War on terror ended to tackle titanic challenges

By Brig Asif Haroon Raja

It takes lot of time and resources to produce a trained soldier and continuous efforts to keep him motivated to die for the defence of his country. Religion plays an important role in inculcating spirit of Jihad in a soldier. The military system however regulates this spirit and doesn’t let it go uncontrolled when not required. Throughout peacetime, soldiers are imparted rigorous training, their fighting skills are polished, and tactics taught how to outwit the enemy in the battlefield. They are told to keep honing their weapons, and to keep their equipment and vehicles in battle worthy condition. In addition to weapons and tactics training, regimental spirit de corps is inculcated in the soldiers through sports and training competitions and regimental past war history.

Since Jihad is integral to Islam and cannot be detached, regular religious sermons are given to keep the soldiers motivated and to prepare them mentally and physically to sacrifice their lives for the defence of motherland. Once the war breakout, Jihad is declared against the enemy. Control mechanisms are removed once the attacking force gets lined up for attack, or the aggressor tries to push its way through. With the cry of Allah 0 Akbar, battle of kill or get killed gets into motion. While those who perform well are decorated and respected, the Shaheeds are glorified and their next of kin hugely compensated. Their sacrifices are remembered each year on Yaum-e-Shuhada Day.  Those who turn yellow are looked down upon and are weeded out.

There has been no major war with India since 1971 except for several military standoffs during which India itched to start a war but got restrained because of Pakistan’s nuclear and missiles capabilities and readiness of Pak armed forces to make its adventure extremely costly. Fourth war with nuclear overtones got narrowly averted during Kargil conflict in 1999. While Pakistan’s minimum nuclear deterrence has helped in thwarting Indo-Pak war for 42 years, Pakistan’s military remained immersed in another kind of war called ‘war on terror’ which has caused many times more fatalities than what it suffered during the three wars with India plus Rann of Katch and Kargil conflicts.  Civilian and military fatalities have reached up to 50,000.

The Army and paramilitary forces have been fighting a guerrilla war against highly motivated and fanatic home-grown militants in the northwest since 2003 without a break. Host of banned militant groups have come under the umbrella of TTP. In the southwest, paramilitary forces are up against Baloch rebels since 2004. The former pose as Islamists rejecting Pakistan’s constitution and democracy and desiring Shariah. They also aspire to establish Islamic caliphate in FATA. Conversely, the Baloch rebels are seculars who started insurgency in the name of socio-economic grievances but then changed course and raised the slogan of independence. BLA and BRA based in Balochistan Mountains are waging a guerrilla war without a leader since both Brahamdagh Bugti and Harbyar Marri are in exile. BLF is operating in Khuzdar region.

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All these anti-Pakistan groups are patronized by CIA, RAW, MI-6, RAAM and Mosad from Afghanistan. India is leading the covert war against Pakistan by organizing 70 training camps along the northwestern and southwestern borders of Pakistan. Indian Embassy in Kabul, four Indian consulates and 17 intelligence units in Afghanistan are working with a missionary zeal to destabilize Pakistan. Indian Embassy in Tehran and consulates in Zahidan, Mashhad and Bandar Abbas are also supporting terrorist groups in Balochistan in addition to Spin Boldak route.

Once the US-NATO forces exit from Afghanistan by December 2014, the Taliban on both sides of Durand Line will be left with no justifiable cause to continue fighting and spilling blood of the Muslim brethren of their own respective countries. If the US leaves behind a force in Afghanistan, it will give reason to the Taliban to continue fighting. In Pakistan, Kashmir will keep Jihadism alive. If India wants terrorism to end, it will have to make urgent and sincere efforts to resolve this chronic problem which can lead to nuclear war between India and Pakistan. Game of trickery and habitual delaying tactics and seeking one-sided concessions would not work any longer. Kashmir and other contentious issues like Siachin, Sir Creek and water will have to be resolved to remove points of friction which stir up religious extremism.

India must not forget that religious extremist groups imbued with religious fervor for over three decades cannot be convinced to abandon Jihad and join the mainstream of secular culture in which Westminster democracy has failed to ameliorate the sufferings of the poor and justice system has failed to deliver justice to have-nots. Pakistan has remained deficient of a genuine leader for 64 years. Leaders with feat of clay and living in regal style are out of sync with the people and have no moral authority to censure Islamists that their way of life is wrong and their demand for Shariah is illegal.

