Armed forces invincible: Asif

October 7, 2010

KARACHI (Online) – In yet another farewell meeting, General Tariq Majid, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee on Wednesday called on President Asif Ali Zardari at the Presidential Camp, Bilawal House.

Sources informed Online that the meeting lasted for quite a while. On the occasion, President Zardari highly lauded the gigantic services of General Majid, terming him invaluable for the Army. He opined that General Tariq has played a major role in consolidation and modernisation of the Armed Forces. Gen Majid thanked President Zardari, saying that undoubtedly Pak Army will continue to bring laurels in the country. He told President Zardari that during his three-year term, he was given full cooperation and he will remember it.


July deadliest month of Afghan war for U.S

August 2, 2010

By Katherine Tiedemann

Wonk Watch: The Pakistani Army’s changing officer corps, by Shuja Nawaz and C. Christine Fair (Journal of Strategic Studies).

Bloods on the hands

Investigators have reportedly found concrete evidence linking Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst already charged with leaking classified information about Iraq to Wikileaks, to the Wikileaks Afghanistan disclosures (WSJ). U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the FBI has been called in to help with the investigation, and criticized the disclosures, saying, “The battlefield consequences of the release of these documents are potentially severe and dangerous for our troops, our allies and Afghan partners, and may well damage our relationships and reputation in that key part of the world” (BBC, AP, Reuters, NYT, Tel, Times).

A Taliban spokesman has said the group is examining the Wikileaks documents, commenting of the names of Afghan informants in the disclosures, “If they are U.S. spies, then we know how to punish them,” as chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen asserted that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange “can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family” (Tel, Wash Post, Channel 4).

Some of the Wikileaks documents reportedly suggest al-Qaeda may have planned 9/11-style attacks in 2009 on Hamid Karzai’s presidential palace, NATO headquarters in Kabul, British and U.S. embassies, and the Ariana hotel (Guardian, Times, FT). The reports, however, are imprecise and categorized as “C3,” meaning the information was “possibly true” and the source was regarded as “fairly reliable” (Guardian).

Yesterday, the Obama administration’s Afghanistan-Pakistan team met for the seventh time and reportedly focused little on the Wikileaks disclosures, instead focusing on the recent Kabul conference, U.S.-Pakistan dialogue, and a briefing from top commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus (USAT, VOA). Gen. Petraeus reportedly made his first visit to the southern province of Helmand earlier this week, where British, U.S., and Afghan forces have just launched the biggest operation of the summer, Operation Tor Shezada (“Black Prince”) (Pajhwok, Tel, BBC). The 6,000-person town of Saidabad is the last population center fully under Taliban control in central Helmand (Channel 4). In neighboring Kandahar, continued insecurity and threats of Taliban assassination have made it difficult to fill local government positions (AP).

South and north

July is now the deadliest month ever for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as 63 soldiers have been killed so far, surpassing last month’s record of 60 fatalities (AP, BBC). Coalition commanders had warned that casualties would rise as forces make moves against Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan.

In the northern Afghan province of Baghlan, the Taliban continue to make inroads: in June, a group of 80 Taliban fighters briefly gained control of a bazaar in one of the troubled districts; have since blocked many roads in the district; and have ordered the closure of local cell phone towers at night (NYT). The area’s corrupt judiciary, lack of government services, and ethnic differences have all been exploited by the Taliban.

And Karen DeYoung reports that the “Afghan First” program designed to give Afghans contracting jobs to support U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, rather than promoting small and medium business and spreading the wealth, may be enriching traditional power brokers and creating new ones instead (Wash Post).

The crashing waves

As many as 320 people have been killed in the last three days of severe flooding triggered by monsoons across Pakistan, with Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa the hardest hit province (AP, AFP, Geo, Dawn, ET, Daily Times, BBC). Pakistani officials say the floods are the worst in 80 years; hundreds of thousands of people have been affected.

A poll released yesterday at the New America Foundation by the Pew Global Attitudes Project surveyed 2,000 Pakistanis about concerns about the extremist threat in the country, views of foreign powers, aid from the United States, Pakistani domestic politics, drone strikes, and other topics (Pew, AJE, AP, BBC). The headline finding is that Pakistanis are less concerned about a potential Taliban takeover of Pakistan than they were last year. Bonus watch: discussion of the poll with Steve Coll and Andrew Kohut (NAF).

Pakistan’s Daily Times reports that 10 people were killed yesterday in Kurram in northwest Pakistan after Shia men attacked a Sunni village, and Dawn writes that 12 militants were killed by security forces in central Kurram (Daily Times, Dawn).

Flashpoint

Indian forces opened fire on a crowd of rock-throwing anti-India protesters in the summer capital of Indian Kashmir earlier today, wounding two (AP, PTI). A police officer said the separatist protesters had marched on the main road in the Chanapora neighborhood of Srinagar; security forces also used tear gas to quell the protests.

A big deal

The department of education in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province has started a program to offer free health care to 6,500 teachers (Pajhwok). The program could be extended to include the families of teachers in the future.


US delivers 4 overhauled Mi-17 helicopters to Pak

July 15, 2010

ISLAMABAD (PTI): The US has delivered four refurbished Mi-17 helicopters to the Pakistan Army.

The overhaul programme, carried out at an American facility, provides critical support to the Pakistan Army by expediting maintenance and returning urgently needed aircraft for flight operations, the US embassy said in a statement.

The US has funded maintenance overhauls for 24 Mi-17s in Pakistan Army, 12 of which were completed and returned to Pakistan last year.

The remaining eight helicopters are scheduled for delivery later this year.

The US is coordinating with the Pakistan Army to fund overhauls for another ten Mi-17s, and recently delivered to them two Bell 412 helicopters.

Another 13 Cobra gunship helicopters have been procured for use as spare parts to further enhance the Pakistan Army’s aviation operations.

Since 2001, the US has provided more than $12 billion to Pakistan in security assistance, training and equipment, which includes $8.1 billion reimbursed from the Coalition Support Fund.

Other security assistance delivered to Pakistan has included three F-16 Block 52 fighter aircraft to the Pakistan Air Force, an additional 14 F-16 fighter aircraft delivered to the PAF in 2008, five fast patrol boats to the Maritime Security Agency, two P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft for the Pakistan Navy, 115 M109A5 Howitzer self-propelled field artillery cannons and more than 450 vehicles for Pakistan’s Frontier Corps.


Afghan Taliban deny being supported by Pakistan

June 17, 2010

By BILL ROGGIO

The Taliban’s executive council has denied a recent report that stated the Pakistani military and government provides direct support to the Afghan group.

In a statement released on it website, the Voice of Jihad, the Afghan Taliban described a study released by the London School of Economics as “a merely baseless propaganda launched to promote British and American interests” and “a dictated drama of the political rulers of the West.”

The Taliban claimed that it is fighting the US and Afghan governments with the support of the people in Afghanistan and that it has no need for Pakistani support.

“The current Jihad and resistance against the invaders are being led by the leadership of the Islamic Emirate based inside Afghanistan – obviously with the help and support of the Afghan Mujahid people,” the statement read. “The enemy itself admits, the Islamic Emirate has control over 70% of the Afghan soil. The Islamic Emirate does not need to have such councils outside the country in order to continue the current popular resistance.”

The Afghan Taliban have long attempted to portray their movement as a localized, nationalist insurgency seeking only to restore the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, and they did so again in yesterday’s statement denying links to Pakistan. “The present resistance is completely an home-grown Afghan Islamic resistance against the aggression of the invaders,” the statement read.

The Taliban said that it wasn’t “rational” for the Pakistani government to back them as Pakistan has declared its support of the US and that “manifestations and impact of their support would have categorically become visible.” The Afghan Taliban offered no criticism of Pakistan or the Pakistani military, however, while repeatedly lashing out at the US, Britain, and NATO.

The London School of Economics report, titled “The Sun in the Sky: The Relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan Insurgents,” was released last weekend and created a stir as it accused the Pakistani military, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, and even the Pakistani government itself of providing support across the spectrum for the Taliban.

“Interviews strongly suggest that support to the Afghan insurgency is official ISI policy,” the paper stated.”It appears to be carried out by both serving and former officers, who have considerable operational autonomy.”

The London School of Economics report even claimed that top political leaders, including Asif Ali Zardari, have met with detained Afghan Taliban leaders and promised to free them as soon as was politically expedient.

Direct Pakistani support for the Taliban has been an open secret for years. The Pakistani government, through the ISI, helped found the Taliban and helped it gain power during the 1990s. Pakistan was one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government.

After the US ousted Mullah Omar from power in 2001 and 2002, the Taliban and al Qaeda regrouped in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan as well as in northwestern Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban teamed up with Pakistani Taliban factions and maintain safe havens and training camps in Pakistan to this day. The Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban’s executive council, is named after the Pakistani city where it is based. The ISI, through the Haqqani Network, is known to have directed suicide operations against the Indian Embassy and other targets in Kabul. Several Pakistani military officers have been detained inside Afghanistan in connection with terrorist attacks on Afghan soil, while numerous Afghan Taliban commanders have admitted to receiving support from the Pakistani military over the past several years.

