No road map to break ongoing cycle of violence
Asif Haroon Raja
When the US decided to invade Afghanistan in October 2001, both Afghanistan and Pakistan were on very friendly terms. For the first time in Pakistan’s history its western border had become safe. Within Pakistan, FATA and Balochistan were peaceful and people of the two regions were as patriotic as of any other region. Suicide attacks or car bomb blasts were unheard of. Tribesmen of FATA stood fully committed to defend western border at their own. It was owing to their sense of patriotism that Pak government never felt the need to send regular troops there. Small scale localized skirmishes were dealt by the Political Agent who had at his command Khasadars and Frontier Constabulary. On rare occasions assistance of Frontier Corps was sought. Despite common ethnic and religious affinities between the people living both sides of the Durand Line, the people of FATA never allowed foreign influence to penetrate within their domain. Afghanistan government’s machinations never made any impact on them despite extreme poverty and underdevelopment in FATA. Likewise NAP, latter ANP’s desire for Pakhtunistan failed to cut ice in FATA.
War on terror coined by George W. Bush led neo cons was neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan’s war but US war. It was started by the US not to eliminate or curb terrorism but to achieve mercantile and strategic interests. A huge intelligence infrastructure near Kabul was built in late 2001 to carryout covert operations against Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia and Central Asian States. India with the assistance of others took upon itself to weaken Pakistan from within and described its notorious intelligence agency RAW as best suited to undertake effective clandestine operations since it had already made deep inroads in various regions of Pakistan. Base of Kabul suited RAW since it provided direct access to FATA, NWFP and Balochistan. India maneuvered to establish anti-Pakistan and pro-India regime in Kabul comprising members of non-Pashtun Northern Alliance. Oil was sprinkled in FATA and Balochistan to make them restive and to gradually spread flames of militancy towards contiguous NWFP and Punjab.
Military operations launched by the troops in South Waziristan antagonized the Waziris and Mehsuds who decided to confront the Army. Foreign agencies exploited the clash they had engineered; cultivated some among them and offered cash, weaponry, moral support and intimate guidance how to go about conducting successful guerilla warfare.
Having made the two Waziristans and Bajaur restive, Lal Masjid episode was planned by the masterminds in Kabul to provoke the government and security forces as well as the militants of FATA and Swat. RAW agents slipped into the mosque and held Maulana Ghazi and others hostage and prevented them from striking a deal. Use of excessive force by security forces in July 2007 against women and children angered the militants. The sad event resulted in intensification of recruitment of young recruits, which eased the task of plot makers. To seek revenge suicide bombers were unleashed to wreck havoc in major cities. The plot thickened when Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) under unknown Baitullah Mehsud with tentacles in all seven tribal agencies came into being from nowhere in December 2007. TTP’s linkage with Fazlullah led militants in Swat was part of the gory plan.
In Balochistan, KGB, KHAD, RAW had managed to make ingress into Baloch dominated areas in early 1970s. After kindling Baloch nationalism among Marris and Mengals with the help of Baloch Students Organization (BSO), the trio supported Marri-Mengal led insurgency in 1973. Old links were revived by the new band of CIA-FBI-RAM-MI-6-RAW after 9/11 to extend support to Akbar Bugti and later to Brahamdagh Bugti led Baloch insurgency directed towards creation of independent Balochistan.
During over eight years of fighting the ghosts of terrorism, hardly a day has passed peacefully in the two affected countries. Each suicide or bomb attack or group attack claimed tens of innocent lives and destruction to property. Suicide attacks have become a norm and it is now being said that it is Pakistan’s war of survival and that the US had no role in igniting terrorism in Pakistan. The brigade of US lovers vociferously lends strength to this argument and shifts the blame to Gen Zia’s legacy. These morons suffering from amnesia forget that the US had a key role in promoting gun and drug cultures in Pakistan during the Afghan Jihad against Soviet forces in the 1980s and in militarizing the society. In that timeframe CIA was not only indulging in massive drug trade from Afghanistan to European and US markets via Pakistan to finance Jihad, but also making use of Jihadis like gun fodder to defeat the Red Army and to disintegrate USSR.
The US achieved its objectives at the cost of death of over 1.5 million Mujahideen herded from all over the Muslim world. USA became the sole super power without shedding a single drop of blood in the war. Now the US is gunning down same Jihadis whom it used to describe as holy warriors. Purpose behind creating barbaric Pakistani Taliban was to reuse Jihadis against Pak Army, defame Afghan Taliban, make the concept of Islamic rule an object of disgust and ridicule, and to pave way for creation of Pashtunistan.
Notwithstanding the treacherous role of our detractors, major part of blame fall on the shoulders of our rulers who readily get lured for personal gains and fall into the trap. The civil society, security forces and the country as a whole are going through hell owing to myopic and self-seeking policies of our leaders who have no sense of making distinction between friend and foe. By agreeing to fight US dictated senseless war on terror and giving up Kashmir card in a platter under the policy of appeasement with India, Gen Musharraf caused irreparable harm to Pakistan.
Current rulers are following the same self-destructive policies as a result of which Pakistan continues to bleed. Eight years have lapsed since Pakistan was pushed into the pool of terrorism, but we are still swimming against rough tides to stay afloat, not knowing when we will touch the shore. Well knowing that use of force will aggravate rather than solve the problem of extremism and terrorism, our rulers continue to rely on the instrument of force and feel satisfied with tactical battles won by the Army at a very high price. No road map has so far been made how to put an end to cycle of violence. Tactical victories provide temporary relief only but by no means cure the disease. Till such time root causes of terrorism are not addressed through wholesome socio-politico-economic package and foreign support to terrorists dry up, scourge of terrorism will not get cured.
The writer is a retired Brig and a freelance defence analyst.