The leaders will first have to become role models in their personal conduct, ensure good governance, ensure equitable social justice and provide job opportunities to all and only then will they be able reach out to the downtrodden and say that they have something better to offer. Education which is confined to the privileged must be opened to all classes and uniformity achieved. All this which has been ignored require Herculean efforts based on sincerity of purpose and devotion.

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Despite best efforts by our security forces and rendering huge sacrifices, TTP network aligned with several local Jihadist groups as well as al-Qaeda and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan could not be tamed. They have been striking soft and hard targets at will and the might of the military equipped with heavy guns, tanks, gunship helicopters and jets doesn’t overawe them. Even drones could do little to scare them. Their suicide bombing producing nurseries are functional and they are never short of new recruits. Teeming millions living below the poverty line destined to die as poor get easily recruited as fighters and suicide bombers.

The TTP may become stronger if Taliban government get re-installed in Kabul after 2014 and may then disagree to ceasefire unless all their demands are accepted unconditionally.The militants could not have continued fighting for so long without external support and safe sanctuaries across the border. There is ample evidence of regular supply of weaponry and funds from across the western border. War on terror will continue as long as supply lines are open for militants. Paradoxically, the key to peace is with hardnosed Taliban.

While the US caught up in a blind alley in Afghanistan is clueless how to exit safely, Pakistan too has no strategy to end the futile war. Infighting among the Muslims suits the US designs; hence it would like the war to continue. It will make maximum use of drones while taking up a backseat in Afghanistan till 2024.

Opinions on war on terror whether it is our war or someone else’s war, and whether talks should be held with militants or not are sharply divided. Those claiming that it is not our war far exceeds those who think otherwise and view it as Pakistan’s existential war. This division in perceptions is to the advantage of militants and disfavors security forces embattled with militants. One thing is clear; this war was coercively imposed upon Pakistan and then terrorism was exported into Pakistan.

The unparalleled enthusiasm shown by the people in casting their votes despite the terrorist attacks must have brought a sobering effect on the hardliners within TTP’s rank and file. They must be mindful of the hard reality that after 2014, their cause to fight the security forces will become weak and recruitment may slow down and eventually dry up. This is very much possible in the wake of Nawaz Sharif’s determination to address the socio-economic-justice inequities.

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Under the changed political environment in which anti-Taliban political parties are out of power and pro-Taliban parties have taken over power, the overall atmosphere has become conducive for a constructive dialogue with TTP. Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan, Maulana Samiul Haq, Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Munawar Hasan are better placed to accept TTP’s offer of talks and take the forward plunge and find a way out to stop this insane war which has caused colossal harm to both sides and to the country. Talks that have been stalled due to drone attack killing Hakimullah’s Deputy Waliur Rahman and six others in North Waziristan (NW) must be renewed. Termination of war is a pre-requisite to tackling the titanic challenges and clearing the huge mess left behind by Zardari regime.

Army will have to be co-opted in talks because without its active participation, no worthwhile deal can be brokered. TTP must be reminded of its history of backtracking and breaking peace deals and told not to repeat its past practice. It cannot have the pudding and eat it too. TTP is by design not halting terror attacks so as to sit on the negotiating table from position of strength. TTP must appreciate that the Army’s resolve to fight terrorism as demonstrated by its recent gains made in Tirah is as strong as ever. It can launch another successful operation in NW if required.

Besides addressing FATA’s socio-economic grievances, their longstanding demand of introducing Nizam-e-Adal in FATA could be given serious consideration just the way TNSM’s demand was accepted while signing peace deal in Swat in February 2009. The US should be asked to fulfill its decade old promise of establishing ROZs in FATA. Like Aghaz-e-Haqooq Balochistan, a similar or even better package can be offered for development of FATA on a crash program. In line with the trend of creating more provinces, FATA could be considered to be made a separate province called Qabailistan under its own chief minister and governor. Rather than having so many scouts in tribal belt, a centralized paramilitary force named as Qabailistan Scouts under Qabailistan Training Centre should be considered and the wild TTP after taming and disciplining it to be inducted in it. Cadet Colleges already functioning in South and North Waziristan will provide the requisite officer cadre for this force.

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