Is Pakistan Ready For Tomorrow?

Posted by Admin On Thursday, 20 February 2014 0 comments
The Government-TTP peace talks have seemingly been dealt a death-blow with the murder of 27 kidnapped FC soldiers. Was the talks process a sham – an excuse to launch a “legitimate, publicly supported” military operation – or was it an honest effort on part of both sides to achieve peace without shedding more blood? And are the people of Pakistan ready for the war that is to come…?
Is Pakistan Ready for Tomorrow?
While the peace talks initiative between the government and the TTP seemed to progressing at its own pace and in its own unique (and somewhat inexplicable, incomprehensible) direction, the TTP kept on clamoring about continuing military operations against its cadres – the TTP’s central spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said that in order for the peace talks to continue successfully and without obstruction, the military should desist from engaging and/or killing TTP militants. In the meantime, since the government’s peace initiative efforts had started – that is, for the last five or so months – more than 100 soldiers have died in terror attacks perpetrated by the Taliban: the exact toll stands at 114 military personnel, 308 civilians and 38 police officers. These people were killed by the Taliban, but the nation remains unaware of these martyrs of Pakistan (and of the government’s peace efforts). At the same time, the TTP demanded that the government release prisoners that were held by the military: it remains disputed whether the TTP wanted women and children to be released, or militants who had been captured before or after they had undertaken terrorist actions against the state. The Pakistan government said it may release women and children “non-combatant” prisoners, but not as a precondition of the TTP’s declaration of ceasefire.
Even before the talks started, and especially after the media reported that actual talks – the negotiations process and the exchange of demands between the government and the TTP – were on, there were many questions that were being asked and which, to a large extent, remained unanswered. Do all segments of society support the peace initiative? Could the political parties like ANP, PPP and MQM be brought on board the talks process – parties and political entities who have been specifically and particularly targeted by the TTP in the past? Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has started giving vocal, intense speeches against the Taliban and has vowed to fight them and defeat them by any means necessary in order to pay homage and tribute to thousands of both the soldiers and the civilians who have died at the hands of terrorist attacks, while MQM chief Altaf Hussain has also been giving speeches against rising extremism, the Talibanization of Karachi, and against giving in to the TTP demands without extracting definitive security gains from the terrorist group – even though he may be facing some legal troubles of his own in the UK.
And what if – despite, or as a result of, the talks – war happens? Would the TTP initiate the aggression – or merely ramp up its targeting of the military and law enforcement agencies, operatives and institutions throughout the country, or would the government launch a military invasion of the tribal areas and beef up security in cities and urban centers – and is the government capable enough of developing an adequate defensive security plan for the general public, given the entrenchment of TTP and Al Qaeda cells/operatives in Pakistan? What about the implementation of Shariah/Shariat law (many Pakistanis still are confused as to which is the real world for the Islamic system of laws and punishments) that serves as the main TTP demand to the government and state: will the government start implementing it, or – like Fazlullah’s usurpation of power in Swat – will the militants enforce a distorted version of strict Islamic law in populated areas? Will the elite classes in Pakistan support peace with the TTP, or the implementation of Shariah/Shariat law – and are they even appreciating the government’s approach to peace and permanent respite from the threat of Islamic fundamentalist terror?
Will political forces and segments of society – especially those referred to above – support the government if it gives in (i.e. surrenders) to many if not all TTP demands just for the sake of peace? And what kind of peace will follow if the government recognizes the TTP as an entity with equivalent authority (when in fact it is still a proscribed organization) and implements the demands that the religious fundamentalist militant umbrella organization’s chief shura has made of Pakistan’s rulers? What will be the exact terms of a peace with the TTP, and who will set them – more importantly, if the terms are broken – as has happened almost every time in the past, no matter who the culprit was and who was blamed – will there be punishments? Will such punishments be meted out collective (to groups) or to individuals – what will be the jurisdiction of responsibilities that both parties of the would-be peace accord would have to adhere to and enforce? Will peace with the TTP be durable: given all past experiences, can the TTP (its leadership, its subordinate groups, even its cadres) be trusted at all?!
Will there be peace… or all-out war?
In any case, Sunday’s revelation by TTP’s Mohmand chapter ameer, Umar Khalid Khurasani, that the TTP had executed 23 FC soldiers it had kidnapped from the Shongari checkpost in 2010 – they had abducted a total of 35 soldiers in that raid – came as a shockwave that took its own time to register a varied magnitude of impact on the country’s leadership, the government, the military top brass, and the general public. Khurasani claimed that the execution came as a “response to the extrajudicial killings of militants in recent weeks”. It had been reportedly made clear to the TTP that the suicide bombing in Karachi on Feruary 14 – which claimed the lives of 13 police commandoes and injured at least 50 others as they exited from their training camp (the Razzakabad Police Training Center on the outskirts of Karachi city) and were headed to the SSU (Special Security Unit) HQ for duty assignment – had already weakened the position of (and increased pressure on the federal government, particularly) the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif, in terms of his staunch (and at times, unequivocal and solitary) support for and promotion of the dialogue process with the TTP. While in Ankara, PM Sharif was under the impression – and was perhaps even told by TTP negotiators – that action will be taken against those elements of the TTP who had conducted terror attacks in recent days (i.e. during the talks).
