. Sharif said.

The prime minister also lifted a seven-year-old moratorium on the death penalty, only for terrorists, following the attack. On Friday, two convicted militants were executed, said officials at the Faisalabad prison where the death sentence was carried out.

It isn’t clear, however, to what extent the military, which runs security policy independent of the civilian government, will adhere to the new zero-tolerance approach to jihadists.

In recent months, it seemed to apply only to many of the groups based on the western border with Afghanistan, including the Pakistani Taliban. The country hasn’t seen a move against militant outfits focused on India to the east, or some of the groups that target Pakistan’s own Shiite minority.

“I believe we need to do much more to allay the lingering suspicion of the idea that there is a drive against militants without discrimination,” said Farhatullah Babar, a parliamentarian from the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party.

Mr. Babar said that a decision by a Pakistani court on Thursday to grant bail to Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 attack in the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people, “sent a message that perhaps some militants are more equal than others.” Pakistan says that it will appeal the bail ruling.

Some officials in Washington and Kabul say that Pakistan has shifted its calculus under army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif, who took office a year ago and in June launched an operation against militants in the North Waziristan tribal area, which borders Afghanistan and was previously a sanctuary for Pakistani, Afghan and al Qaeda jihadists. Gen. Sharif—who isn’t related to the prime minister—visited the U.S. for two weeks last month for talks with military officials.

During the trip, Gen. Sharif made a commitment to not distinguish among extremists, said a senior official in the Obama administration.

“I don’t expect it to all happen at once,” the official cautioned. “This is almost a generational movement toward a new paradigm. These signs, if accurate, are very promising. But I wouldn’t read completely into them as a change in dynamic.”

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the U.S., said that the Obama administration had been through previous cycles of optimism.

“Informed skeptics in Washington are waiting to see whether change is real this time or are we witnessing another bubble of hope,” said Mr. Haqqani.