By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
The US in pursuit of its strategic and economic objectives in this part of the world arm twisted Gen Musharraf in September 2001 soon after 9/11 and made him do its bidding. Pakistan forces were pushed into the inferno of war on terror which was not Pakistan’s war. To start with, flames were lit on two extreme flanks resting in Baloch inhabited interior Balochistan and Pashtun inhabited FATA. The course of flames was gradually channeled towards settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), then to other cities of KP and subsequently to major cities of Punjab as well as Islamabad. Flames of terrorism were stoked by CIA and FBI outposts established in 2002 with the concurrence of the ruling regime. ISI and other intelligence agencies were asked to take up a backseat and intelligence collection, collation and dissemination was taken over entirely by CIA on the plea that it had superior technological means.
The CIA then brought in RAW and RAAM agents to boost its strength and collectively gave birth to Pakistani Taliban, who later got organized and formed Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) in December 2007. They were won over by providing them bagfuls of dollars and meeting all their weapons and equipment demands and also promising them that FATA will be made an independent caliphate and submerged with Pashtun belt of Afghanistan. In Balochistan, disgruntled Baloch Sardars of Bugti, Mengal and Marri were cultivated to start insurgency. They were lured by promising them independent Balochistan full of mineral resources and Gwadar Port falling in the path of envisaged energy corridor from Central Asia. About sixty Farari (training) camps were established in interior Balochistan and supply routes both from Afghanistan via Spin Boldak and Shahgarh in India were made operational to meet all their demands. Later on, several terrorist outfits like BLA, BRA and BLF came into being and their leaders were given asylum in Afghanistan and London.
While our intelligence agencies got busy in nabbing terrorists from all over the country and the Army got embroiled in fighting tribesmen in FATA and Balochistan, CIA and FBI helped by MI-6, RAW and RAAM agents got on with their job of destabilizing Pakistan from within. Besides sabotage and subversion by terrorists, drones were also introduced by CIA to further fuel terrorism. Shamsi airbase was used for the purpose. Sold to the idea of enlightened moderation Musharraf accepted the US advice to expand and liberate the media. It was then decisively penetrated by foreign powers to be able to promote their coined themes and to change perceptions of the desired audiences in Pakistan. India promoted its culture through electronic media and also took help of our media to hide its ugly face. All these processes which weakened Pakistan went on unabatedly throughout Musharraf’s stint in power till March 2008 and Pakistan’s sovereignty kept eroding. By that time all institutions of Pakistan including Army, ISI and judiciary stood discredited.
When the US realized that Musharraf had lost his popularity and would not be helpful in changing the perceptions of people from religious conservatism to secularism, and was not in a position to make compromises on joint Pak-US operations in FATA, or opening up nuclear and missile assets and placing them under a joint control mechanism, or reducing Chinese activities in Gwadar Port and Balochistan mineral projects, or shelving Pak-Iran gas pipeline and in curbing anti-Americanism, it decided to bring in Benazir and make a dream team of liberal parties. When Benazir started to act too independent, she was removed from the scene and handpicked puppets were given reins of power. They pursued Musharraf’s policies in letter and spirit and went a step ahead in keeping their patrons appeased. The Army, ISI and the judiciary however made recoveries by recapturing lost spaces and soon were able to re-establish their image and credibility.
The political leaders deeply engrossed in lot and plunder were slapped and humiliated but were also given blandishments and a free hand to milk the country and reduce it to a carcass. Their incompetence to govern and their corrupt practices were acceptable since they obediently served Washington’s interests. In order to cripple Pakistan’s economy and make it dependent upon US aid, rulers were told to put Pakistan’s neck in the stranglehold of IMF and to keep borrowing and keep spending lavishly.
