By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
In the process of combating the terrorism, Pakistan and United Sates have worked as partner for a decade now. Surely, none of individuals perpetrated the incident of 9/11, belonged to Pakistan. They all were Arabs and so was OBL or Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, arrested and handed over to US along with over 700 other wanted terrorists by Pakistan. By compulsion under US pressure, or as inevitability, Pakistan sided with U.S in particular and international community in general, after the incident and supported the ISAF in Afghanistan by deploying its Army and Frontier Corps troops all along the Pak-Afghan border. By now, over 150,000 Pakistani regulars are deployed to combat the terrorist activities either emanating from the local militants from the FATA region or else, by the foreign intruders from Afghan soil after US invaded Afghanistan to dislodge the Taliban administration.
Indeed, Pakistan started its Military operations against the foreign intruders and in the process; its troops were retaliated by deadly attacks, and by now over 5000 combatants have embraced martyrdom besides wounding over 10000 troops. In October 2001, once Pakistan sided with US in combating the terrorism as a frontline state, it annoyed its own masses, the Taliban regime and all former Mujahedeen groups, as none of them wanted that nor US invasion was acceptable to anyone, less Northern Alliance. Precisely, Pakistan rendered a wholehearted support to NATO and U.S without any prejudice. So much so, that the former Afghan Ambassador (of Taliban administration, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef) in Islamabad was also handed over to U.S, against the diplomatic norms. Unfortunately, this was the level of dedication of Pakistan towards US success in Afghanistan. US took the ambassador to Guantanamo Bay, where he remained imprisoned until 2005.
On its part, the United States has always undermined the Pakistani contributions and the sole super power has been demanding for more; through its famous ‘do more’ mantra. Lately, US started demanding military operation in North Waziristan Agency, where, U.S felt that, Haqqani network is effectively operating and supporting the counter insurgency in Afghanistan. These demands started in 2008 and accelerated after the successful military operations by Pak Army in Swat and Malakand and South Waziristan Agency. Over the period, US started accusing that, Pakistan Army and its intelligence agencies has a linkage with Haqqani network, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Moulvi Nazir’s set up. Hafiz Gul Bahadur is Madda Khel Wazir and a descendant of Faqir of Ipi. Faqir of Ipi (Mirza Ali Khan), fought against British colonialism throughout 1930s and 1940s. Even 40,000 British and Indian troops could not subdue him and his 1000-armed tribesmen. Moulvi Nazir is a Kakakhel, part of Ahmedzai Waziris. He has dual nationality of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He maintains significant influence in South Waziristan. Pakistan rejects NATO and US accusations and feels that, NWA is comparatively peaceful area, does not require a military operation. Moreover, Pakistan does not have enough forces to operate everywhere to please its coalition partner. U.S portrays the Haqqani Network, as the most dangerous one, whose dislodging is most essential for its success in Afghanistan, as if, it is the only group operating in Afghanistan.
While tracing the history of the Haqqani Network, it is indeed, “a group of militants led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani.” Originally, Haqqanis are from Jadran tribe of Paktia in Afghanistan and have roots in North Waziristan too. There is a controversy, whether, Jalaluddin Haqqani, is still alive, as he was seriously ill, a few years back and has not been seen anywhere. It is said that, he played a significant role in defeating the former Soviet forces in Afghanistan with the help of Pakistan and U.S. Subsequently, his role was more significant in defeating the Communist forces of Dr. Najibullah in Khost Province in 1991. Indeed, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Sirajuddin Haqani was very close to CIA and ISI, since indirectly he was serving the US aims and objectives. Being close to Taliban leader Mullah Omer, he was a key minister in his Government from 1996 to 2001. As revealed by US officials, after US invasion, Haqqani crossed over to NWA and established its headquarters in Dande Darpa Khel village near Miramshah, just about 10 miles from Pak-Afghan border. Nevertheless, currently, his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, alias Khalifa is heading this network. According to Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2011, NATO and U.S consider Sirajuddin Haqqani as “one of the most dangerous Taliban commanders in the ongoing insurgency in Afghanistan.”
Sirajuddin, in his 30s, has evaded many attempts of arrests by Pakistani security forces and many attempts of arrest and killing by ISAF. U.S has fixed $5 million as the bounty for the arrest or killing of Sirajuddin. The major difference between Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Moulvi Nazir camps and Sirajuddin Haqqani is that, the formers wants that foreign elements should leave the area, whereas, the later is a strong advocate of the foreigners in the area. Since Pakistan wants, the area should be free from the foreign intrusions, therefore considers that much publicized linkages between Haqqani Network and Pakistani security organization indeed is nothing else but a US plot to defame Pakistani armed forces and intelligence. Although, TTP and Haqqani Network are not on the same page, yet, Haqqani’s militants have not even spared Pakistanis and its installations during their terrorist activities. As revealed from the two arrested men of this network, 200 suicide bombers were infiltrated into various cities of Pakistan by this network for deadly bombing, including the suicide ones, which of course is not a favour to Pakistan. This mean, that the network even does not spare Pakistan, why should it be dear to Pakistan and its intelligence agencies. This is a common sense, thus US should also buy it.
