By Brig Asif Haroon raja
Both Gen Musharraf and President Zardari went out of the way to accommodate US legal and illegal wishes. They were successfully brainwashed that the chief threat to Pakistan’s integrity and to their rule was from local extremists and not from India and that the US was Pakistan’s well-wisher. To keep our rulers scared and committed to fight militants with full strength, not only aid was made conditional to its performance in war on terror but also sponsored terror attacks were organized against sensitive installations. Attack on GHQ was organized in 2009 to spur Gen Kayani to undertake mother of all battles in South Waziristan.
Our rulers have got so fixated with the US fed threat that they have become oblivious to the fact that as against the paltry sum of $10.5 billion allocated for 2002 – 2009, only one-third was received by Pakistan most of which was payment for services rendered. Share of Pak Army was $1.8 billion only. Yearly $1.5 billion Kerry Lugar Bill was meant to rob Pakistan of its sovereignty. In 2010, only $ 179.5 million was received and for 2011, the promised tranche of $300 million has so far not been paid. In the wake of soured relations, $2.7 billion close support fund to Army is suspended. $800 million, catering for previous expenditures incurred has been withheld to punish Army. War on terror has cost Pakistan over $68 billion.
Investments have ceased and economic activity has almost come to a grinding halt due to energy crisis and disturbed security and law and order situation. Human losses are several times more than the collective losses suffered by coalition forces in Afghanistan while social traumas are incalculable. Pakistan is suffering grievously on all counts but our rulers are still clinging to the aprons of haughty USA despite its discriminatory and distasteful behavior.
Ten-year war has not only given tremendous experience of fighting guerrilla war to both Army and militants but also has removed inhibitions and fears of each other. The militants could not have continued fighting for so long without external support and safe sanctuaries across the border. In case the militants that had remained loyal to Pakistan and its Army till 2004 are brought back into our loop, they can give a great boost to Pakistan’s defensive effort against twin threat which it faces now in wake of soured relations with USA. If steps are not taken towards de-radicalization, situation will further worsen in coming times since militancy has spread to every nook and corner of the country and have-nots are getting more and more radicalized.
The low intensity conflict (LIC) has caused substantial wear and tear to the weapons & equipment and has also fatigued the troops living away from families and peacetime stations and living amid hazardous environment where life has become cheap. Casualty rate would have been three times higher had the units not perfected drills and adopted innovative techniques to counter the menace of improvised explosive devices and sudden raids on isolated posts in FATA and Swat region. Low intensity conflict training imparted to units and attractive welfare package to troops since 2008 has paid dividends.
In order to preserve arms and equipment and to keep the Army battle worthy to confront the real enemy across the borders, there is a definite need to plan its de-induction from restive areas and to hand over counter terrorism responsibility to a separate force under a separate HQ. Counter terrorism force should be created for each major urban centre to deal with urban terrorism.
In 2007, there were active plans to handover frontline security duties to Frontier Corps (FC) and Frontier Constabulary duly trained by the Army and US-UK trainers. Latter had been imparting training to FC men in Warsak and some other locations since 2005. Not only several FC wings were raised to make additional battalions, their scale of weapons and equipment was also enhanced to add to their firepower and to enlarge their scope to carryout defensive and offensive tasks independently. By now, the FC should have been sufficiently trained and enriched with considerable experience to tackle militant threat along the border regions independently.
Opinions on war on terror whether it is our war or someone else’s war, and whether militants are terrorists with whom no talks should be held are sharply divided. Those claiming that it is not our war far exceeds those who think on the lines of USA. This division in perceptions is to the advantage of militants and disfavors security forces embattled with militants.
It will be incorrect to assume that both external and internal intelligence shields are to be provided entirely by ISI. The ISI’s primary responsibility is to act as a first line defence against external threats and its internal wings primarily keeps a watch on anti-state elements and performs counter intelligence duties. Its political wing created by ZA Bhutto does dip into political affairs of the country, which is undesirable.
The IB, Special Police, FIA and CID all under Ministry of Interior are principally responsible for internal security but have somehow taken up a backseat and left everything to the ISI. Notwithstanding the urgent need to bring greater harmony between different agencies and to harness all intelligence resources and bringing them under one roof for national level coordination, there is a need to define the areas of responsibility and scope of each agency to avoid of duplication of work.
The US devised an effective homeland security system which helped in thwarting 9/11 type recurrence. In 10 years, no serious terrorist incident has occurred in USA. Likewise, Europe has also put in place modern techniques to prevent terrorism. Other than bombings in Madrid and London, no major terror incident has taken place in any European country. Even India has improved its security system. On the contrary, Pakistan which is the worst victim of terrorism has yet to devise a credible homeland security system to foil acts of terror.
Afghan Taliban, al-Qaeda and some affiliate groups continue to pose a threat to US-west interests. Among them, al-Qaeda is the only organization which has turned into an international outfit and developed long arm to hit western targets anywhere in the world. Other groups are local based and are effective within their own specific regions.
With the death of OBL and several al-Qaeda senior leaders as well as its operatives in Pakistan and Afghanistan, strength of this outfit has substantially shriveled in Af-Pak region but has not sapped. It is still a potent force in Arabian Peninsula from where it can hit western targets more easily particularly after it managed to enroll many white-skin young recruits in Europe and USA.
Series of cross border attacks from Afghanistan have occurred recently to give an impression that Afghan Taliban are carrying out reprisal attacks to avenge OBL’s death. The Afghan Taliban have so far stuck to their policy of directing their activities against occupation forces in Afghanistan only and not to meddle in Pakistan affairs despite efforts of foreign agencies and RAAM based in Kabul to create rift. The revenge phobia is confined to Pakistan only where TTP aligned with al-Qaeda has carried out several reprisal attacks at its own and at the behest of foreign powers.
The US promises enduring strategic partnership but its acts do not match its words since it has been treating Pakistan as an ally as well as a target. Of late it has become antagonist. Pakistan needs to carryout postmortem of its ten-year alliance with USA and determine whether it proved beneficial or harmful. Whether the relationship served our national interests or harmed them? If it is evaluated that the US has been using Pakistan to serve its own interests only and harbors ill designs against Pakistan, we need to determine whether we continue with this self-destructive conformist policy or radically change it or suitably modify it?
In case it is concluded that there is a definite need for re-assessing our relationship, we need to determine whether our future policy will be confrontationist or pragmatic so as not to out-rightly antagonize USA till its departure in 2014; but making sure that red lines drawn are not crossed. Given the tense geopolitical situation, fragile economy, unstable political conditions and restive home front, further degradation of our relations will be least desirable and will amount to playing into the hands of India, Israel and militant forces desiring Pak-US clash. Diplomatic skill will be required to ward of looming dangers but not at the cost of compromising Pakistan’s sovereignty and dignity.