If the sophisticated and deadly Karachi IED attack – which the TTP took responsibility for as a “reprisal attack”, and one wonders why they did so when they are engaged in peace talks with the government and especially when they did not claim responsibility for the attack on a Peshawar cinema – made the PM’s position precarious and unpopular, the recent announcement of the murder of Frontier Corps soldiers who had been kidnapped for over 2 years, and whose family members had been gripped by fear and anger for all that time,  has (seemingly and apparently) hammered the final nail in the coffin of the Government-TTP peace talks process. On Tuesday, February 18, the English daily “The Nation” ran the headline “TTP kills talks, govt resurrects op”, and also reported that the bodies of soldiers who had been “savaged” by the Taliban had been found.
Even though the TTP have won the propaganda war – thanks to their threat of force and violence, and also courtesy to the biasedness of the so-called “fair, free, balanced”, etc. etc. electronic media of Pakistan in general (except for the more-than-two-dozen brave Pakistani journalists who have given the ultimate sacrifice while reporting from the most dangerous areas of Pakistan) – but the battle for the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people, as well as the battle for the streets of Pakistan (the actual battle for control of the country, which is undoubtedly going to be bloodier than any war or calamity Pakistan has thus witnessed) are two essential and unfortunately inevitable conflicts that have yet to be fought. One wonders whether Pakistan’s previous or incumbent civilian government was ever in a position to win the hearts and minds of the general public – the very electorate that voted them into power but (again, in large part, due to the media) blames the powers-that-be for all the ills and woes that befall the common Pakistani man, woman and child.
It needs to be noted that the execution of these troops may not have occurred recently (i.e. during the peace talks, or after formal peace negotiations started between the government committees and the TTP-nominated committees) and the TTP have also not confirmed the identities of those soldiers whom they have killed in captivity. But the announcement of the murder/execution being made during the initial, birthing stages of the peace talks (when the ground was being set and the negotiationg table was just being polished), and that too by a senior TTP leader nonetheless, is a stark reminder of two very important things regarding militancy and terrorism in Pakistan: one, that the TTP is an umbrella organization that – unlike the state and its law enforcement agencies, and even unlike the Afghan Taliban – does not have a strict chain of command and control, where orders of authority are obeyed and disobedience is punishable; and two, that the TTP – or any terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda – has never been sincere in peace talks with Pakistan (since 2004 – or with any other state or government entity for that matter) since a ceasefire by state military forces is a much-desired “breathing space” time for the militants, who get the opportunity to gather, regroup, recruit, and reinforce their cadres, numbers, areas of influence, weapons caches, networks of operatives, supply lines and lines of financial inflows, and many other essentials that are required to keep an anti-state national insurgency operational and running.
The announcement of the murder of the FC soldiers – coming only a few days after the deadly blast in Karachi that ears the same signature of attacks that targeted Navy buses, Rangers vehicles and cost the life of Karachi CID SP Chaudhry Aslam (a 25kg unidirectional bomb activated by a remote controlled detonator) – was either designed to keep the TTP in a position of tactical if not strategic superiority against the Pakistani state which had been tolerating (and kept on bearing) terror attacks since 2007, or it was a deliberate attempt to push the government back from its resolve for a peaceful way out of the ongoing Islamic fundamentalist insurgency that has significant linkages to the decades-long civil war and Western troop intervention in neighbouring Afghanistan. It would be analytically inappropriate, even foolish, to consider and analyze the Pakistani peace process in isolation from the Afghan Taliban insurgency (which has been gaining the momentum against international troops from over 30 countries, including the U.S. and NATO, since their resurgence in 2006), the imminent withdrawal of foreign troops from an unstable and still war-torn Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the prospects of deadly interruptions in the Afghan electoral process in April 2014 (when Afghans go to the polls to elect their parliamentarians as well as their new President), the strategic designs and regional economic goals and/or targets of Russia, China and India – it is, after all, a theater of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) if not the New Great Game.
Detractors of the Pakistani military – even at home – quip about how the Pakistan Armed Forces do not have enough fuel reserves or supplies to engage in a conflict for longer than a few weeks, let alone months: these people forget that Pakistan has been engaged in fighting a low-to-medium intensity separatist insurgency in Balochistan as well as a nationwide terrrorist threat posed by militants who control parts of the western tribal areas/agencies of the country, and that the conflict has been raging on at various levels of intensity for over a decade (fighting the militants since 2003-04, and the latest – the fifth since Pakistan’s independence – Baluch insurgency since the death of Nawab Akbar Bugti in August 2007???). Many believe that Pakistan needs continued military and financial assistance from the U.S. – especially the Coalition Support Funds or CSF for fighting the War on Terror – in order to sustain military operations against the TTP and Taliban-allied militants, and even to defeat this deadly existential threat that Pakistan has been facing ever since the U.S. launched their Global War on Terror (GWOT) in 2001.
The time has now come to test the mettle of Pakistan’s Armed Forces – and all of its paramilitary organizations and law enforcement agencies, for that matter – as well as the strength, resolve and unity of the Pakistani people in terms of fighting back against – and eventually defeating – the menace of religious fundamentalism, militant terrorism and extremism/intolerance that have pervaded Pakistani society since the 1970s and have become embedded and entrenched in all nooks and crannies of the Pakistani nation-state. This existential threat cannot be removed by merely defeating the TTP, or making them operationally ineffective: the people of Pakistan – in addition to supporting the military unflinchingly – must also fight against extremism and intolerance in society if the war is to be won, and if a lasting peace for this and future generations is to be achieved.
Tacstrat Analysis


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