Pakistan should be one, not both; and its people should choose between paranoia and power before it’s too late
For Pakistan, the writing on the wall is clear: Since 2001, we sided with the US in its War on Terror, which was actually a War OF Terror.
After 2004, Pakistan became a frontline state in this war, instead of being the passive participant it had been in the three years before. It was not long before Pakistan became embroiled in a multi-front war: one with the US because of divergent goals in the region and mutual mistrust, one with regional adversaries like India and Karzai-led Afghanistan, one with terror proxies like Al-Qaeda, the TTP, Jundullah, HuJI, JeM, SSP, LeT, BLA, BLUF, BRA, IMU and other groups. This last battlespace is an unconventional war where non-state actors are being trained, financed, motivated and deployed by powerful external powers to undermine the military and intelligence organizations from within for the final external assault; this has become possible after softening up civil targets and demoralizing as well as scaring the Pakistani public over the last few years. But our civil and military leadership continues to be oblivious to these increasingly overt signals. Such insensitivity only contributes to the paranoia of the Pakistani people, who are wondering which of their assets are going to be used against them now.
After the spectacular attack on PNS Mehran, which was orchestrated by Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security (NDS – the modern-day equivalent of KHAD), has led many to question how the Pakistani military would protect its people – or more importantly, its nuclear assets – if it cannot protect itself. Those who call the Navy the “soft underbelly” of the Armed Forces are quickly reminded of the audacious 2009 attack on the Army’s GHQ in Rawalpindi, which was previously considered the safest installation in Pakistan.
Here is how the Navy attack happened: an undisclosed number (estimated between 4-10) of highly trained and heavily armed attackers infiltrated the naval air base from weak points, and occupied positions near the airfield perimeter. Upon unleashing their rockets, the Pakistan Navy responded to the occasion. Of course, the terrorists were very well-armed, they were wearing night-adaptive camouflage suits (what Rehman Malik called “Stars Wars costumes” but were the reason why mobile phones were prohibited on the base during the operation) and appeared to have trained for their mission on mock-sites (like many elite commando units are). Throughout the attack, the terrorists were being handled and guided via encrypted communication systems. The Navy response teams, including the commandoes, were ordered to protect Navy assets first and foremost – after the destruction of the P-3C Orion aircraft, it was necessary to push back the terrorists into an isolated position where they would not be able to target the Navy’s assets. Once that was achieved, it was the priority of anti-terror forces to deplete the terrorists’ ammunition, and capture them alive if possible. Two of the attacked blew themselves up, and the other two were shot dead (one was even photographed by the Interior Minister for public consumption). And another two allegedly “escaped”.
How are acts like this taking place? And more importantly, why are they happening and who is actually behind them? Continuous shattering of hopes and positive thinking has been made possible by the CIA-R&AW financed, Afghan-staffed “Orange Force” that is interfacing with a variety of terrorist groups, proxies and sympathizers in Pakistan and conducting multidimensional terrorist attacks of differing magnitude and divergent ideological goals. This “Orange Force” is basically an army of local assets (i.e. miscreants that belong to the host country due to identity and birth) that is trained in guerilla warfare by a third party, and then sent back into the home country to conduct sabotage and subterfuge ‘inside home lines’. The nexus between the CIA, India’s R&AW, and Afghanistan’s NDS ensures that money, weapons and soldiers against Pakistan are in no short supply. Stuffed with dollars, Indian handlers in the Kabul embassy and other consulates train Afghan intelligence operatives in Urdu, how to assimilate South Asian cultures and embed one’s self in them. The Afghan intelligence – filled by Uzbeks and Tajiks who hate Pakistan, like their former chief Amrullah Saleh – pick those who have an axe to grind with Pakistan, and send them to train under the Indians – who want to repay Pakistan for bleeding her in Kashmir. Since 2007, this “Orange Force” has not only scared and demoralized the people of Pakistan, it has also created an aura of uncertainty and confusion because it gives the appearance of Pakistani’s fighting Pakistani’s, inevitably meaning that one Pakistani cannot trust another Pakistani. Ajmal Kasab and Faisal Shahzad are part of this “Orange Force”, along with other ‘proxies’ and ‘assets’ that may or may not have formerly belong to the Pakistani military and the ISI. The “Orange Force” paradigm helps understand the vague and multidimensional nature of coalescing and reforming militant groups, wings and cells in Pakistan.
