Pakistan’s appalling counterinsurgency

Rashid Naeem Khan

Pakistan is passing through the most critical juncture of its history. The economy is in shambles and terrorism is shaking the very foundations of the country. In the last two and a half years Pakistan has witnessed dozens of suicidal attacks in which thousands of innocent people including the former Prime Minister and leader of the ruling party have died in these attacks. Property worth billion of rupees has also been damaged. An operation has been launched against terrorism but no meaningful success has been achieved so far.

The pattern of terrorist attacks shows that the people who are doing it are really trained. The involvement of some foreign hands cannot be ruled it, however it is not terrorism but it is an insurgency. It is an open war against Pakistan; the attacks on the GHQ, Naval Headquarters, FIA and  Police Academies  is not job of some ordinary terrorist outfit but the people who are doing it are working on a proper agenda and have a clear roadmap. In this backdrop, the seriousness and the level of understanding that should have been there in  is missing. The way some ministers made contradictory claims about the involvement of certain countries, leaves a lot to be desired. People at the helm of affairs have just one answer to all these attacks; its not possible to stop suicidal attacks. The Swat operation was quite successful, but  the leadership is still at large. Even in South Waziristan, ever since the operation started, not even a single top ranking leader has been apprehended or killed. On the other hand the insurgents have succeeded in carrying out attacks at will. They have carried out attacks in different cities, which shows that they have the potential and support not just in major cities like Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi but even cities like Multan and Sarghoda are not beyond their reach.

There is no doubt that our security forces have shown extraordinary bravery and commitment but such attacks are increasing with every passing day. It shows that whatever has been done in this regard so far is not enough. Some drastic measures need to be taken in this regard, instead of accepting it as something incurable. The attack in Mumbai last year was a big incident. However the way India tackled it, is commendable. It goes to the credit of the Indian government and the people of India that  after 26/11,  no such incident took place. However in India some concrete steps were taken in the aftermath of these attacks. The first and foremost was that those responsible were held accountable. A lot of people including the Chief Minister of Maharashtra and the Interior Minister were forced to resign. Apart from it, a national strategy was formed to counter such incidents in future.

It is high time that the urgency and the gravity of the situation should be realised. The government by its actions should show its seriousness. Pakistan is facing problems not only in the tribal areas, but the situation in Baluchistan is even worse. The Baluchistan package is a good step forward. However there is a lot of mistrust between Islamabad and Quetta, and to achieve some major breakthrough overnight may not be possible. But the package should be translated into reality; when the people will see some positive development, things will definitely change for the better.

There is no doubt that the insurgency is quite serious and it will take some time to defeat it. But a counter insurgency plan is the need of hour. It is an organised movement and it can only be defeated by taking some extra ordinary measures. A comprehensive insurgency plan is perhaps the only way to defeat this insurgency. This plan should be made in consultation with all the stakeholders. A good counter insurgency plan should focus on all the important aspects. In the case of Pakistan it should focus not only on the military aspect but political and  diplomatic as well.

As far as the military aspect of counter insurgency is concerned, our security agencies have been doing a great job. But there is not much to coordination between different security agencies. People from different chains of command cannot work as a single unit. To fight insurgency of this level, an organisation on the pattern of Homeland security is required. In America, different security agencies were reorganised in 2003 to form the United States Department of Homeland Security after the September 11 attacks. A good step in this direction is that the Interior Minister has hinted at setting up a National counter-terrorism authority. Pakistan has been facing terrorism for quite some time now and this kind of organisation should have been made much earlier; however instead of wasting more time, it should be made as early as possible.

But with force  only limited success can be achieved. To achieve complete success work should be done on the political and diplomatic front as well, and this all should be done simultaneously. A national government with representation from all the parties can be made; in these circumstances it is an ideal thing. This government would have more legitimacy and can deal with some serious issues more effectively and confidently. The government has shown its willingness but given the political situation in the country it does not look possible in the near future. So a committee should be made with representation from all the parties and it should be given a mandate to talk to the people in Baluchistan and also the moderate elements in the Taliban as well. Because all the people are not terrorists, some are being forced into it by different circumstances.

On the diplomatic front Pakistan has to act more aggressively. Pakistan has suffered more than any other country in the war against terrorism; still Pakistan is often accused of doing nothing and asked to do more. Instead of being apologetic, Pakistan should tell the world its version on all the fora. And if there are some concrete proofs against the involvement of any country, than this matter should be taken on a diplomatic level and particularly the countries that are fighting the war against terrorism should be taken into confidence about it.

The nation has suffered a lot but it’s ready to give even more sacrifices. But it’s high time that something should be done on a war footing, otherwise it will be too late. The country needs a vision. All the political parties should shun their differences and come up with a comprehensive counter insurgency plan as that is the only way to save the country from the enemies who are within and outside

The writer, a Chevening Scholar at the University of Nottingham, and is doing masters in International Security and Terrorism. rashidnaeemkhan@gmail.com

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