They were told to ignore terrorism and ethnic cleansing of non-locals by Baloch insurgents seeking separation simply because they are seculars and pro-USA and India. Rulers were directed to use full force against militants in northwestern tribal area particularly against those who were anti-American and supporting Jihad in Afghanistan. Haqqani group based in North Waziristan (NW) is their chief foe. Ilyas Kashmiri outfit and Lashkar-e-Taeba are also on US hit list, and to a lesser degree are Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Nazir. Dozens of other militant groups including TTP located in NW which are anti-Pakistan but not involved in Afghanistan do not bother USA.
TTP which has its tentacles in all seven tribal agencies as well as in settled areas of KP, Swat, Malakand, South Punjab, Pashtun belt of Balochistan and its long arm can reach any part of Pakistan is of chief concern for Pakistan. Several foreign agencies are providing massive funds, weapons, equipment, explosives, training facilities, guidance and manpower replenishments from Afghan soil to TTP since they desire this force to possibly defeat or as a minimum contain bulk of Army. But for foreign support in huge quantities, it would not have been possible for the TTP to rebound after its backbone had been broken in the two decisive battles of Bajaur and South Waziristan in 2009. Footprints of foreign hands were clearly seen in all the regions that were recaptured from the militants by security forces. In the Bajaur battle which raged from July 2008 till February 2009, large number of Tajik and Uzbek fighters used to supplement Maulana Faqir’s force. Even now Afghans are involved in Mohmand Agency and in Dir.
While launching of military operations by the Army in Waziristan led to emergence of Pakistani Taliban, two drone attacks in Bajaur Agency in 2006 instilled hatred against the Army particularly when October strike on a seminary killing 80 students was wrongly owned by the Army. Brutal military action against inmates of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafza including women and children in July 2007 triggered recruitment of young Taliban in a big way. It also ignited spate of suicide bombings in cities. Thereon, it became easy for the senior members of TTP like Qari Hussein to motivate young boys aged 12-16 years to become suicide bombers. The schemers then shifted terrorism to major cities particularly Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Lahore. This was made possible after the induction of Blackwater in 2008. Several security companies cropped up in capital cities.
Mumbai attacks on 26/11 were masterminded to deflect attention of the world from the atrocities committed by Indian security forces in Indian occupied Kashmir where the situation had become explosive, and to nail down ISI and to pave way for carrying out surgical strikes in Pakistan similar to drone strikes. New tactics involving double suicide bombers and group attacks were introduced in 2009. Drone attacks were intensified and so were target killings in Balochistan and Karachi.
In order to keep the judiciary subservient, the ruling regime was emphatically told not to restore the sacked judges led by chief justice Iftikhar. Shahbaz Sharif’s Ministry in Punjab which was relatively stable was brought down and Governor Rule imposed on Washington’s direction in early 2009. Restoration of judges and Punjab government was not to the liking of plot makers. After the enactment of Af-Pak policy in March 2009, which heralded the beginning of the final phase against Pakistan’s strategic assets and passage of Kerry-Lugar Bill, large number of under cover CIA operatives mostly belonging to US Special Forces made their way into Pakistan in 2010. Their inflow increased in second half of 2010 as a result of removal of all security checks by ISI and Special Police. Raymond Davis who had earlier on been deported due to his shady activities also managed to sneak back. By end 2010 an effective countrywide CIA-Blackwater network duly connected with militant groups and criminal gangs had become operational. Roadmaps leading to various defence installations and nuclear sites had been prepared.
This network provides the local militants intelligence and intimate guidance of marked target areas. Its ramifications came to light after the arrest of Raymond but also led to intensification of CIA-ISI rivalry and nose-diving of Pak-US relations. Till April, the militants targeted mostly soft targets in cities to create harassment and fear among the public and to accentuate problems of security forces and intelligence agencies. Mosques, worship places and markets were targeted to pitch Islamists against Islamists and defame Islam.