Full text of the denial of Pakistani support by the Quetta Shura

A Study Team of the London School of Economics has claimed in a report that the intelligence agency of Pakistan has been supporting the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan militarily and logistically. It has claimed that Pakistani intelligence officials practically participate in meetings of the alleged Quetta Council and impose their discretions on members of the Leadership Council.

While considering this report of the London School of Economic as a merely baseless propaganda launched to promote British and American interests, the Islamic Emirate, meanwhile, declares its stand as follows:

1. The military power of the Evil Coalition including American, British and NATO forces have failed to prevent the victorious operations of the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Now they want to utilize their academic and research institutes in the work of the occupation of Afghanistan and for oppression of the Afghan Muslim people. The baseless report of the London School of Economics is a case in point. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan believes, the said report by the so-called research institute is a dictated drama of the political rulers of the West. It is not an investigative report based on facts and reasons, ethically carried out by academic research institute.

2. The current Jihad and resistance against the invaders are being led by the leadership of the Islamic Emirate based inside Afghanistan – obviously with the help and support of the Afghan Mujahid people. The enemy itself admits, the Islamic Emirate has control over 70% of the Afghan soil. The Islamic Emirate does not need to have such councils outside the country in order to continue the current popular resistance.

3. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has always emphasized that the present resistance is completely an home-grown Afghan Islamic resistance against the aggression of the invaders. It is not possible to lead such resistance simply by foreign support instead of the native support of the Afghan masses. Had a foreign support rather than indigenous support , ever played a role in such cases, then the surrogate administration of Karzai has military, espionage, economic and political support of 49 countries, why it has failed to prevent the growing national resistance of the Afghan Mujahid nation despite the support of the foreign invaders that the Administration enjoys?

4. Rulers of the government of Pakistan claim that they are the frontline pioneers of the American ignited war. They have not spared to do whatever was in their capacity to do. Hence, it is not rationale to say that they are supporting the jihad and resistance against the Americans in Afghanistan. Had Pakistan supported the Mujahideen, then manifestations and impact of their support would have categorically become visible.

5. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan openly invites all academic and research institutes, military and intelligence entities of the world including the London School of Economics to come to Afghanistan and behold the ranks of the Islamic Emirate with their own eyes that whether the Afghan gallant people or any foreigner make up the Mujahideen and leaders of the Jihad. Then again, they should check the ranks of the Karzai stooge administration to see whether their leaders are the gallant Afghans or the open enemies of our country and the invaders. After that, they should put, their academic and investigative report conducted on the basis of the ground realities, at the disposal of the public of the world. Had they done so, these academic institutes would have abided by their recognized norms and principles; would have saved their caliber and reputations, and produced useful academic report. At least, it would not have been a fabricated drama, ironically ordered by the arrogant powers.

6. To end, the Islamic Emirate calls on all independent countries of the world, particularly, the neighboring countries to extend their support to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to put an end to the occupation of the arrogants so that our oppressed and suffering countrymen can get rid of the occupation of the tyrants and form an independent system.

Leadership Council

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.


Pak Army’s Contributions in Fight Against Terrorism

April 5, 2010

Spearhead Research

View Full Report Here : PAK ARMY’S CONTRIBUTIONS IN FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM


Role of Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan and Afghan Taliban

March 1, 2010

Brig. Asif Haroon Raja (Retd)

After 9/11, when Gen Musharraf was telephonically coerced by Washington, he quickly gave in to American seven demands. He agreed to side with untrustworthy USA which had a track record of leaving Pakistan high and dry in testing times, and to ditch Taliban regime which was anti-India and pro-Pakistan and had assured Pakistan of safe western border. He took a u turn at a critical time when both were badly in need of Pakistan support.

Musharraf took hasty decisions to change Afghan policy and to fight US war on terror in accordance with the wishes of Washington without taking into account its long term implications. His unwise decision to push the Army into South Waziristan antagonized the tribesmen compelling the defenders of our western border to turn their guns towards Pak Army, seen by them as a mercenary army of USA. It paved the way for our strategic assets in FATA becoming assets for our adversaries. Pakistan continues to suffer the blowback to this day.

Logically and morally, the US should have been highly obliged and indebted to Pakistan’s crucial support and should have gone out of the way to reward Pakistan handsomely for taking such a difficult decision which had grave ramifications for its security. Pakistan suffered grievous losses on social, political, economic and military planes while fighting futile war on terror. In terms of casualties, its losses far outnumber all other countries involved in war on terror. Pakistan having staked its security for protecting US interests was distrusted, maligned, coerced and destabilized. It was accused of double game and not doing enough.

India which did not shed a drop of blood was not only materially rewarded by awarding nuclear and defence deals but also made a strategic partner and given all out help to expand its influence in Afghanistan to emerge as a key player in Afghan affairs. Worst of all, CIA and FBI actively collaborated with RAW to cultivate Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) in FATA, Tehrik-e-Nifaz-Shariat-Muhammadi (TNSM) in Swat and dissident elements within Bugti, Marri and Mengal tribes in Balochistan to create lawlessness. Activities of rebellious forces were supplemented by foreign agents infiltrated from Afghanistan. The US strove to deprive Pakistan of its nukes and its media indulged in defamation campaign.

India is aiding TTP in FATA and BLA-BRA-BLUF in Balochistan. These outfits are being used for multiple purposes. Apart from the main objective of destabilizing Pakistan, these outfits are used for spoiling Pakistan’s relations with its neighbors. Kidnapping and killing of several Chinese officials working on development projects in Balochistan and in FATA were undertaken at the behest of India. Establishment of ETIM, a separatist organization vying for independence of Xingjiang province of China was reportedly based in FATA under the protection of TTP. Likewise, attacks on Imambargahs and targeting of Shia clerics and notables as well as acts of terror in Zahidan province of Iran using Jindollah group from Balochistan were RAW-CIA-MI-6 sponsored to fan Shia-Sunni conflict and to mar Pak-Iran relations. Jindollah’s leader Abdol Malik Regi who has recently been arrested was operating from Afghanistan and Dubai.

The Afghan Taliban should have carried a deep grudge since Pakistan not only betrayed them but also provided air bases, intelligence and logistic support to make US invasion successful. Pakistan is still continuing to make available its soil for transportation of war supplies to ISAF in Afghanistan. Several Taliban leaders including Abdul Salam Zaeef were handed over to USA to earn US goodwill and dollars. Conversely, Afghan Taliban should have joined hands with Pakistani Taliban, both driven by common ideological motivations, to avenge Pakistan’s betrayal. On the contrary they never fired a shot at Pakistan’s security forces. They refused to come to the rescue of beleaguered Hakimullah led militants in October-November 2009, even when the NATO-Afghan forces deliberately left the border facing SW open.

Finding that the US in connivance with India and Israel was playing dirty by indulging in covert operations in FATA, Swat and Balochistan, Pakistan wisely decided not to hound whatever few elements of Afghan Taliban and Haqqani group were present in Waziristan and to concentrate on quislings. In the wake of anti-Pakistan and pro-India Northern Alliance ruling the roost in Kabul and India striving to carve out a principle role for itself in Afghanistan after the departure of USA from the region, Pakistan is justified in keeping discreet contacts with friendly Pashtun Afghan factions.

It is ironic that Pakistan deceived Taliban and supported Karzai regime laden with Northern Alliance elements to earn the goodwill of USA but lost the goodwill of all three. It was greatness of Taliban that they ignored the great betrayal due to which they suffered a great deal and did not take it to their heart. It was black ingratitude of both Karzai led regime and US to deceive Pakistan and befriend India. Had the duo in league with India not played a double game to encircle and harm Pakistan, the latter would not have opened a window for the Taliban.

The coalition forces are fighting a protracted war in Afghanistan for the last eight years with least number of fatalities but they have got tired and weary and their morale has sunk low. The Afghan fighters on the other hand are fighting for the last three decades without any respite and have suffered colossal human and material losses. Still their resolve to continue fighting has not diminished. They show no sign of fatigue or loss of heart nor do they get over awed by the overwhelming numerical, technical, technological and firepower superiority of occupation forces. It is USA that has come down from the high pedestal and is eager to negotiate a deal with Taliban.

While the US has been constantly pressing Pakistan to do more, in actuality it is former that needs to do more. Pakistan Army with bare minimum resources, pitched against foreign trained and well equipped militants and having suffered heavy casualties has performed exceptionally well; high tide of militancy has been decisively enfeebled; morale of all ranks is high and each member is determined to root out the scourge of terrorism. Conversely, US led coalition forces enjoy vast superiority over their rag tag foes in men, material and intelligence resources. Despite being laced with all the advantages and with very low casualty rate, their performance has been dismal.

Near 80% of Afghan territory has been lost to the Taliban despite US leadership self professed claim that entire leadership of Al-Qaeda and Taliban is in Pakistan. US leaders claim that 80% of Taliban are moderate and are prepared to ditch 20% hardcore Taliban led by Mullah Omar. They also say that not more than 100 Al-Qaeda operatives are in Afghanistan. If all these claims are true, why the heavy troop surge and why so much fuss over biggest offensive in Helmand province when the expected opposition is so insignificant? Isn’t it ideal situation for beefed up coalition forces to effectively seal the border through mining, fencing and establishing posts along the border to prevent Pakistan based leaders from influencing the battles in Afghanistan and then deal with the leaderless Taliban and win the war hands down? The woven story to cover up failures needs lot of fine tuning.

Of late there is a noticeable change in the overall demeanor of USA towards Pakistan. It has belatedly dawned upon the US military that victory is not possible and safe withdrawal is the only realistic course of action left. They have realized that Pakistan in connivance with Afghan Taliban and not India or Northern Alliance would be able to arrange an honorable exit. But for this changed security situation, the US would not have changed its offensive posture towards Pakistan.

Subtle shift in US policy is not because of change of heart but because of self serving expediency. Pakistan should therefore remain wary of American moves rather than feeling euphoric that it has regained trust and confidence of USA. Under no circumstances should Pakistan hand over recently nabbed Afghan Taliban leaders like Mullah Ghani Baradar, Maulvi Kabir, Mulla Abdul Salam and Mulla Mir Muhammad either to USA or to Afghanistan since it will bring back the memories of black deeds of Musharraf. Ajmal Kasab being Pakistani national is in Indian captivity since November 2008 and has not been handed over to Pakistan. Why should Pakistan be in a hurry to hand over Afghan captives to Afghanistan ruled by US installed puppet regime whose days are numbered? After the withdrawal of foreign forces, if God forbid another bout of internecine war takes place in Afghanistan, it will not be among the Pashtuns but possibly between Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns in which the former would emerge victorious. It is therefore a strategic compulsion of Pakistan to keep the Afghan Pashtuns friendly. They must not be betrayed again.

Unlike Afghan Taliban, the TTP does not have a strong cause. While the former are fighting against occupation forces and US installed Afghan regime and US trained so-called Afghan National Army which is national in name only (over 70% are non-Pashtun) to free their country, the TTP are up against Pakistan security forces. They succeeded as long as the people believed that they were better Muslims who wanted to replace un-Islamic parliamentary and judicial systems with Sharia and were genuinely keen to provide cheap and instant justice to the poor. Their barbaric acts of suicide attacks, kidnappings for ransom, slaughtering of captives, targeting mosques, destroying schools and denying women rights created serious doubts in the minds of the people since these practices went against the teachings of Islam. They still remained in two minds since they had got utterly disgusted with the role of parasitic rulers and rich class totally callous and insensitive towards the poor. Absence of justice and extreme poverty had driven them to a state of hopelessness and despair. They prayed for a healthy change and thought that the Taliban might redress their grievances and make their lives better.

The people felt ebullient when a treaty was inked in Swat in February 2009 for the establishment of Islamic courts in Swat and Malakand Division in return for Fazlullah militants giving up militancy. Amidst rejoicing by the people of Swat, the detractors of Pakistan unhappy with the changed security situation nudged Maulana Sufi to declare that he didn’t believe in Pakistan’s constitution, democracy and legal system. As if this bomb shell was not enough, Swat militants joined by Uzbek and Tajik fighters gave a new twist to the situation when they entered Lower Dir and Buner and started harassing the public. Western media upped the ante by raising alarm bells that the militants were too close to Islamabad and might takeover the capital city as well as nukes. These unprovoked offensive acts brought a sudden change in the perceptions of the people and for the first time they saw the other side of face of TTP and TNSM. Sufi-Fazlullah threw away the battle they had won through imprudent acts. From that time onwards, public support veered towards the Army.

Once the people saw with their own eyes the connection of RAW, CIA and Mossad with Swat militants and also learnt that several Imams of mosques as well as sizeable numbers of Taliban fighters were Hindus posing as Muslims, their revulsion for fake Taliban espousing the cause of Islam got intense. They vacated their houses to let the troops deal with foreign paid militants without any let and hindrance and to restore the pristine tranquility of Swat once again. Nearly 2.5 million people got displaced but the people of NWFP bore the brunt of 80% IDPs by sharing their homes and resources smilingly. They bore the economic burden at a time when prices of daily commodities had sky rocketed, there were no jobs and load shedding was at its peak.

Encouraged by the response of the people, the Army went about performing its tasks in its usual professional manner and succeeded in toppling well entrenched strongholds of the militants in Swat within -weeks as against the estimated timeframe of -weeks. Roaring success of operation Rah-e-Rast helped the Army to seize initiative and brought a happy change in the overall security environment. Going by the military principle of maintenance of momentum, the Army kept the militants on the run giving them no respite to rest and refit. Riding on the crest of success, the Army leadership took the critical decision of locking horns with the main base of TTP in South Waziristan (SW) where it was the strongest.

With active foreign support spread over several years, late Baitullah had filled up hundreds of unapproachable caves and tunnels with all sorts of sophisticated arms, explosives and ammunition. Some tunnels were converted into field hospitals while house compounds were utilized for training. Factories producing IEDs, suicide jackets and other gadgets were in operation. Militants were equipped with high-tech telephone and wireless sets and jamming devices. Hiace and toyata hilux vehicles were in plenty to move from one place to another. The two flanks of Mehsud belt were well protected by Ahmedzai Wazirs under Maulvi Nazir within SW and Othmanzai Wazirs under Gul Bahadur along with Haqqani network in North Waziristan. Baitullah’s successor Hakimullah Mehsud had 10,000 fighters and 2000 foreigners. Terrain and weather together with home ground also suited the militants. Despite enjoying all these advantages, Pak Army took just -weeks as against stipulated time of -weeks to uproot TTP defences and is holding the captured ground with absolute firmness.

The writer is a retired Brig and a freelance defence analyst who contributes regularly for local and foreign newspapers.


Altaf Hussain’s Misperception about Balochistan

January 29, 2010

Sajjad Shaukat

Every responsible politician of the country knows that Pakistan has been facing multiple crises of grave nature in wake of suicide attacks and target-killings. At this critical juncture, instead of emphasizing national unity, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Chief Altaf Hussain said on January 19 that there are “plotters who are bent upon sowing the seeds of hatred between the Baloch and the MQM…these conspirators are trying to pit the Baloch against the MQM.” Under this misperception, he further alleged, “Balochistan is a province and should not be treated like a colony.” Ignoring ground realities, he also demanded that the military operation should be brought to an immediate end. Especially, it was his is telephonic address to eminent Baloch personalities whose sympathies, Altaf wants to gain at the cost of Pakistan.

Altaf’s address evoked an instant reaction a participant who drew his attention to the Gutter Bagheecha dispute between the Baloch of Karachi and the MQM in which noted Baloch persons were shot dead.

At the same time, while urging the government and the rebel Baloch nationalists to resolve differences through dialogue, MQM leader left no stone unturned in manipulating the drastic situation of Balochistan where terrorist events such as attacks on government buildings, kidnappings, blowing the gas pipelines and target-killings have become a routine matter.

In fact, through his duplicity, Altal Hussain has been implementing the shrewd diplomacy of Machiavelli who advises the leaders to have a lion-like image outwardly, and act upon the traits of goat inwardly. In his sense, a good leader should be a good opportunist. Although Machiavelli suggests this cunning diplomacy in order to protect the overall interests of the state, yet Altaf has started applying the same for disintegration of Pakistan’s federation.

However, the main of Altaf Hussain’s statement was to give an indirect signal to the separatist elements so as to intensify their anti-Pakistan move.

As regards the province of Balochistan, we cannot blame MQM chief without some concrete evidence. In this regard, silence of Altaf over the foreign conspiracy against Balochistan clearly shows that he is encouraging the anti-state elements, and his integrity is doubtful.

It is notable that in 2008, Pakistan’s government had launched a successful approach of reconciliation particularly with the Baloch landlords. The level of violence had fallen to the minimum. It was in these circumstances that the then Corps Commander, Lt-Gen Khalid Shamim Wyne had claimed on November 9, 2008, “We have moved from the insurgency phase to the reconciliation phase, however, if foreign elements continue to infiltrate in Balochistan, they could stir trouble and undermine our efforts to restore peace.” His observation proved quite true as covert support to the militants by the secret agencies like Indian RAW, Israeli Mossad and Afghanistan’s Khad with the tactical aid of American CIA succeeded in sabotaging the peace process in Balochistan.

It is of particular attention that after meeting the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit at Sharm el-Sheikh, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani remarked on July 18, 2009 that during the talks, he also raised the issue of Indian interference in Balochistan.

In this context, on April 23 last year, in the in-camera sitting of the Senate, Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik displayed documentary evidence of Indian use of Afghanistan to create unrest in Balochistan. The main aim of in-camera session was also to show the engagement of CIA against Pakistan.

In the recent past, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi have openly stated that India and some external elements are backing the Baloch separatists. During the ongoing military operations, ISPR spokesman, Maj-Gen. Athar Abbas, while showing to the media larger quantity of arms and ammunition, revealed that foreign hands has been helping the insurgents of the Frontier Province and especially those of Balochistan.

Apart from the above facts, as to why MQM chief is taciturn in relation to the external plot against Balochistan which is part of the conspiracy against Pakistan because the latter is the only Islamic nuclear state-not tolerated by the US, India and Israel. In this respect, by covertly backing the Baloch nationalist leaders, foreign elements have been fulfilling a number of covert designs. While foreign agents kidnap and kill the political leaders in Balochistan and elsewhere, but Baloch people, openly, accuse Pakistan’s intelligence agencies in this context. This is what these external plotters intend to achieve. Another purpose is to gain the sympathies of Baloch general masses for Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) which has been fighting for secession of the province. In this regard, on July 23, 2008, Akber Bugti’s grandson, Brahmdagh Bugti told the BBC that they had the right to accept arms from anywhere including India.

There is another CIA and Indian-supported separatist group, Jundollah (God’s soldiers) which is also working against the cordial relationship of Pakistan with China and Iran. In the past few years, its militants with the cooperation of foreign agents kidnapped and killed many Chinese and Iranian nationals in Pakistan.

In this regard, question arises as to why MQM leader Altaf did not issue any statement about the involvement of RAW and other foreign agencies which are tying to separate Balochistan in order to fulfill their anti-Pakistan aims.

The unrest actually started in Balochistan when various projects such as construction of Gwadar Deep Sea Port, Mekran Coastal Highway, IPI gas project etc. were undertaken by the previous government to develop the backward regions of the province. The sole aim was to eliminate frustration among the people by providing infrastructure and employment opportunities.

The Baloch Sardars (feudal lords) who are being backed by external powers started opposing all the developmental projects. These Sardars who were running their own private jails and ‘farrari camps’ resisted the government plans as they did not want to give up the old system of feudal lords, which the world had witnessed during the Middle Ages. However, Baloch Sardars became hostile towards any initiative which could give a greater blow to their so-called prestige entailing brutalities, being perpetrated on the innocent people. These Sardars contacted the foreign elements which were already conspiring against Pakistan.

Meanwhile, MQM chief’s opposition to the military operation in Balochistan is quite illogical. It was Pak Army which eliminated the farrari camps and private jail of the Baloch Sardars, and thus set free hundreds of innocent people.

Notably, as to why strategic game, being played by India and America is not known to Altal Hussain who does not take cognizance of the fact that Balochistan with its ideal geo-strategic location with Gwadar seaport could prove to be Pakistan’s key junction, connecting rest of the world with Central Asia. It is due to multiple strategic benefits that the US which signed a nuclear deal with India in 2008, intends to control Balochistan as an independent state in counterbalancing China and containing Iran. Owing to these reasons, Washington and New Delhi are creating instability in Pakistan by supporting Baloch separatists to complete their hidden agenda.

In that backdrop, on October 15, 2008 Pakistan and China signed eleven agreements to enhance bilateral cooperation in diverse sectors including energy, trade and space technology. China also agreed to supply two nuclear reactors to Pakistan. From time to time, both Beijing and Islamabad conclude various agreements to further strengthen their mutual cooperation.

Besides silence of Altaf on the kidnappings and killings of Iranians and Chinese engineers in the last three years also displays his double standard which itself indicates that he is only deepening rift between the people of Balochistan and the Centre.

It is noteworthy that on August 8, 2007, Major (Retd) Tanvir Hussain, the parliamentary secretary for defence accused the American CIA of killing Chinese nationals in Pakistan to harm the cordial relations between Islamabad and Beijing.

Despite the recently announced Balochistan package, and the settlement of issues, relating to National Finance Commission in favour of Balochistan by the government, Altaf Hussain’s misperception is not without sinister designs. He may criticise the policies of the government to increase his vote bank, but in order to get the sympathies of the Baloch by encouraging them through his own self-assumed perceptions amounts to incitement of the Baloch people for secession which in fact proves his conspiracy against Pakistan.


Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan in disarray

September 10, 2009

By Asif Haroon Raja

Baitullah Mehsud caught public eye after the death of Abdullah Mehsud in July 2007. Within a short period of five months little known Baitullah managed to spread his influence in all seven tribal agencies of FATA and established Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in December 2007.

After nominating commanders in each tribal Agency, he then began to spread his sway in neighboring settled districts of NWFP and created his tentacle under Afridi in Darra Adamkhel. Links were established with militants in Southern Punjab as well. In early 2008, Fazlullah, heading TNSM in Swat got himself affiliated with TTP and declared his allegiance to Baitullah. Taliban commanders brooked no dissent and under the garb of Islam pursued ruthless policies to eliminate their opponents and to terrorize locals.

TTP made Pak Army and not occupation forces in Afghanistan its chief target. Massive funds, armaments and guidance were provided by their patrons in Afghanistan to enable them to pay handsome salaries to their fighters, suicide bombers and handlers, win over neutrals and to confront the Army. Knowing their love for big money, CIA and RAW drenched them in pool of dollars to make them dance to their tunes. In order to build up image of Baitullah, Times magazine of early 2008 placed him among 100 most influential people of the world. Newsweek described him more dangerous than Osama bin Laden.

From June 2008 onward, focus of attention of US leaders shifted towards FATA. It was described as a breeding ground of terrorists and suicide bombers where top leadership of Al-Qaeda were housed and from where cross border terrorism into Afghanistan was taking place. It was declared as most dangerous place and hub of Al-Qaeda; Bush as well as Obama and other senior US-Nato military leaders maintained that unless FATA was neutralized, turbulence in Afghanistan could not be controlled. Pakistan came under tremendous pressure to do more to control militancy.

Pak army and ISI were accused of being linked with Taliban. Ignoring its own dismal failures, Pak army was ridiculed that it was incapable of confronting extremists challenge. US military adopted an aggressive posture and drone attacks were intensified in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) and South Waziristan Agency (SWA). Angoor Adda in SWA became chief target where a security post was plastered and a ground raid was carried out by Marines in September 2008. Reason for ire was that unlike Baitullah led Taliban, fighters of Hafiz Gul Bahadur in NWA and Maulvi Nazir in SWA preferred to wage Jihad in Afghanistan.

The new Af-Pak policy was formulated by USA in which area astride Pak-Afghan border of two neighboring countries was made into single battleground. It included eastern and southern Afghanistan, FATA and Pashtun belt of Balochistan. While Pak Army was nudged to intensify its operations in Bajaur, Swat and Waziristan, US-Nato forces duly beefed up with additional 21000 US troops from Iraq planned to launch decisive hammer to eliminate all extremists elements within dangerous battle zone.

US top leaders repeatedly expressed their intention to step into FATA to hunt for wanted leaders of Al-Qaeda and Mullah Omar and exerted pressure on Pakistan to accept the plan of joint operations. Pak military leadership put its step down and made it clear that it would not accept any intrusion of foreign troops on its territory.

Plot thickened when on 14 April, Holbrooke secretly met Gulbadin Hikmatyar, former blue-eyed of CIA. The US is still actively pursuing option of taking moderate Taliban on board and to pitch Taliban against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. In the wake of dangerous designs of Af-Pak strategy, Baitullah saw through the double game of USA and considered it prudent to swear allegiance with Mullah Omar and accept him as Ameer-ul-Momineen. He forged an alliance with Maulvi Nazir, Haji Gul Bahadur and with Maulana Faqir Muhammad in Bajaur Agency.

This declaration irked USA and on March 26, 2009, FBI declared Baitullah most wanted terrorist linked with Al-Qaeda and announced $5 million head money. Earlier on, USA had declared bounty of $25 million each for Osama and Zawahiri, and $10 million for Mullah Omar. Pakistan followed suit and announced reward of Rs 50 million for Baitullah on 27 June. It had also announced reward money for 21 absconding leaders of Swat chapter of Taliban under Fazlullah. Baitullah’s inability to come to the rescue of Fazlullah, or to activate South Waziristan front because of his declining health and shrinking liberty of action were other reasons of American displeasure. His boast to attack Washington and claim that his men had undertaken terrorist attack in a village near New York further antagonized them.

His position in Shrawangai village was hit by drone for the first time on 14 February 2009, which caused reunification of two bitter rivals Maulvi Nazir and Baitullah but split off Qari Zainuddin Mehsud from Baitullah. Zain belonging to Baitullah clan joined hands with Haji Turkistan Bhittani in Tank and the two decided to jointly battle Baitullah.

On 7 April, Nazir who had all along remained pro-government accused the Army of planting homing devices on local militant leaders for destruction by drones. When the Army refused to rely on him and did not remove check posts in his area of influence, he became non-cooperative and started to play a double game. When troops in South Waziristan started creeping forward towards Baitullah area to encircle him, it became essential for CIA to eliminate him before he got captured or voluntarily joined hands with the Army since latter knew the whole game plan of USA.

From the time CIA had started using drones as a means to intimidate people of FATA, disrupt peace deals between Army and militants and to stoke resentment against the government, it had never targeted Baitullah’s strongholds. On three occasions, six figure grid reference of his location was given but he was not targeted. US selective use of drones against pro-government elements had become a cause of friction. Once Baitullah became a liability for CIA and it feared that he may be captured by security forces or he himself may spill the beans about activities of CIA in FATA, it was decided to eliminate him.

Mounting suspicions of Pakistanis of its secret alignment with Baitullah had also to be dispelled. These considerations impelled USA to give a green signal for his elimination. First serious attempt was made in June and the other in July. On both occasions, missiles missed Baitullah. He was finally targeted on 5 August in the house of his father-in-law Ikramuddin where he had gone to spend a night with his second wife.

His death led to reprisals in form of killing of Ikramuddin and seven other family members. His sudden departure created leadership crisis since each of the top contenders Hakimullah Mehsud, Waliur Rehman, Maulvi Faqir Muhammad and Qari Hussain thought he was better than others to takeover reins of TTP.

Although Hakimullah has been pronounced the new TTP chief, there are veritable reports that he had got killed in a gun battle with Waliur-Rehman in August and an imposter (probably his brother) had been presented to media. None of them enjoy authority and standing as that of Baitullah to keep TTP as a single entity. Successful operation of Army in Swat and its pro-active role against militants in other areas has otherwise severely curtailed liberty of action of TTP and is on the defensive.

When Maulvi Nazir got besieged, he signed accord with all other sub-tribes of Ahmadzai Wazirs on 3 September and pledged to cooperate with Army. While situation in Swat to a large extent has been normalized, ongoing operation in Khyber Agency against Mangal Bagh and TTP is producing good results. It is likely that Army would exploit ongoing disarray of Mehsud Taliban in South Waziristan and strike in coming weeks.

- Asian Tribune -


Something has gone terribly wrong

July 28, 2009

By Asif Haroon Raja

The belligerent attitude and wrongs of India has bred extremism in the region. Dozens of separatist movements and insurgencies in India and in occupied Kashmir are testimony to immoral and unjust Indian policies which Indian leaders have stubbornly pursued and refused to correct them.

All told, there are 42 separatist movements, insurgencies and terrorist groups in India. As per an American Think Tank Report, in the light of separatist and insurgent movements and terrorist networks, India is the most dangerous country in the world. Manmohan Singh has admitted this hard reality. It is the sole country in the world wherein its military is closely linked with Hindu terrorist groups.

Indian ruling elite is so obsessed with pompous plans of turning India into a world power that human misery doesn’t prick their conscience. While maintaining a black record of human rights against Indian minorities of other religions and blatantly meddling into internal affairs of all its neighbors with impunity, it brazenly makes allegations against its neighbors and hurls threats to cover up its own crimes against humanity. As a result of its high-handedness, treachery, policy of intimidation and blackmail, it is the most mistrusted and hated country in South Asia. It is because of Indian selfishness and conceit that South Asia has lagged behind as compared to other regions.

Indo-Pak relations got estranged in the aftermath of Mumbai incident in November 2008 and disrupted composite dialogue as well as diplomatic engagement between two countries. Age-old antagonism that had been apparently suppressed resurfaced with full intensity during last eight months. India adopted a fractious and unbending posture and continued to blame Pakistan for Mumbai attacks without providing concrete evidence. It stubbornly stuck to its unfair stance that unless Pakistan punished the culprits named by Indian authorities and dismantled anti-Indian terrorist network in Pakistan, resumption of talks would be out of question. Contrary to Indian mulishness, Pakistan adopted a conciliatory stance. It offered to investigate the case jointly and promised to punish perpetrators of crime after they were proven guilty in court of law. For the satisfaction of India, Hafiz Saeed and other members of Jamat-ud-Dawa and two other allied religious outfits were arrested and their bank accounts frozen. Pakistan raised some genuine queries on so-called dossier furnished by India which was full of loopholes. After an inordinate delay, half-baked answers were provided leaving far too many lacunas. India felt irritated as to why Pakistan was asking pointing questions or seeking clarifications and desired that it should obey its commands blindly as it responded to US dictates.

Pak army’s operation in Malakand Division and in Waziristan brought no comfort to India since these operations were directed against anti-Pakistan elements and RAW sponsored militants. In fact, focused operations became a cause of discomfiture to them since their elaborate preparations and investment in Swat and adjoining areas since 2005 evaporated in thin air. They had expected Fazlullah led militants to fix the army in Swat valley for next ten years. They were cocksure that IDP issue would remain unmanageable for times to come, having a crippling effect on socio-economic aspects. Led with such fanciful hopes, ailing Manmohan recovering from his heart surgery in May last gurgled with joy that in his assessment Pakistan had become a failed state. He had confided in Obama that Pak nuclear facilities located in NWFP had become vulnerable and were in the grip of militants.. He behaved atrociously with Zardari during their last meeting in Russia where he reiterated Indian position that until Pakistan complied with Indian demands peace talks will not be resumed.

Sudden collapse of Swat front due to bold, imaginative and sound military operation caused a huge set back to Indian designs. Upsurge of image of army in the eyes of the public and even at the international plane, unqualified public support for the army together with return of IDPs to their homes and Baitullah’s defensive posture in South Waziristan went against their plans.

They tried to recover lost ground by instigating Baitullah to dispatch his suicide bombers and hit targets in major cities of Pakistan and also to put up a united front in Waziristan with the help of Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Nazir and to activate other fronts. Much to their dissatisfaction, the duo is reluctant to play their game wholeheartedly because of offensive posture maintained by the army and FC in Waziristan, Bajaur, Mohmand, and other restive areas. Rising casualties of US-Nato troops in Helmand province has made the position of USA delicate; it is now seriously contemplating exit strategy with the help of Taliban. Commendable performance of Pak army made its detractors making wild allegations to chew their words. It also took the heat of chauvinism out of swollen heads of Indian leaders. There is now a slight change in their tone and tenor.

On odd occasions when some of the Indian prime ministers tried to be a little flexible and accommodative, hawks in ruling regime, opposition and establishment made so much of hue and cry that they had to hastily disown whatever commitment made by them with Pakistani leadership. Vajpayee’s role during Agra talks in 2001 was a case in point. Recent example is that of Manmohan meeting with Gilani at Sharm-al-Sheikh. Although it signaled thaw in Indo-Pak relations but shaky Manmohan again made resumption of dialogue subject to fulfillment of specified conditions. It clearly highlighted his lack of confidence to face the hawks on his return.

Interesting part of last interaction between two leaders is that it has been agreed in principle to detach Kashmir and terrorism from composite dialogue. If Kashmir is excluded, whole purpose of dialogue gets defeated. As regards terrorism, India has been caught red handed indulging in sabotage and subversion in FATA, Swat and Balochistan. Pakistan has collected ample evidence to prove Indian involvement. Now when the time has come to put India on the mat, we seem to be ready to graciously accept Indian demands of excluding terrorism and thus bailing it out. Our leaders are probably seeing it from a narrow periscope of Mumbai incident only about which India has no means to prove its false allegations. Otherwise too, India has no moral ground to accuse Pakistan on a charge in which it is heavily involved. Main objective behind Indian belligerence is to once again extract concessions from Pakistan as it had done in January 2004. It would apply maximum pressure to make our leaders agree to completely pulverize Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, to once again give it in writing that Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used for terrorism against Kashmir or India and to forget about Kashmir.

Something has gone terribly wrong. Never before this nation was harassed, persecuted maligned and humiliated in such a manner. Our sovereignty and integrity as an independent nation was never compromised so blatantly. Our leaders howsoever inept and corrupt never became pawns in the hands of foreign powers to an extent of bartering away national interests, dignity and honor of the nation. Our leaders never held traditional adversaries of Pakistan as dear friends and more trustworthy than own people. Never before we compromised on Kashmir dispute since Kashmir has always been regarded as jugular vein of Pakistan. Our leaders never forced our army to kill its own people at the behest of foreign power. Never before our leaders said that the existential threat to Pakistan is not from its arch rival India but from local militants. Our leaders were never frightened of India as of now. Even after gathering foolproof evidence of their involvement in sabotage and subversion activities in a massive way to destabilize and break up Pakistan they remain tightlipped and do not give up policy of appeasement.

- Asian Tribune -


Why Pakistan Will Never Catch Terror Leader Alive

June 29, 2009

The mess in Pakistan’s western areas is not just a battle with religious extremism. A larger part is a battle of proxies. There are credible reports that Indian and Israeli intelligence involvement in U.S.-controlled Afghanistan has deepened in the past seven years. American military and intelligence officials are impressed with the record of both countries in fighting Islamic groups in Kashmir and the Mideast. Israel invested heavily in establishing schools that study the art of Islamic indoctrination. These schools were used to learn how clerics can brainwash recruits and then exploit them politically. Israeli spymasters have used this knowledge to penetrate Islamic groups and plant agents. They have passed this technique on to the Indians to help them counter pro-Pakistan religious groups in Kashmir. In the Kargil war in 1999, Pakistanis and Kashmiris faced a direct Israeli special operations intervention on the side of the Indian military.

By AHMED QURAISHI
Wednesday, 24 June 2009.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-Pakistan will probably never catch terrorist leader Baitullah Mehsud alive. Why? For the same reason that we will never really know why uncircumcised dead fighters have been turning up from the bunkers of what is supposed to be Pakistani Taliban. Or why alcoholic beverages were found from some of their hideouts. Or why citizens of China and Sri Lanka – two close military allies of Pakistan – were brutally attacked on Pakistani soil by people claiming to be fighting America. Or why this new Taliban is so eager to kill ordinary Pakistanis and harass anti-India Kashmiri activists and demand they fight Pakistan.

Similarly we will never know why listed companies like Google and Facebook are speeding up Persian translations of their sites when no profit is involved. [Will their stockholders accept democracy instead of profits?] Or why the government of President Zardari exerted pressure for the removal of the Saudi ambassador in Islamabad. And why the government did not object when the U.S. and other allied donors tried to create a special fund for Balochistan and NWFP with the condition that it operate outside Pakistan’s control. And why the Saudi ambassador strongly opposed the plan when Mr. Zardari’s team almost endorsed it. Could this be one of several reasons why the Saudi ambassador became unwelcome here, received threats to his life and then was unable to meet the President before leaving despite several attempts?

The popular Pakistani understanding of the battle against Baitullah Mehsud is more American than Pakistani. This prevents us from accepting that this insurgency is wrapped in multiple layers of deceit. The entire prevailing narrative of the situation is exclusively American, tailored to suit Washington’s worldview. It talks about a uniform threat of Taliban and al Qaeda with no distinction made between the Afghan Taliban and the new Pakistani version; the American narrative does not explain how or why the ranks of the Pakistani Taliban have been swelling steadily when the Afghan Taliban is not experiencing a similar surge; and why the American narrative suppresses any discussion of Pakistani grievances about an organized anti-Pakistan terror wave emanating from Afghanistan.

The Pakistani counter narrative is missing on the government level and is probably limited to some circles within the Pakistani strategic and intelligence communities. The impression is that the Pakistani government is essentially bartering silence for U.S. aid.

This is a dangerous bargain.

It means that Pakistani officials won’t take a stand on the use of Afghan soil to export terror to Pakistan. In fact, there are strong grounds to conclude that while other parts of the U.S. government engage Pakistan, freewheeling elements within the Central Intelligence Agency are probably conducting their own foreign policy on the ground in the region. The simultaneous trouble in both the Pakistani and Iranian parts of Balochistan is but one case in point.

Another downside to our enthusiasm for U.S. aid money at any cost is our waning ability to resist the upcoming American plan to install India as the resident guardian over Pakistan and Afghanistan. A senior US national security official is expected to bring this plan to Pakistan in the next few days. Islamabad’s obsession with US aid while staying mum on vital Pakistani interest is absurd. Why is Prime Minister Gilani complaining now about the US ‘surge’ in Afghanistan when Mr. Zardari and his foreign minister wasted no time in warmly welcoming it when Mr. Obama unveiled the plan in March?

This explains why Mr. Zardari signed an American-proposed agreement to give India overland trade routes to Afghanistan. No wonder U.S. diplomats in Islamabad are so emboldened that recently some of them spent half the day camped at the federal petroleum ministry to force a rollback of the Iran gas deal.

There are also fresh questions on the extent of support the United States is getting from two of its closest allies India and Israel in Afghanistan. There are credible reports that Indian and Israeli intelligence involvement in U.S.-controlled Afghanistan has deepened in the past seven years. Some American military and intelligence officials are impressed with the record of both countries in fighting Islamic groups, especially the Indian experience in occupied Kashmir. The Israelis have invested heavily in establishing schools that study the art of Islamic indoctrination. These schools were used to learn how clerics can brainwash recruits and then exploit them politically. Israeli spymasters have used this knowledge to penetrate Mideastern Islamic groups. They have passed this technique to the Indians to help them counter pro-Pakistan religious groups in Kashmir. In the Kargil war in 1999, Pakistanis and Kashmiris faced a direct Israeli special operations intervention on the side of the Indian military.

The mess in Pakistan’s western areas is not just a battle with religious extremism. A larger part is a battle of proxies. None of this means that we should treat Washington as an enemy. But it does have an agenda that is increasingly diverging from Pakistan’s strategic interests.


GOING FOR THE KILL

June 25, 2009

By FAROOQ HAMEED KHAN

As General Kayani flew over Waziristan in the rear seat of an F16 high performance fighter interceptor during visit to a PAF operational base few days ago, he did create a record for being the first Army Chief to have ever flown in a fighter aircraft donning the pilot’s special G suit. But more significant was the message sent to militants in general and Baitullah Mehsud in particular that the impending joint Army-PAF offensive in Waziristan would be swift, sure and decisive.

With the US having ‘mysteriously’ or to be more apt , ‘deliberately’ failed in targeting Mehsud in CIA’s drone attacks, despite repeated and accurate intelligence sharing with US agencies, Operation Rah-e-Nijat may well prove to be the coup de grace against Baitullah Mehsud and his followers.

A man of few words, General Kayani’s recent ‘We need no help or advice’ was a stern note to US/ NATO counterparts that Pak Army with PAF’s support is determined to accomplish the needful with their own resources. This becomes more important in the backdrop of alleged CIA/ RAW’s involvement in creating disturbances in Pakistan with Baitullah’s support.

The PAF’s role in Operation Rah-e Nijat will shape the outcome of the Waziristan operation. Like in Swat, where PAF’s precision airstrikes helped destroy Taliban’s command, control, communication (CCC) and training centers in remote mountainous terrain, in Waziristan too, the PAF faces the challenge to neutralize and destroy deep, underground, hardened CCC network of tunnels and bunkers.

Success for the PAF operations lies in fine coordination, planning and sound technical intelligence in finalizing militants’ targets with GHQ and Army’s field formations. PAF’s reliance on ‘shock and awe’ to deliver deep penetration bunker busters and precision laser guided weapons is essential to destroy Baitullah’s vast underground infrastructure and pave the way for a smooth ground offensive. A determined Air Chief radiating an aggressive approach, with his team of highly motivated pilots appears ready to lead the PAF into action.

The argument that the Army needed to consolidate on the Swat front before opening another front so as not to overstretch its resources , does hold some ground. But Operation Rah-e-Rast in Swat is far from being over and is likely to continue in the coming months to hunt the top level Taliban leadership, pursue to kill/ capture the retreating militants and prevent the militants from regrouping and launching hit and run attacks on the security forces. Furthermore sufficient time is required to restore the security environment for the return and rehabilitation of IDPs and for life / business to get back to normal under the Army’s umbrella.

Given that Waziristan is the known center of gravity and Headquarters of the TTP, with almost all recent terrorist attacks in Peshawar, Lahore and Islamabad emanating from this area, coupled with growing public sentiment demanding urgent and decisive steps to prevent such attacks, Operation Rah-e-Nijat therefore becomes inescapable and inevitable.

Like in Swat, the Army must physically capture and occupy all militant strongholds and bases in Waziristan, if militants are to be routed on a permanent basis. With Waziristan’s proximity to the Durand Line and the porous border, the routes of infiltration and reinforcements of men and material from Afghanistan must be blocked. Learning from the Swat experience, minimum collateral damage must be ensured by isolating militants from the local population and the use of precision weapons.

Unlike Swat, however, where the top most rebel commanders appear to have escaped, Rah-e-Nijat must net the top militant leadership in Waziristan ; if this is done the rest will fall easily. But with the element of military surprise washed out earlier in Swat and now in Waziristan, thanks to the country’s top leadership that timed the formal announcements of these operations before their foreign tours, the Army’s job to hunt for Baitullah Mehsud and crush the militants may become increasingly challenging.

As Operation Rah-e-Nijat enters the final preparatory phase, the fast emerging scenario of Baitullah Mehsud’s ex militant comrades supporting the Army’s offensive offer exciting prospects in the short term, leading to more credible intelligence of Baitullah’s rapidly shifting whereabouts and his CCC strongholds. But integration of non state militant actors in state run military operations could spell problems in the future, when the same militant groups would require to be disarmed by the state.

For Operations Rah-e-Rast and Nijat to achieve long term anti militancy objectives and bring lasting peace and stability in FATA and our Frontier province, it is essential to reduce India’s undue influence in Afghanistan. The world must understand that in the past, the Coalition achieved its objectives in Afghanistan against then USSR, while India was in the opposite camp. India’s presence in Afghanistan is unnecessary as the present Coalition forces are resourceful enough to tackle the insurgency in Afghanistan.

If the Coalition’s objective is to support India as a regional power, then the larger goal of eliminating terrorism may be compromised. Reports of US pressures on India to close its notorious Jalalabad Consulate will only partially resolve the issue of Indian sponsored militants’ infiltration from across the Durand Line, unless and until all such ‘consulates network’ is dismantled on priority.

Respected for his professionalism, Operations Rah-e Rast and Nijat remain General Kayani’s ultimate demonstration of military command, strategy and leadership , the results of which profoundly affect the Army’s image and the country’s future. The country , too, should brace itself for another round of terrorist attacks as the militants are forced against the wall.

I am tempted to quote President Zardari’s well coined phrase, ‘failure is indeed not an option’. In sending the Army to Waziristan, the president, too, may rightly have a personal score to settle with Baitullah Mehsud for in BB’s Shahadat the country lost one of its finest leaders.

Operation Rah-e-Nijat may be no easy walkover, but final victory rests on those brave young Army officers and their men who are ever trained ‘Not to question, Why? But to do and Die’.

