By S. M. Hali
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are wreaking double havoc in Pakistan. Firstly, their incessant use by miscreants is resulting in the loss of precious human lives and limbs. Secondly, Pakistan is being blamed for alleged complicity in the transportation of raw material (Ammonium Nitrate) used in the preparation of the IEDs. A number of international bodies and think tanks have conducted research but trust deficit between Pakistan and its erstwhile allies in the war on terror has led the studies into the subject to be colored by wrong perceptions and accusations of Pakistan’s complicity in the heinous crime. One such report is by the “Perceptors Group”, which painstakingly conducted an in-depth study on the issue of human sufferings specifically due to IED attacks causing immense human loss in Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, some elements in the group, perhaps owing to their own biases or due to unreliable inputs, could not resist pointing fingers towards Pakistan’s alleged involvement or having lax control on IED material transportation.
Any study, which takes into account only perceptions, apropos facts, must be taken with a pinch of salt. The study group claims that to ensure the credibility of the report, it collected secondary data from diversified sources ranging from reviews conducted by other credible groups, individual research of intellectuals and US and Pakistan government based facts and figures released from time to time and data compiled by international NGOs, think tanks working on both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, Pakistan-bashing is the flavour of the decade; not that everything is hunky dory here since poor governance, corruption and lax control has benefitted the terrorist groups but we are combating a very dangerous enemy and gaps if any in the system must be plugged but without prejudice.
For example, Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal, who in US Senate hearing on the issue of IEDs, claimed that Pakistan remained the main source of the materials used for making the devices. During the same hearing General James Mattis termed it an area of frustration and serious topic of dialogue with Pakistan. Simultaneously, US Rep. Ted Poe, a Republican from Texas, who serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, opined in a column in “newsmax that Pakistan is the “Benedict Arnold” (traitor in the US revolution) to America in the war on terror. Apparently, their opinion based on value judgment, without providing a shred of evidence, the trio recommended that the US “Administration’s request to send more money to Pakistan must be denied.” To rub salt in the wound, a US military body, the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), the Pentagon’s lead agency for combating makeshift bombs, concluded that the leaky border with Pakistan remains a problem. JIEDDO says that Pakistan contributes 80 percent of the fertilizer-based homemade bombs in Afghanistan that cause 90 percent of US casualties. Its observation regarding the porous border is a harsh reality but unfortunately, Pakistan’s earlier recommendation of fencing the Durand Line and installing biometric identification systems at the crossing points was vehemently opposed by the Afghans and ignored by the US.
The facts are contrary to the perceptions and must be taken into cognizance. The IEDs attacks alone in Pakistan has taken lives of 2707 soldiers whereas 1188 NATO soldiers became prey of IEDs in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2012. Pakistan has undertaken major efforts to stop the free flow of Urea to Afghanistan including cutting dealership in northern region and changing the color of fertilizer to track it but still IEDs continue to be used against security forces engaged in FATA and Balochistan area and Afghanistan.
According to a “Telegraph” report of 2009, “US Marines captured a vast cache of IEDs made from agricultural ammonium nitrate fertilizer in 25 kilogram bags indistinguishable from the thousands of tons of fertilizer supplied to Afghanistan under Western aid programs.” In December 2011, a US delegation visited a fertilizer industry in Multan to seek the cooperation to stop the flow of fertilizer. It was explained to them by the owners that targeting Pakistan as the sole supplier of the ammonium nitrate was unfair since huge quantities of this fertilizer are imported to Afghanistan from the US, Australia, China, Pakistan, with smaller quantities from Tajikistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan is also being pressurized to formalize legislation on the subject; this will take time. A civilized country like the US took 15 years after Oklahoma bombing, for completing the legislation process. Meanwhile, water starved Pakistan which needs fertilizers, is being targeted by IEDs as well as international bodies.