Helicopter assault on 02 May duly assisted by CIA base in Abbottabad was executed to achieve multiple objectives. The foremost was to restore declining popularity of Obama and US military in the eyes of Americans in particular and world in general. Second; lower the image of Army, air force and ISI that had risen high and to discredit the three institutions in the eyes of the public. Former CIA Director Panetta who had crossed swords with Lt Gen Pasha on several occasions had sworn to teach him a lesson. Third; embarrass Pakistan and to put it in a tight corner, leaving it with little space to defy US dictates.
Having created the desired effects through media and Congressmen, US high officials visited Islamabad and further harassed the already hassled leadership by conveying that Pakistan would from now on be judged by its acts and deeds. To give heart to the fainting leaders, the visitors gave a clean chit to them saying that they were not directly involved in hiding OBL but there was a support group inside Pakistan which had protected OBL. This certification was music to the ears of our leaders. Feeling relieved, they readily agreed to let CIA inspect the Abbottabad House compound where OBL lived, hand over the tail of the destroyed Blackhawk helicopter, launch an operation in NW and to conduct joint operations to eliminate terrorists. These concessions were doled out in violation of the spirit of 14 May unanimous resolution of the parliament.
Mehran Naval Base attack was executed on 22 May to dishearten the navy, to shatter the confidence of the people in armed forces and to completely demoralize the nation. Among several hypotheses, one of the assumptions was an attack conducted by Ilyas Kashmiri group. If so, he has been reportedly killed on 04 May fearing that he may spill the beans. Apparently 02 May and 22 May incidents were also intended to create divisions within forces by suggesting that there were sympathizers and supporters of al-Qaeda and Taliban in each service and intelligence agency and that there was an urgent need to purge such undesirable elements. Mehran Base attack is a prelude to many more suchlike attacks since it seems that the conspirators have now started the final destructive stage to hit hardened military installations including nuclear sites.
In continuation of ISI bashing, Human Rights Watch and western media has come out with another wacky story that the ISI was behind the unfortunate murder of eminent and bold journalist Syed Salim Shehzad. Had it been so, he would have been taken to KP or FATA and not towards Sarai Alamgir? It seems to be a clear cut case of Blackwater which is ever ready to exploit a situation whenever any person makes several enemies and becomes prominent. ISI’s plate is already full to the brim and would be mad if it buys another headache for itself. The situation assumes greater curiosity and mystification after expression of deep concern by high US officials like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton on his death.
While the people have not come out of the shock of two attacks in May, the foreign and local media is adding to their apprehensions by floating rumor balloons of despondency and trying to undermine the capabilities of armed forces. An impression is being created that the military is incapable of safeguarding our vital interests. There is a very small segment that still talks good of USA otherwise great majority distrusts USA and suspect that it will again strike Pakistan to denuclearize it. They are not convinced with John Kerry assurances that the US is not interested in Pak nukes particularly after NATO Secretary General’s statement that it is the collective responsibility of international community to secure nuclear assets of Pakistan.
Stories of our nukes falling into wrong hands have begun to reappear in western media. Despite multi-layered system of security evolved by Pakistan which is second to none, doubts are still being aired by vested interests that Pakistan’s nuclear program is unsafe and needs to be secured. Pakistan Army managed to get out of the deathtrap laid by its adversaries in Swat and SW. They have now prepared another deadly deathtrap in NW and are once again trying to lure in Pak Army with a hope that this time it will get trapped. It is only when major portion of our combat divisions get embroiled in the war in northwest that India will make its Cold Start doctrine operational on the weakened eastern front. Coming months are fraught with extreme dangers but our rulers are naively thinking that after John Kerry and Hillary Clinton’s visit worst is over. In my view the worst is yet to come.
While I am quite confident that our security forces would be able to thwart all hostile attempts made on our nuclear arsenal and delivery means and will also be able to safeguard the frontiers against foreign aggression, what I am worried is that we have still not identified our foes and taken preventive measures. Unless we guard against the designs of our foes pretending to be friends, we will not be able to confront the worst threat which is staring into our eyes and has got closer to our vital ground.