So will these “Orange Force” operatives succeed in breaching the security protocols that safeguard Pakistan’s nuclear assets? The answer is a resounding no. Multiple layers of security, coupled with dispersal of warhead, delivery vehicle and arming codes/command system make it impossible for a terrorist to acquire any of Pakistan’s nuclear assets in deployable condition. Moreover, the elite Army corps that safeguards Pakistan’s nuclear assets – the XXXIII Corps, now known as the Army Strategic Forces Command (ASFC) – is fully capable of thwarting any devious designs against those assets; even if they are from lone-wolf operatives or so-called “insiders” who are actually impostors wearing Army uniforms to evade security and detection. According to declassified material, the ASFC is organized into 2 Divisions – 1 in Sindh and 1 in Punjab – and also has support from elements of the 47th Artillery Brigade based in Sargodha. This ensures safety from land-based and airborne threats. ASFC is mandated and tasked with space operations (including military satellites), information operations (information warfare), missile defense, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR), strategic deterrence and combating weapons of mass destruction.
Hence, NATO’s “concerns” about Pakistan’s nuclear assets are valid to a certain extent, but seem hollow and preposterous once one considers them as echoes from India’s military establishment, which gives up no chance to blame Pakistan for terrorism and for giving sanctuary to terrorists. Of course, India said “we told you so” after the May 2 operation in Abbottabad. And Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram offered a vague condolence over the PNS Mehran attack, instead focusing on terrorism, insider involvement within the Pakistani military, and obviously, questions about the safety of Pakistan’s assets – especially the unconventional weapons deployed against India. The fact of the matter is that India has every right to be concerned about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons – these weapons are a primary deterrent against India, and are known even among terrorist circles as the “Islamic bomb” designed to counter military aggression against Muslims.
Evidently, paranoia about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons suits the West and India more than it suits the Pakistani people; Pakistan has bigger problems to tackle first. Internal political problems, such as squabbles between “national” political parties who claim to represent the people but were brought to power in a fraudulent election where 44% of the votes cast were bogus, augment Pakistan’s woes and severely debilitate the state in its normal functions, let alone its added responsibilities such as counter-terrorism and anti-militant operations. All is forgotten about how the Pakistani military cleared Swat, Buner, Shangla, Dir, and South Waziristan from the militants, only to wait for the civilians to restore political order and economic opportunities. When that did not happen, and the local populace clamored for the Army to leave, the terrorists again swooped in to fill the vacuum created not just by the Army’s withdrawal, but by the civilians’ incapacity and ineptitude as well. Civilians cannot care for civilians, democratically elected representatives do not care for the general public, and the blame is put on the Army. When the 2010 floods occurred and destroyed any hopes of national economic recovery, the Army was the first state institution in the field, acting in aid of civil power when it was actually the only representative of the state and government of Pakistan to the hapless flood victims. Of course, the religious charities and militant fundamentalist groups also competed with the Army in terms of relief operations and expanding their network of operations in the name of ‘relief work’. The civilian government – especially the PML-N which is full of closeted Taliban from top to bottom – heartily welcomed these mullahs who extolled terrorists and terrorism in their vitriolic speeches against the Army, Pakistan, the US, India, the minorities, and who knows who else. The civilian government, and its top functionaries, are also fine with deploying most of the elite anti-terrorist forces on protocol duty and VIP/VVIP protection. To them, this is the best way to counter terrorism and terrorist forces – by keeping undemocratic and illegitimate rulers safe while the country at large burns to a crisp; while its people die daily and those who are alive wait for a death that may come at any moment.
Let us not ignore India’s role in the Balochistan unrest and in propping up an illegitimate, unrepresentative and corrupt government in Afghanistan. While India covets access to the Central Asian states and also wants to keep Pakistan unstable, Balochistan has become the playground for many international powers – USA, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Qatar, to name a few – and India feels obliged to reactivate its latent contacts to support anti-Pakistan elements like Harbiyar Marri and Bramdagh Bugti with Afghan help. Since the last few decades, Punjabis are being ethnically cleansed from Balochistan province, in apparent retaliation for depriving the Balochi’s from their rights, but also as revenge for “all that Pakistan has done” to the Baloch people. Again, Balochi’s are being used as recruits in the abovementioned “Orange Force” along with FATA Pakhtun’s and residents of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa area. Targeting gas pipelines, police officials and army soldiers has become routine along with attacks on minorities and acid attacks on women. Sometimes, urbanized Pakistani’s from Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and other cities are also found to be involved in terrorist activities – yet, their foreign handlers and international supporters are never revealed. Hence, “Indian”, “Afghan” and “US” involvement in Pakistan’s woes remains unproven, and is consigned to the annals of “conspiracy” while half-truths and full-lies churned out by Wikileaks and the Julian Assange limited hangout operation are readily gulped down as unfalsifiable.
