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Punishing Pakistan for non-action in North Waziristan?


By Imtiaz Gul

 Weekly Pulse, July 27, 2012


Even if Pakistan and United States conclude the final deal on the ground lines of communications (GLOCs) early next month, the relations are likely to remain hostage to the ego and arrogance of a super power driven by its global geo-political agenda on the one hand, and an embattled and discordant Pakistan, which seems unable to break out of the cold-war mindset, and apparently lacks the vision required to reset its strategic paradigm which has entailed unimaginable economic attrition than tangible benefits. 

Both countries need to find a middle-ground without confrontation and coercion. But is this possible under the current circumstances? Probably very difficult, especially after at least 15 cross-border incursions from Kunar and Nuristan into Upper Dir, Bajaur and Chitral, resulting in 105 deaths and executions of Pakistani army and paramilitary forces in the last 12 months or so. 

Similar violent incidents happened in Balochistan, while blood continues to spill in Karachi under the cover of “target killings.” 

The recent spate of violence against the security forces – beheadings of 17 Pakistani soldiers, who were ambushed during a patrol and brazenly executed late June, the slaughter of 14 bus passengers in Orakzai Agency on July 21 or the storming the same day of a Coast Guards unit in the Pushkin area, some 35km from Gwadar, or the July 9 assault on a small army camp on the banks of the river Chenab that left several soldiers dead - are all but obvious signs of a calculated campaign to sow terror and create uncertainty across Pakistan. 

This is how military officials perceive the surge in cross-border attacks in Upper Dir/Chitral. Who is actually interested in stretching out Pakistani security forces? Can it be the countries i.e. the United States, India and Afghanistan who are wary of the unhindered presence of certain militant outfits within Pakistan, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) alias JamaatudDawa and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).? The Afghan and Pakistani Taliban i.e., the so-called Quetta Shura and the Haqqaninetwork, are also using the Pakistani soil to end the ‘foreign occupation’ of Afghanistan. 

Pakistan, or parts of its establishment, believes that front-runners like the LeT and the JeM can keep pricking the Indian security apparatus and keep it at bay as well as bogged down. The same forces also believe that an alliance with, or tolerance, of all those wedded to the ‘liberation of Afghanistan’ serves the country’s long-term strategic interests. 

With Pakistan under tight international scrutiny for its perceived tolerance of certain militant groups, one wonders whether and for how long these non-state actors would remain partners in the security business? Most of them abhor and reject music and films as un-Islamic i.e. essentially despise and viciously propagate against a normal way of life? Can they really be partners, when apparently they can provide the first line of defence, but in reality are proliferating an extremely conservative narrative on life in the society? Aren’t the beasts biting the hands that were feeding them?

The writing on the wall is quite clear; India, Kabul and the USA are convinced that such groups constitute an essential part of the instruments that Pakistan Army has deployed to pursue its foreign policy objectives. As a consequence, there is ever greater unity among the three countries on the issue of countering Pakistan for its "abetment of terrorist forces operating on the western and eastern borders."

As far the Pakistani Army and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are concerned, they still appear to be in a reactionary mode. Without charting a clearly defined way for Pakistan, they all say in unison that "without knowing what the Americans want in Afghanistan and in the region, we cannot devise and spell out our policy." They still maintain, and in this case legitimately, that for Pakistan, Afghanistan is a long-term reality and it cannot frame its policy in the "endgame context."

This appears to be a faulty approach as predicating our own policy on external factors thus far has taken us nowhere. It cannot be helpful in future either. Unless the Pakistani security establishment is clear itself and abandons foreign policy instruments that serve as the basic ingredient of discord in its relations with India, Afghanistan, and the United States, it will not be able to pursue even well-intended objectives in Afghanistan.

Pakistan's Afghanistan policy, or the military's strategy for that country to be precise, still seems to be pegged to the American endgame in Afghanistan as well as to future political setup in Kabul.

Given the broader US policy matrix on the region, one can safely assume that American and Indian presence in Afghanistan is now almost a constant, and together with Kabul, they will keep countering Pakistan to safeguard their “security and political interests.”

It makes even more imperative for Pakistani leaders to shun the cold-war era policies, and get into a proactive, economy-oriented policy framework if they want to prevent the country from becoming another Afghanistan, Sudan or Somalia.

The writer is executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies  

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk