11 April 2014

Pakistan Unveils Anti - Terror Policy: Confusion or Clarity


Chickens have surely come home to roost in restive Pakistan with the scourge of terrorism - a cardinal of its state policy spearheading its strategy for neighbouring India and Afghanistan, now having assumed such dangerous proportions that Pakistan’s very existence remains under a grave threat. According to conservative estimates, terrorism, since the last decade has inflicted over 50 thousand casualties which includes nearly 19 thousand civilians, 26 thousand terrorists and nearly 6 thousand security personnel inside Pakistan. Besides, this plague had conferred on Pakistan the status of an international pariah and labeled it universally as an ‘epicentre of global terror’. 

An analysis of Pakistan’s counter terror strategy over the past few years reveals that not only it has been knee-jerk, flip-flop but lacking in a determined and coherent nationally unified approach. Pakistan’s attitude towards the terror groups both within Pakistan and outside has been more than selective. Pakistan had belatedly trained its guns on the Hakimullah Mehsud led Pakistan based Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP), but conveniently turned a blind eye to other terror groups like the Haqqani network, the Hafiz Gul Bahadar group in North Waziristan and the Maulvi Nazim group in South Waziristan, which it has been treating as its ‘strategic assets’ for targeting the US, the ISAF and the Karzai administration in Afghanistan. These terror groups have been unifying their agendas to promote their sinister activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They consider the Pakistani Constitution unIslamic and are zealously working for the rule of the ‘Sharia’ in Pakistan, including through the ‘madrassas’ and mosques. This needs to be seriously countered by Pakistan, especially its political leadership, the military, the youth and its dwindling civil society. At the recently concluded Lahore Literary Festival, which was attended by many Indian writers too, former Pakistani Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar courageously expressed Pakistan’s current agony by asserting that “the biggest threat to Pakistan’s existence were the non-state actors created by the state itself to fight its proxy wars.” 

Pakistan has now, rather belatedly, unveiled on 26 Feb 2014, a National Security Policy to combat terror - a 100 pages document in three parts with one part being kept classified. The current Interior Minister, Chowdhury Nisar enunciated to the Pakistani Parliament the salient aspects of Pakistan’s internal security policy to stem the growing tide of jihadi terror and Taliban extremism all across the country. Prior to the unfolding of Pakistan’s new strategy towards terror, Pakistani fighter jets and attack helicopters, along with US drones, have pounded extremist havens in the Waziristan belt and other areas of FATA, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. This, in a sense, conveys some newly found serious intent on the part of the Pakistani establishment. Very recently, hundreds of Pakistani and Afghani terrorists have been killed in these strikes including the deputy leader of the TTP, Wali-ur-Rehman. 

That the Pakistani government, led by PM Nawaz Sharif and its earlier reluctant military,at long last, now appear to be on the same page in combating indigenous terror, will be an encouraging development for Pakistan’s civil society and all those who have suffered from the all pervading formidable terror machine in Pakistan. It may be noted that the financially impoverished Pakistani government is being injected shortly with another $1.5 billion grant by their long-term mentor, the US, would have also contributed to Pakistan’s resolve to combat home-grown terror! 

It is but natural that India - a victim of Pakistani terror since decades, will be very carefully observing Pakistani counter terror initiatives in all its nuances. From the Indian perspective, for Pakistani counter terror endeavours to be credible and effective, Pakistan has to shed the policy of employing terror as an extension of its state policy vis-à-vis India and equally Afghanistan now. For that, it has to dismantle its terror infrastructure for its anti India forays and put an end to supporting any Kashmiri separatists or Indian Mujahideen terrorist activities within India. With the impending exit of US and ISAF from Afghanistan this year, Pakistan must not be tempted to relocate some of its ‘strategic assets’ from Afghanistan to J&K as is surmised by some security analysts. 

From its own perspective, Pakistan, to win or at least contain its terror groups of various hues, will have to radically re-define its security policies and make them nation-friendly and not primarily military driven as earlier. Even reputed Pakistani security experts opine that Pakistan must “build a national consensus on the ownership of the war on terror.” In addition, the Pakistani establishment will have to take some hard decisions on the “good or bad Taliban” debate and importantly, on its current stance of oscillating between on-off-on talks with various diverse terror groups. The National Security Document, mentioned earlier, speaks of well equipped Rapid Response Teams and the use of hi tech weaponry and force multipliers including use of air power to combat these terror groups. However, Pakistan’s ambivalent stance against this conglomerate of death merchants does create confusion when the Interior Minister, in the same breath states, “a clear majority of the Taliban were not against the country……… most Taliban groups had no animosity to the state of Pakistan.” Pakistan, to fight the counter terror battle determinedly must desist from issuing such mixed signals to all and sundry. 

Importantly, Pakistan has to convince its armed forces and its people, especially its youth that their war on terror is not at the prompting of the US but it is for their own survival as a nation state. In addition, PM Nawaz Sharif also has to rein in his infamous ISI to discard its myopic anti-India and anti-Afghanistan strategic policies which employ terrorism as its main tenet. The day Pakistan moves away from its self-defeating promotion of terror in the neighbourhood fixation, peace in South Asia will not be far away. India, on its part, will certainly wish Pakistan well in the latter’s counter terror endeavours as long as these are launched with sincerity of intent. 

Lt Gen Kamal Davar was the first Chief of India’s Defence Intelligence Agency. Views expressed are personal.

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