It is also important to note how the recent naval base attack coincides with the Pakistani military being pressurized by the US to launch new operations against militants – ostensibly against North Waziristan first of all, which the US has been pushing for since last year, but also in other areas where the Haqqani network, Hekmatyar, Mullah Nazir, and Quetta Shura Taliban are expected to be hiding. The GHQ attack preceded Pakistan’s operation in South Waziristan (Rah-i-Nijat), and this attack may also be designed to force Pakistan to act against even those militants who used to enjoy (or according to some, continue to enjoy) state support. While this is absolutely preposterous, and akin to forcing Pakistan to do something that it is not in its interest to do, a word of caution must follow this prescription of inaction: if Pakistan and its Armed Forces do not actively defend national sovereignty and do not effectively exercise state writ throughout the territory of Pakistan, then ceding control over the country is what the US is all to glad to see. This can be construed as more ‘hot pursuit’ raids in Pakistan like the one in Abbottabad – this time extending from North Waziristan to Kurram agency – as well as expansion of drone attacks into Balochistan (ostensibly after the Quetta Shura). So Pakistan must decide what it will do if it does not take the fight to the terrorists, and gives room for the US to militarily meddle in Pakistan’s internal affairs, thereby destroying any shred of sovereignty that we have left. One is glad to note the Corps Commanders’ resolve to counter any such “hot pursuit” or “surgical strike” by India with deadly and commensurate force. The core of the problem is that Pakistan sees Hakeemullah Mehsud’s TTP as the main problem, whereas the US and their lackeys in Afghanistan see the Haqqani network as the root of all woes. Nevertheless, the United States has justified the success of its mission in Afghanistan by the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2, an act that also justifies an imminent withdrawal of US/NATO/ISAF forces from Afghanistan – starting 2011, and being completed by 2014. Of course, this period is being called a “security transition”, because during this time, US and NATO forces will give the ANA the lead in fighting terrorists and restoring security – effectively, Afghans will be fighting and killing Afghans while the US and their NATO buddies try to make a clean getaway (with as many body bags as possible) even though the US will maintain military bases and a permanent footprint in Afghanistan as an outpost where it keeps an eye on Iran, Pakistan, China, and other regional countries of importance/concern. Yes, America is looking for a permanent bases agreement with its puppet government in Afghanistan even though it is trumpeting its withdrawal as a ‘respectable drawdown’ to the voting public back home in the land of the ‘free’ and the home of the ‘brave’.
More often than not, the sacrifices of more than 30,000 Pakistani citizens and 10,000 security personnel (Armed Forces as well as police services) are so conveniently overlooked every time the word “security lapse” is uttered. Is Lt. Yasir Abbas Shaheed’s three-minute response a security lapse? Was the capture of terror mastermind Aqeel aka Dr. Usman from the GHQ siege a security lapse? One needs to differentiate between conspiracies and security lapses. It is very easy to question a man in uniform without doing his job, holding his gun, and feeling the tension of battle-readiness. Despite being the front line allies of the West in this War on/of Terror, and despite continuous – yet ineffective – reminders by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron about Pakistan’s role, the US and the West has this inimical habit of down playing Pakistan’s role in this war. Al Qaeda and their TTP proxies have killed more ISI officers and Pakistani civilians than CIA operatives and American civilians – YES! More Pakistanis have died because of Al Qaeda than Americans! And while the US is still looking for ways and means to quit the Afghan quagmire – the Blackwill plan for partition of Afghanistan was also a serious consideration – the Pakistan military still holds its ground in Swat and South Waziristan, despite the incapacity, ineffectiveness, and sheer ineptitude of the provincial and federal governments (which are run by ‘civilian representatives’ of the Pakistani people, but are neither civil nor representative; they are merely stooges and informers of the CIA, as Wikileaks continues to show).
With these untrustworthy politicians, a demoralized military, an unprofessional and divisive media, corrupt religious and local leaders, who could be the final nail in the coffin for the sanity of Pakistan? The cozy-lounge burger journalists launch themselves on social media against their own Army and security institutions, considering it to be a fad or the ‘in thing’ without realizing how far off they are from constructive criticism, and what a negative impact they are having not only on Pakistan’s institutions, but also on Pakistan’s international image. The air-conditioned opinionated Twitter-holics and bloggers are first to comment and condemn, but seldom realize the life of a jawan, the responsibilities of an officer, or the tensions of a general. Yet, they are keen to visualize plots in DHA (which are coveted by civilians) and anything of affluence that can be attributed to the Armed Forces. Apparently these Western-educated liberal intellectuals need to revisit the concept of “military industrial complex” where large state institutions are bound to metamorph into a business-like conglomerate. To defend Pakistan, its image, its respect, its sovereignty and integrity is too much to ask from these self-proclaimed liberals whose sole motive for waking up every day is checking to see how fast the internet is working. This only contributes to the paranoia and fear of the Pakistani people.
So we all need to decide whether we are going to be a sane country which is a responsible nuclear power, or we can decide to be a paranoid and neurotic country, in which case we will already have lost our nuclear weapons (and the capacity to use them) before we know it.