The writer is a retired Brigadier and Chairman Editorial Board of NATIONAL DEFENCE TIMES
Email: fhkhan54@gmail.com


Nawaz Sharif’s Ramblings: Political Leverage or Puppetry?

June 22, 2009

By Ghalib Sultan

As feared, the strong support for Operation Rah-e-Rast (against Fake-Talibans and extremist miscreants who had been unabashedly maligning the image of Islam and of Pakistan) is threatening to crumble courtesy Mian Nawaz Sharif’s recently articulated ‘worries’ over the offensive in South Waziristan.

By far, the strongest and the most influential political leader, Sharif’s ‘ramblings’ are bound to pass on its ripple-effect over public opinion and can be termed ‘grossly irresponsible’ for many reasons. For one, zig-zagging one’s stance (favoring operation in Swat and somersaulting in Waziristan) while the country is in state of war, carries lethal outcomes and such adventurism is ill-suited for a seasoned politician of his stature to say the least.

Read Complete Article : Nawaz Sharif’s Ramblings: Political Leverage or Puppetry?


Brilliant success in Malakand Division

June 19, 2009

Asif Haroon Raja

The gang of conspirators in Kabul is keeping its fingers crossed and watching unfolding of events in Pakistan with mixed feelings. On one hand they are happy that they succeeded in pushing Pak army into the hellhole in greater strength thereby weakening its military strength in critical eastern sector. They were optimistic that battles on three fronts of Lower Dir, Buner and Swat would be hard nuts to crack, given the state of ground preparations, war munitions and level of motivation of the militants under Fazlullah. They were expecting that once the army got bogged down probably in the valley of Swat where main battle was to be given, it would be impelled to further thin out its strategic reserves. Activation of Upper Dir, Batkhela and Shangla was part of plan to effectively pin down corps plus size force in this region. Thereafter, Bajaur front and possibly Mohmand-Khyber Agencies were to be heated up with Baitullah in South Waziristan providing necessary back up support in addition to regular flow of reinforcement from Kunar and Paktia provinces in Afghanistan. Idea was to get another two division force consumed in Bajaur-Mohmand-Khyber regions.

In their plans, corps plus size force was required in two Waziristans, which would be rekindled at an opportune time, with Khost acting as main logistic base for regular supplies. Balochistan front was also to be triggered to keep 12 Corps committed. To generate maximum heat, Karachi, interior Sindh and northern areas were to be brewed up. Future plan of activating eastern front in coming winter hinged on consumption of 4-5 Corps in counter insurgency operations thereby giving India a definite edge to mount its decisive maneuver resting on Cold Start doctrine. US troops in Afghanistan were to step into FATA under the garb of hot pursuit operations to destroy Al-Qaeda bases.

The Swat militants had planned to give initial battles at Lower Dir and Buner which acted as their Advanced Guard positions and then fight main defensive battle in Swat in which the bloodiest battle was to be fought in twin towns of Mingora and Saidu Sharif. They had planned to fight street battles and house to house battles making civilians as human shields and making good use of Israeli made sniper rifles with range of one km, improvised mines, barricades, mines provided by RAW, American weapons. From last February onwards, they had carried out extensive preparations to convert major towns into fortresses, and vantage points on heights along the funnel shaped valley into strongholds. Last ditch battles were to be fought in depth area of Bahrain , Kalam, Charbagh as fall back positions.

While Indo-US-Israeli nexus had formulated its plan, the army was not sitting idle. It was closely monitoring the fast deteriorating security situation both along the eastern and western border as well as internal situation duly stoked by the masterminds. Notwithstanding repeated assertions by US military and civilian leaders that existential threat to Pakistan was posed by the militants and not by India and that it should shift all its forces from the east to the northwest to save Pakistan from going into the hands of extremist forces, the army under Gen Kayani kept its cool and did not get carried away by the motivated hype. Well-knowing that India was a treacherous enemy and its designs against Pakistan were unchanged, the army shifted some additional troops to beef up effort in Malakand Division but not at the cost of losing strategic balance. Extra force was pumped in to conduct simultaneous attacks against different targets and wind up operation speedily. FC was asked to keep Bajaur under tight watch and to handle Buner at its own which it did commendably well. Additional force for Waziristan was earmarked but not dispatched to conserve upon strategic assets of air and choppers.. Unexpected unfolding of developments took the militants and their patrons by complete surprise. The lightening speed and tenacity with which operation Rah-e-Rast was launched and stunning victories achieved in quick succession flabbergasted them. They could not imagine in their wildest imaginations that the military would hit out at multiple fronts, both against fortified major towns as well as strongholds on mountain peaks simultaneously.

What upset their plans was the sudden and audacious night attack by commandoes led by SSG Commander Maj Gen Haroon preceded by aerial attack on their command HQ at Peuchar where top leadership of Swat Taliban including Fazlullah was housed. It was a daring and brilliant heli-borne commando raid on inaccessible and almost impassable stronghold, which not only disintegrated the command centre, but in all probability eliminated top leadership.

Another wise move made was to seal off withdrawal and supply routes from outside. Collapse of command structure and communication system, destruction of munitions dumps and disruption of supply lines caused the rout. Although all the trouble spots have been taken over by the army, it will take another two months for re-establishment of writ of civil government and for displaced persons to return to their homes. Army is likely stay on in Swat for a year or so but is in a good position to pull out extra troops whenever it wants.

Whereas peace deal had gone against sinister plans of our adversaries, rapid successes made by the military have also not been to their liking. What they wanted was a no-win situation in which both sides should have bled. Change of tide in favor of the military has upset their time-programmed plan to make Pakistan lawless and ungovernable so as to provide an excuse to USA to seek military intervention from UNSC to take over nuclear weapons and safeguard world security. Mass exodus of the people from battle zone was also part of the plan to shift militancy from selected areas of Frontier Region to major cities of Punjab . They had never expected that 80% of 3 million displaced people would be happily accommodated by the people of NWFP and philanthropists and general public would come forward with undying generosity. Punjab government took the lead by providing free flour and other commodities to the affected. In order to put a spanner in the relief work generated from within, pro-India nationalist parties were pumped up to play up threat of Talibanisation and block the entry of IDPs. The suicide brigade and saboteurs have been keyed up to wreck havoc in the cities. Already some incidents have taken place in Lahore , Peshawar , DIK and Upper Dir. Kidnapping of students of Razmak College from Bannu district by Baitullah men was also link of the chain and meant to exert pressure to stop military operations which have constricted their space. Thanks to very prompt and gallant action by the military which helped in rescuing the students and averting a crisis situation.

While the militants are on the run and completely disorganized and their mentors are glum, critics of Pakistan have become mute; praises are coming forth guardedly and sparingly with ifs and buts. Loose talk of escape of militant leaders, collateral damage and plight of stranded people in some areas and of IDPs, militants within IDPs and threat to our nuclear weapons is already in the air, which is likely to gain currency. Our adversaries must be devising new ways to keep the pot of terror steaming.

Liberal brigade of writers will help in promoting new themes of detractors to mar the good work done by the army. While the army has still to do lot of work in some other areas, the government should spring into action and launch socio-politico-economic program with speed and utmost sincerity to win the hearts and minds of the Pashtuns who are feeling neglected and left out. This is absolutely essential to further upset sinister designs of our adversaries.

-The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.


Is it a final showdown?

June 18, 2009

Waqar Ahmed

From the events of PC Peshawar, Jamia Naeemia Lahore and bomb blast of Nowshera, it appears that the militants have decided to stage a final showdown before total collapse. This idea is further augmented from some intercepted conversation among the commanders of the militants, which shows that they have been completely demoralized in resisting the Pak Army. High ranking commanders of the insurgents who are on the pay role of foreign elements are threatening their own fighters in desperation. For example, some Taliban suicide bombers were dispatched to a local commander “Hamzala” from “Haji Gul” who said that the suicide bombers were not allowed to leave their position.

He further said that any body falling back from his position will face serious consequences. Haji Gul said that he will kill the person himself if he runs away from his position.” This state of affairs clearly demonstrates the chaos in Militant’s camps. Setting aside the threats of their high-ranked commanders, demoralized militants have been extremely pressurized, and after losing control over their concerned areas, they are running from their last bastions. All military experts agree that “cohesion is a critical factor in all echelons of war”, for without it, the “organization melts away into disjoined individual parts, each seeking its own interests over the good of the whole”. While judging in these terms, an unending division has been created in the cohesion of Militants. Depressed and demoralized Taliban have been withdrawing from their positions in quick succession. In the recent past, the quick retreat of the insurgents from Buner, Dir, Mingora and other regions has verified this fact. Now, even they feel it difficult to prolong their pocket resistance at some places. Latest reports indicate that majority of the Taliban leaders and commanders belonging to the banned Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) led by Sufi Muhammad and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) headed by Maulana Fazlullah have either been killed, captured or escaped from their respective war zones. Various political analysts have indicated that major failure of the militants of Swat has been the absence of the motivated suicide bombers in the battlefield. In the recent past, a network for motivating and training suicide bombers existed in certain Taliban strongholds in Swat, but it seems that majority of the young bombers sent to the valley and other districts of Malakand were not locals.

