GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM- IS IT REALLY OUR WAR?
Terrorism, its existence and efficacy in furthering one’s interests and agenda, is not new to the world. Arguably, attacks against US on 11 Sep 2001, have changed the world since. US, in response to the attacks of 9 /11, launched Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), which was initially and emotionally, declared as crusades by the president Bush. In this GWOT, America attacked Afghanistan in 2001 and then invaded Iraq in March 2003. The wars in both the countries are not yet over and there are no visible signs of success. Part of this GWOT is being fought by the Pakistan security forces in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and neighboring regions, although the battlefield has now extended throughout the Country.
Like a doctor’s approach to treat patients, we should carefully assess and diagnose the nature of problem at hand. For this alone can lead us to the selection of appropriate strategy to cure it and enable us to identify precautions to avoid recurrence of the problem. The nature of insurgency and the terrorism trends that we face now are extremely complex, unique and different from what is happening elsewhere. Let us examine the factors that make it so complex and different.
The Insurgents and Terrorists
The first and foremost is the complexity of the opponent that we are fighting against. We have many now on the list, thanks to our policies of past and strategies with which we have conducted this war so far.
First is the Al Qaeda, whose infrastructure was largely destroyed and leadership mostly eliminated ensuing US invasion of Afghanistan. Remnants of the Al Qaeda proper and other lose organizations that have been aspired by the Al Qaeda’s effective media campaign, are fighting us all over the Country targeting from the President to common man.
Second are the Taliban and religious fighters from all over the world. We created and supported them by establishing madrassas and training camps in Pakistan. They were left uncontrolled even after the withdrawal of erstwhile USSR from Afghanistan. The Taliban reemerged as local power in Afghanistan in early 1990s – again with our support. Our immediate U – turn following the 9 / 11 and active support to US against them have not been well – received by the Taliban themselves and pro - Taliban populace in the frontier regions. Taliban have frequently claimed that they have nothing against Pakistan or our internal matters. But they have been compelled to authorize attacks on our security forces as Jihad due to our support to the US. In March 2008, Taliban militant commander Maulana Faqir Mohammad offered the new government a ceasefire and opening of dialogue if it stopped supporting President Pervez Musharraf. We did strike peace deal with them in the area. These deals were mostly complied with by Taliban and were broken either due to US attacks on the civilians or our operations. Alongside Taliban, there are foreign fighters, most of who are settled in the area since 1970s, joined now by the jihadis from all over the Muslim world after US attack on Afghanistan.
Third opponent is the outcome of use of excessive force during military operations and growing poverty, frustration and maladministration. Unfortunately, we have also been eager to own up the US attacks on civilians in the FATA area. Another factor is the military operation against Lal Mosque that targeted the students there, most of who were from Frontier province. Badal, or the revenge, is the vital element of Pashtun culture. The relatives and general population of the area was readily available for recruitment by Taliban or other organization after the military operations especially the one launched against Lal Mosque. These effected individual, rightly desperate to revenge, are now on the side of our enemies. Militarily, the significant impact of this new addition is that battlefield has been extended throughout Pakistan. It is worth noting that terrorists attacks have not only increased but spread throughout Pakistan after the military operation on Lal Mosque. These elements have no clear policy on selection of target – revenge dominates their behaviour and conduct methodology. Terrorist’s attacks on Special Services Group mess, against intelligence set up, Islamabad police and Army recruits in Mardan are, to name a few, all Lal Masque specific revenge.
Fourth and enduring is the India factor. India has adopted indirect approach by supporting terrorism in Pakistan through her consulates across the Durand Line. This allows Indian a tit – for – tat scenario for our alleged support to Kashmiri freedom fighters. It serves Indian military well by tie down large Pakistan Army formation and depicting Pakistan as most dangerous state, and hence raise questions about our nuclear assets before international community. After all, the wisdom runs, why would local Taliban leader be involved in kidnapping and killing of Chinese working in the Frontier and Balochistan? If this is to serve the cause of Islam then Chinese working for Pakistan are not the only non – Muslim residing in Pakistan? Does it serve the purpose of Islam to attack at the funerals and murder known religious leaders? Involvement of Indian and some other powers has also been acknowledged by the Interior Ministry. One tends to wonder why would tribesman attack at the peace Jirgas etc, and more importantly, why should there be a rocket attack from unknown source just once the peace deal struck with the locals Taliban is working? It is argued that these attacks are from the forces that do not yearn for peace deal in the FATA between tribes and the security forces.
Besides the factors already discussed, our internal dynamics also complicate the campaign and make it harder.
There is clear lack of national consensus on the ongoing campaign against terrorism in Pakistan. Our religious parties have not contributed much in combating this threat. These parties, for host of reasons, have rarely condemned the death of innocent people in the terrorist’s attacks. They have not been forthright in condemning the suicidal attacks. They may have their own reasons, but their silence acquiescence to these tendencies which are not supported by our religion, further complicates the national response to the terrorism.
Our media, despite its achievements in raising general awareness and the conscious, have at times been a source of instability, anxiety and irresponsibility during the conduct of this campaign. Media is like oxygen to the terrorists, and our free and private channels have provided this in plenty by unduly giving large coverage to scenes of the terrorists attack and raising public anxiety. During the Lal Mosque crisis, for instance, our media gave running coverage to the scenes showing veiled girls carrying long bamboos on the road to fight and implement shairia in Pakistan. This not only placed enormous pressure on government, public but also raised serious response from the western world. Once the operation was launched to clear the Lal Mosque from the extremists, the same media gave sympathetic coverage to those extremists who died. The media failed to show objectivity to the desired degree. It was due to corporate interests or hidden agenda is a separate debate.
Because of the internal dissentions, we do not have any politically and unanimously agreed upon definition of terrorism or terrorists. This further complicates the security operations and the prosecution of those who are involved in it. Many politicians and dissident members of the civil society, for instance, who instigate hatred against security forces and the operations, are immune from any legal actions. This further curtails the liberty of action of security forces. The bailing out of those involved in Lal Mosque and their subsequent involvement in the terrorists’ attacks is a case in point.
The porous nature of Durand Line, our border with Afghanistan, and lack of, and inability to ensure strict control on free movement to and from Afghanistan is another complication. This has enabled the terrorists to ensure evade military operations besides having flow of logistics and manpower support. Besides, there are tribes that live on both side of the Durand Line since centuries. Their tribal affiliations and blood relations cannot be just ignored. Any security operation in these areas is naturally effected by these factors
GWOT may not be ours, but those who are trying to exploit the situation by executing planned terrorism in Pakistan or address their legitimate or unjustified grievances through violence, have to be fought against. This is not the global war, but our own. It has to be fought based on its anatomy, and not the international template being followed in the global war on terrorism.