Until now US has carried out over 290 drone attacks in Pakistan, killing thousands of innocent people and seriously compromising the sovereignty of the country. Most of these attacks targeted Haqqani Network; therefore, Pakistan feels that, presence of Haqqanis and other foreigners in its soil is posing a serious domestic threat for it, thus why should we support such elements. The significant feature of the CIA driven drone attacks have been that these are focused against Haqqanis and Hafiz Gul Bahadur or else Moulvi Nazir. These attacks never targeted TTP, the group of Taliban that overtly fight against Pakistani security forces, its innocent civilians and destroying its installations. Rather, they get most sophisticated weapons and equipments and financed enormously from Afghan soil. In many cases, weapons confiscated from the TTP terrorists were of NATO or US origin with huge USDs or even Indian currency.
At a time once Pakistani security forces are deployed all along the Pak-Afghan border and almost in all agencies of FATA including NWA, Pakistan cannot afford a military operation in NWA. Any such military operations will have many implications. First, the terrain of NWA consists of rugged mountains, generally inhospitable for attackers, thus would need heavy manpower and finances, which is not feasible with current constraint situation. Pakistani forces are engaged in military operations in all agencies of FATA including NWA. Secondly, out of promised $7.5 billion financial support through KLL, US could provide only $500 million so far. Thirdly, the people of the area are already hostile and another major attack would further provoke them against the armed forces and the Government of Pakistan, causing more destabilization all over the country. Fourthly, the military operation like Swat would call for a major internal displacement of the locals that again need financial resources and a detailed segregation, both are difficult in this agency.
It is generally very difficult to differentiate between a terrorist and innocent locals, as both look alike. Thus shifting the IDPs to settled areas would be amounting to destabilizing those areas too. These implications need to be weighed against the likely gains. A realistic assessment would reveal that there would be no real terms gain from a military operation in NWA, except fulfilling the US desires. The question is for how long we should fulfil US desires. After all, we are a sovereign nation, capable to make decisions in the best national interests of Pakistan, rather obeying the US commandments.
There is yet another significant query about changing the location and strategy of Haqqani Network. As per local experts and other reliable sources, in the wake of US pressure on Pakistan for a military operation in NWA, the Haqqanis has moved out of the area. This movement has been accelerated following the OBL killing in a US raid and thereafter there were some indications from Pakistan that, now there will be a military operation in NWA. According to Brig (retd) Mehmood Shah, former Secretary of FATA, “Haqqani has no more fighting elements left in Waziristan Agency. Air strikes … forced them to shift … across the border … and stopped them from visiting relatives.” According to another defence analyst General (retd) Jamshid Ayaz, “I know they (Haqqani and Taliban) have relocated themselves … but operations are necessary to prevent their return.” Yet another senior journalist from Peshawar said that, “I am of the firm opinion the Haqqani network is no longer operating from North Waziristan. … They are now based in the Afghanistan border region and enjoy the full support of Afghan mountain tribes living along the border.” According to a local Tribal elder Malik Mumtaz, “Local tribes and Hafiz Gul Bahadur will not support any foreigner or allow anybody to use the soil against any foreign country.” Some reports say Hafiz and elders of the tribal peace committee have convinced the Haqqani members and Arab fighters to move out or stay peaceful to forestall a military operation in North Waziristan.
Brig (retd) Mehmood Shah, feels that, time has arrived where “The Haqqani network is safer in Afghanistan than in North Waziristan.” Therefore, there is no need to launch a military operation in NWA, as there is “nothing to fight now.” In fact, publicity about a likely military operations and frequent aerial attacks in the form of drones has impeded the movement of Haqqanis in NWA, thus preferred to leave the area. Some people say that Hazif Gul Bahadur has played a very significant role in driving Haqqanis out of NWA. However, this is for sure that, “Foreigners including the Haqqani network have repositioned themselves outside North Waziristan agency.” Some analysts believe that, Kurram and Orakzai areas have become the new epicentre of these foreign elements, mainly those fearing a military operation in NWA. Therefore, military operations are more needed in these agencies rather NWA. Pakistan Army is already engaged in military operations in these agencies. Whether Haqqqanis or others, this military operation is indiscriminate. Pakistan firmly believes that neither foreign elements are acceptable on its soil nor terrorist acts of local can be tolerated.
United States misperceived in its assumption that perhaps the Haqqanis are a strategic asset for Pakistan’s security establishment, either for an influence in Afghanistan or against India. Pakistan is a nuclear power with over half a million regular armed forces. It does not depend on such foreign elements/ groups for its security and defence. Indeed no nation can depend on foreign elements or non-state actors for its defence. Unfortunately, its engagement in Afghanistan during the decade of 1980s, for supporting the US cause made it, its compulsion to have a link with various Afghan groups and factions, Haqqani being one of them. Now U.S is exploiting the same very linkage for a different purpose, the way it declared the former Mujahedeen as terrorists.