They were either foreign fighters or Afghan refugees who have escaped to Afghanistan due to the fear of death. However, there are a number of reasons which have brought about a division among the militants. The insurgents have themselves become fed up with the criminal activities of the Taliban like beheadings, kidnappings and especially their tactics of torturing the innocent people. They have come to know that under the cover of Islamic Sharia, Taliban want to impose a brutal system of the Middle Ages. Every war is fought with an objective, but the militant leaders have no definite aim. It was owing to their anti-Islam and anti-social activities that their own motivated field attackers and suicide bombers deserted their fellow-fighters.

Atrocities of the Taliban also forced the common people of the Malakand division to leave their houses as more than 2.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) refused to accept Taliban style of Sharia and preferred to live in camps. Political defeat of Sufi Muhammad and false indoctrination of the youngsters by Maulana Fazalullah resulted in dissentions, ultimately causing a rift among the militants including those who were assigned suicide missions. Now they are no more in a position to misuse and exploit Jehad in organizing the insurgents so as to massacre other Muslims. Misdeeds of the Taliban could be judged from the facts that at some places, local people are refusing shelter to the running militants.

Recently, more than 6 Taliban were killed by the local tribesmen in Dir. Unlike the Militants, Pakistan’s armed forces have been fully supported by the people of Pakistan. In wake of public backing to the military operations coupled with high morale in Pakistan’s security forces has created disunity and demoralization among the militants. During house to house fighting in Mingora, the soldiers of Pak Army fought boldly and did not care for their life. Meanwhile, commandos were air-dropped at various strongholds of the insurgents. With high moral force, will to fight, strong determination and cohesiveness, our Armed Forces succeeded in disrupting the supply lines of the militants. They totally destroyed the command and control system of these insurgents, de-linking them from each other. Thus majority of the resisting militants were besieged by our forces at many places. This entire phenomenon compelled militants to fight in the scattered forms-ultimately resulted in a greater division among them.

Although backbone of the Malakand militants has been broken by the Pak Army, yet public support for these military operations must be maintained by our media in the best interests of Pakistan. Still, general masses must cooperate with the security forces and agencies in detecting and capturing the top militant leaders who are working on the payroll of Indian secret agency, RAW and American CIA with the sole aim to destabilize a ‘nuclearised’ Pakistan for their common strategic agenda.

In this respect, it is a good sign that on June 7, hundreds of tribesmen in Upper Dir have laid siege of around 200 Taliban in response to a suicide attack which killed more than 30 people in a mosque on June 5. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that militants are no longer a match for the fighting spirit of Pakistan’s Armed Forces.


The final blow

June 11, 2009

By Farooq Hameed Khan

Operation Rah-i-Rast has successfully achieved its immediate objectives of routing the Taliban militants including elimination of its middle and lower-tier leadership and securing the major cities and villages in Swat valley, yet the battle is far from being over.

The Taliban’s military strategy calls for a temporary retreat when faced with a military defeat or total annihilation. Instead of fighting till the last fighter in the face of combined US and Northern Alliance onslaught in 2001, the Taliban abandoned Kabul and fled to the mountains only to regroup and launch hit-and-run attacks on Coalition forces within a few months. The battle for Mingora, was expected to be prolonged and bloody, but after initial resistance and heavy losses, the militants fled, enabling the Army to secure Mingora earlier than expected.

While the Taliban’s command, control, communication and training network have been more or less destroyed in Swat valley, the fact that the top Taliban leadership and remaining militants have scattered into the mountains or moved to adjoining areas gives them the ability to regroup at a later stage.

To prevent the militants’ re-emergence, the momentum of Operation Rah-i-Rast must be maintained to keep up the hot pursuit till their total elimination or surrender including the top leadership. All possible routes of infiltration and logistic support from Afghanistan must be blocked to prevent reinforcements aiding the Taliban militants, now on the run. With the Taliban myth shattered and the stunning fightback by the local lashkar in upper Dir, such armed uprisings need to be encouraged in other areas to help isolate and wipe out the remaining militants.

Operation Rah-i-Rast has finally exposed the involvement of the foreign hand that was being repeatedly referred to in the recent past. While Pak Army was engaged in intense operations in Swat valley, a US two star general amusingly stated, ‘we are witnessing some interesting movement across the borders into Pakistan’. He was obviously referring to the hordes of Indian and foreign intelligence agencies’ sponsored Tajiks, Uzbeks, Afghans and Indian agents infiltrating across the Durand Line in aid of the militants. Hundreds of these foreign militants have been killed or captured by the Army. Well General, who is playing the double game?

The Army, has also destroyed or captured large caches of US, Russian, Israeli and Indian origin weapons and ammunition from Taliban militant strongholds. Pak Army officers and men involved in Operation Rah-i-Rast have confirmed the use of sophisticated weapons including sniper rifles, rocket launchers etc by the well trained Taliban militants. Indian, Afghan and US currency were commonly found from the captured and dead militants.

The US Foreign Policy Journal had also highlighted in its earlier issue this year, that the Indians were neck deep in supporting the Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan. It states, ‘while the US media has frequently reported on Pakistani ties to the jihadi elements launching attacks in Afghanistan, it has less mentioned the Indian support for insurgent forces attacking Pakistan Army’.

Earlier in 2009, the Americans had admitted that the Pentagon did not have ‘complete’ record of about one third of the 242,000 weapons the US provided to the Afghan Army or for a further 135,000 weapons other countries sent. I still recall while serving in General Headquarters way back in the early nineties how meticulously the US Defence representatives in the American Embassy in Islamabad would periodically reconcile the serial numbers and location of each of those dozens of Stinger missiles that were left behind by the US forces or remained in Mujahideen custody for many years after the Afghan war.

It is unbelievable that the weapons from NATO/Afghan Army inventories went missing right under the nose of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan without their knowledge or to put it more aptly, has all this happened with their connivance and tacit approval? No one more responsible than the DG ISPR had sarcastically remarked, “stop worrying” about Pakistan’s nukes and start worrying about the weapons gone ‘missing’ in Afghanistan”.

One striking feature of Operation Rah-e-Rast is the high officer to jawan casualty ratio, almost 1:7, implying the shahadat of one officer for every 700 shaheed jawans. This strongly reflects the inspiring leadership, motivation and the spirit of comradeship that binds the officer leaders with their soldiers, that generates the true qualitative edge of our Army over any adversary. The Army has not only retained its core values but continues to build on its inner strength and cohesion that remain the envy of our enemies.

If Pak Army has successfully broken the back of the Swat militancy in key towns and villages, all credit to the PAF for the innumerable well planned and executed precision airstrikes that destroyed militant bases, ammo dumps, training centers, underground command structures etc in the inaccessible mountain terrain. The fact that the Air Chief visited troops in Mingora along with the COAS, speaks truly of inter service cooperation and special commitment of the PAF in such operations. Visit by the President and Supreme Commander or some from the army of ministers to meet troops on ground or even inquire about the wounded in CMHs are now overdue.

A recent article in The Washington Post by Christine Fair, a senior American political scientist associated with the Rand Corporation, a Washington Think Tank, indicates their mindset vis-a-vis trust in Pakistan’s ruling elite. This write up calls for establishing a World Bank administered Trust Fund to oversee the expenditure of billions of dollars going to Pakistan so that they do not disappear into the pockets of well-connected kleptocrats and their cronies instead of helping the Pakistanis in need. This article appears in the backdrop of corruption scams involving government functionaries reported in the media almost every other day.

The real test of the government’s credibility and sincerity to the cause of the IDPs therefore lies in the transparent and streamlined system of expenditure and accountability of all foreign aids and grants in support of the IDPs. At the domestic level, proliferation of many relief funds including those on behalf of the President, PM, Speaker, Governor, Chief Minister etc is likely to result in poor coordination and financial mismanagement etc. The government must rationalize the number of these funds and make public their receipts and expenditures on regular basis so as to put at rest apprehensions about their accounting and judicious utilization.

At a time when valiant officers and men of the Army and the civilians were shedding blood and sacrificing their lives in the battle for Pakistan, there came reports of our Embassy’s grandiose royal dinners with some of our entertainment starved leaders enjoying the luxuries and nightlife of Washington and New York. The public has a right to ask if it was only their responsibility to offer sacrifices for the country; could not our worthy leaders have deferred their thirst for extravagance and fun for a more appropriate occasion later on.

If only the tales of heroism of many Shaheed sons of the soil like Capt Najam, Capt Asim, Capt Bilal, Lt Atif, Major Abid Majeed Malik, and the martyred jawans are known to the party swingers of Washington and New York, perhaps their heads would drop in permanent shame.

Operation Rah-e-Rast marks the beginning of the decisive battle to eliminate the militants to the last and restore the writ of the state. The operation must continue till all military objectives are fully achieved and lasting peace and security are ensured. In no way should the military gains of Operation Rah-i-Rast including the sacrifices of the courageous young officers and men be compromised for sake of political expediency.

The writer is a retired Brigadier and Chairman Editorial Board of National Defence Times
E-mail: fhkhan54@gmail.com


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