By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
In the wake of weak governance, rampant corruption, weak economy, messy political situation and growing incidence of terrorism, Pakistan is being described as a failed state incapable of protecting the nukes. Western and Indian media publish stories based on half-truths and lies regularly to create an impression that everything is topsy-turvy in Pakistan and its fragmentation under the burgeoning weight of problems is a forgone conclusion. The world has been conditioned through an orchestrated media campaign that Pakistan is the epicenter of terrorism, FATA the most dangerous place on earth, Afghan Taliban Shura is housed in Balochistan and Al-Qaeda leadership in FATA, segments of Pak Army and ISI are in cahoots with Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda, ISI is the chief sponsor of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Pak nukes are unsafe and vulnerable to theft by militants, Pak nuclear facilities have become vulnerable to sympathizers of religious extremists working in atomic plants.
Fresh allegations are arbitrarily added to the lengthy concocted list at the cost of ignoring real challenges. Hillary Clinton has further upped the ante by saying that some elements in Pak Army have all along known the whereabouts of Osama and Omar. During her last visit to Pakistan she had stated that Al-Qaeda leadership had shifted to FATA in 2002 and it was inconceivable that Pakistan didn’t know about it.
If true, why the US kept quiet about it for so long and why it has been stating all these years that Osama is probably
somewhere along the region of Pak-Afghan border belt? FATA was penetrated by CIA and FBI agents in 2002 and later by RAW agents; umpteen numbers of outposts were established. Spy drones had started surveying the area from 2004 onwards and after sometime Blackwater also became operative. FATA was put under microscopic scrutiny of satellites and imagery. Massive hunt had been launched by multiple intelligence agencies all along the border belt to hunt Osama. Al-Qaeda operatives and anti-US elements in Waziristan are being targeted by drones based on intelligence provided by their own sources.
So how come, Osama allegedly residing in FATA could not be located by USA for all these years? The only possibilities are that either the most wanted man was dead and kept alive out of expediency, or was in the basement of Whitehouse for George Bush’s convinience; was being used to keep Pakistan on the leash and to justify its continued stay in Afghanistan, or US intelligence agencies are inept.
Going by the logic of Hillary Clinton that it is difficult to believe that Pakistan military leadership didn’t know the existence of Al-Qaeda leadership in FATA since 2002, how should Pakistanis get convinced that RAW is undertaking covert operations from Afghan soil without the knowledge of USA. Why should we accept the tainted logic of USA that India is no threat to Pakistan when over 70% of Indian military might is poised against Pakistan and both civil and military leaders do not miss an opportunity to hurl threatening statements? Is it not true that TTP was CIA’s creation and is being fed by CIA, RAW, RAAM and Mossad from Kandahar-Jalalabad?
It will be recalled that once Pak Army gained complete success in Swat and was busy consolidating its gains, intense pressure was applied on Pakistan to start another operation in South Waziristan (SW). No sooner operation Rah-e-Nijat was launched in SW; ISAF promptly removed all its border check posts to allow safe movement to Afghan Taliban across the border. When the latter didn’t come to the rescue of Mehsuds it caused immense frustration to the plot makers.
Soon after successful operation in SW launched in October last, drummed up as mother of all battles and main bastion of militants, the US lost interest in that region and started focusing on North Waziristan (NW). Intense pressure was mounted on Pakistan to launch another major operation in NW but it was warded off by Gen Kayani on the plea that his forces had already got overstretched and had employed 150000 troops in Malakand Division, Swat, and several tribal agencies of FATA at the peril of lowering combat strength on eastern border.
It was argued that unless gains made in Swat and SW were consolidated, political administration installed and rehabilitation and development works accelerated, it would be unwise to open another front. He said that notwithstanding that back of TTP had been broken, but runaways had taken refuge in Orakzai, NW, Bajaur, Mohmand and Khyber Agencies wherefrom they were still carrying out random attacks and that troops were keeping all the trouble spots in check. He added that while Kurram Agency was rife with sectarian war, even SW had not been fully neutralized since displaced persons housed in Tank and DIK were yet to return to their homes to resume normal activities.
Pentagon and NATO commanders understood the logic given and expressed satisfaction over spectacular gains made, but hawks within US Administration, Congress and State Department mostly influenced by Jewish and Indian lobbies in pursuit of their sinister designs kept up the pressure on Pakistan by reminding that aid under Kerry-Lugar Bill will be conditional to progress achieved on terrorism. They ignored Pakistan’s economic and human losses and that Pakistan urgently needed financial resources and military equipment to fight the war.
CIA, RAW and Blackwater kept up with their secret games to fuel terrorism particularly in NW to provoke Pakistan to jump the gun. Apart from intensifying drones attacks, several shady groups like Asian Tigers comprising mostly Punjabi militants were instigated to make efforts to break peace accord between Gul Bahadur and security forces and to keep instigating TTP elements. Presence of some elements belonging to Haqqani group in NW and its tacit understanding with Pakistan also irked US and were targeted by drones. It was in the backdrop of their keenness to overstretch Pak Army and to let it get pinned down in several regions that kidnapping of two former ISI officers and British journalists by Asian Tigers and beheading of Khalid Khwaja together with Times Square incident and attack on Ahmadi worship places and Jinnah hospital in Lahore fitted into the scheme of things.
Hopes are now being pinned on the hypothesis that operation in NW will antagonize Gul Bahadur led Othmanzai Wazirs, Dawars, Haqqani group, Punjabi Taliban and will propel Afghan Taliban to join the fray. They also hope that Maulvi Nazir leading Ahmadzai Wazirs in SW which has so far remained neutral will also join in, thus easing pressure on Mehsuds and enabling them to regroup and put up a joint front against the Army. Such a development will be ideal for the club of wicked in Kabul. India having again worn the mask of friendship will instantly heat up the eastern front to pose a dilemma on Pak armed forces.
Presently Pakistan Armed Forces are well balanced to fight war on terror as well as cater for Indian threat. Recently concluded largest ever exercises Azm-e-Nau in which army and air force took part was an indicator that operational fitness and resolve of armed forces are on a very high level. Rah-e-Rast and Rah-e-Nijat operations involved almost corps size forces in each sector. It will require another corps effort to mount an operation in NW where reportedly militants belonging to several groups are operating. Already 70,000 troops have been shifted from the east towards western regions to fight militants. Pulling out two more divisions will be at the cost of weakening our defensive effort along eastern border.
Notwithstanding US verbal assurances, which have always proved illusive, Indian threat cannot be overlooked. Armed forces operational readiness and capability to repel Indian aggression deters India from undertaking any venture. It has therefore impelled Pakistan’s adversaries to weaken its armed forces from within, which also stand guard on nukes. Ways are being devised to keep almost three corps in northwest and a corps in Balochistan fixed and render eastern front weak.
Our leaders in the grip of Washington can only delay operation in NW for a while but cannot abandon it. I am sure Gen Kayani has a plan up his sleeve to tackle NW his own way without compromising Pakistan’s security.
Brig Asif Haroon Raja is Member Board of Advisors, Opinion Maker. He has been a Directing Staff, Command and Staff Collge Quetta. He did his MSc in War Studies and been Director Phsy-Ops. Was also Defence Attache to Egypt and Sudan.