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The enemy is not amorphous


By Imtiaz Gul

 The Friday Times, Jan 04, 2013


The daring two-pronged storming of the Peshawar airbase on December 15, the assassination of Bashir Bilour in Peshawar on December 22, the cold-blooded execution of 22 Levies men near the city on December 29, and the killing of about 20 Shia pilgrims near Mastung in Balochistan underscore the intensity of the war on the state and people of Pakistan. 

"Today, we are pitched against an amorphous enemy when the conventional threat has also grown manifold," army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani said during an address at the naval academy on December 29. "The increasingly complex external environment and our rather precarious internal dynamics have created a myriad of security challenges." 

But the statement hardly befits the widespread perceptions that centre on the military establishment's broader geo-political agendas in Afghanistan and vis a vis India. Most people still believe that the establishment is hamstrung by its view on Afghanistan, worried as to how and whether it would be able to stay relevant in the post 2014 withdrawal scenario. This preoccupation also prevents, so goes the common perception, the establishment from severing ties to the groups which operate both sides of the border under the pretext of foreign troops' presence in Afghanistan.

Apparently, little critical thought went into such phrases as "amorphous", "complex external environment", or "our rather precarious internal dynamics". The speech-writer, it appears, lives in a cocoon, unable to see what goes around us day and night. The front-page photographs and reports of the 45-minute video of the avowed enemies of the state of Pakistan, and the three TTP leaders led by Hakimullah Mehsud who appeared in the video are living reality - not amorphous. They publicly denounce the government and the army. The group also clearly avows allegiance to Al Qaeda, whose leader Ayman al Zawahiri, and other link-minded cohorts within the Hizub Tahrir have repeatedly urged the lower army ranks to rebel against the GHQ and the state of Pakistan for its alliance with the United States.

Also, the socio-political apologists of Al Qaeda - both Arab and Pakistani - stalk the roads and fill residential spaces all over Pakistan. Some of them are part of the aberration that is called the Defense of Pakistan Council, while others openly peddle an anti-India, and anti-US agenda. Moreover, the social shelters for those who have declared war on Pakistan are not hidden either; Mureedke, Raiwind, Bahawalpur, Mansoora and Jhang in Punjab - the origin of radical Deobandi/Salafi Islam - as well as scores of Deobandi seminaries in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, FATA and in Pashtun areas of Balochistan are just a few manifestations of the social and political space available to all those who justify their terror campaign in the name of jihad. Supporters, empathizers and activists of this ideology always wrap their love, sympathy or empathy for radical Islamist militarism in the denunciation of American-led NATO's geo-political war-games in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the Middle East. 

And this probably abundantly explains the self-inflicted anomalies that the general referred to in his speech as "precarious internal dynamics". These are not dynamics but consequences of a policy that the establishment had lapped up in the 1980s to secure what it considered its strategic interests in Kabul and bleed India by supporting an insurgency in Kashmir.

Geo-politics, no doubt, remain at the core of some of Pakistan's problems that the general referred to as the "increasingly complex external environment". Conflicting geo-political agendas of Pakistan, the USA, India, Russia and Iran have entailed enormous costs for Pakistan.

Yet, Pakistani civilian and military leadership can hardly exonerate itself from the responsibility of having turned difficult foreign policy management tasks into an intractable maze that is currently extracting a huge price. Essentially, the multiple crisis flow from policies that were born out of an acute sense of insecurity vis a vis India and a desire to "secure the backyard ie Afghanistan".

The tendency to justify their own failures by blaming them on external factors and finding faults with others rather than introspection sits deep in the psyche of the Muslims in general, and Pakistanis in particular. Dumping the responsibility of their own failures and shortcomings on others as well as projecting innocence and victimhood has in fact been part of the so-called national narrative that evolved, particularly in the post-1979 decades, guided by a skewed vision within the military establishment, and emphatically promoted by some of the religio-political groups wedded to the ideas of strategic depth and to the liberation of Kashmir.

Essentially, the enemy and its socio-political tentacles and shelter are pretty much visible in different forms and manifestations around us. The enemy sits also within the security apparatus, particularly those rogue elements whose loyalties have clearly shifted from the state to the non-state actors. They include officers as well as the lower cadres of various military and para-military organs. The police is no exception, neither are various intelligence agencies. Many operatives of these outfits have meanwhile either undergone ideological transformation to identify themselves with radical Islamist ideology, or are willfully defaulting on their duties by serving militants and criminal gangs for personal benefits.

It is these state employees also who as "enemies within" keep compromising the state institutions' commitment and their drive against terrorists.

Some of the enemies may be amorphous because of their possible nexus with external forces but they owe their existence and success in many cases also to acute weakness within state institutions. Poor training, insufficient weaponry, wanting coordination among various arms of the security apparatus, and demonstrable failure on the intelligence front are some of the factors that inhibit state success to the advantage of the non-state entities.

The Bannu jail break in April 2012, for instance, offers a stunning example of failures and absence of coordination among various arms of the security apparatus. Some 300 dangerous terrorists managed to escape following the attack by over 150 militants. The escapees also included Adnan Rasheed, a former junior technician of Pakistan Air Force, who had been convicted to death by a field general court martial for engineering an attack on then military ruler General Musharraf in December 2003.

The jail break marked probably the biggest collective failure and raised a huge question - how could the invading militants come and go evading the Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary, military and civilian intelligence outfits as well as the police? Where was the quick reaction force? Not a single institution could intercept the intruders in an area that is adjacent to FATA and FR, implying that these institutions constitute several layers of security there and are supposed to spring into action collectively in emergencies. But they didn't.

The challenge that stares at the state is how to tackle the "enemies within" through institutional reforms and coordination. The generals and politicians must realize that internal systemic weaknesses and the social space for radical Islam are the real amorphous enemy. 

Imtiaz Gul is the executive director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and the author of the recently released book Pakistan: Before and After, published by Roli Books, India

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk