December 03, 2020
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Is Letting Pakistan Collapse An Option?

The Pakistan army has to be told that the world is prepared to let it collapse if it does not act against terrorism emanating from its territory effectively.

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Is Letting Pakistan Collapse An Option?

The News, a daily of Pakistan, has carried on December 24, 2010, an analysis by Amir Mir, the well-known Pakistani journalist, of acts of suicide terrorism in Pakistan during 2010.It covers data up to December 23.

According to this analysis, till December 23, there were 52 acts of suicide terrorism resulting in 1224 fatalities as against 80 acts in 2009 with 1217 fatalities. Though the number of suicide attacks came down from 80 in 2009 to 52, the lethality of the attacks increased with the largest number of fatalities in a year since the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) and their associates such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), another Uzbek group, stepped up their acts of suicide terrorism after the Army raid in the Lal Masjid of Islamabade in July, 2007.

According to Amir Mir, the number of fatalities due to suicide terrorism rose from 837 in 2007 to 965 in 2008. It went up to 1217 in 2009 and 1224 till December 23,2010. During 2010, the largest number of attacks were in the Khyber Pakhtunkwa province (KP) with 25 attacks resulting in 416 fatalities. There were 12 suicide attacks in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with 381 fatalities followed by Punjab with seven acts of suicide terrorism resulting in 312 fatalities. There were four incidents in Balochistan with 81 deaths, two in Sindh with 28 deaths and another two in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) with six deaths.

The Pashtun belt in KP and the FATA continued to be the worst affected. Thirty-seven of the 52 attacks were in the Pashtun belt with 797 deaths. There were 15 attacks in the non-Pashtun areas with 427 deaths. Muslims killing Muslims and Pashtuns killing Pashtuns has become the defining characteristic of the the Pashtun Taliban. As against this, the Punjabi Taliban has concentrated its attacks in Pakistani territory on non-Deobandi and non-Wahabi Muslims consisting of the Shias, the Barelvis and the Ahmadiyas. The expression Punjabi Taliban is applied in Pakistan to the LEJ, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM). Of these, the LET, which is the closest to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), did not indulge in any act of terrorism in Pakistani territory. Its main focus was on India and Afghanistan.

Of the 1224 fatalities till December 23,2010, 1055 were civilians as against 863 out of 1217 in 2009 and 169 belonged to the security forces. Of those from the security forces killed,62 belonged to the police, 48 to the armed forces, 26 to the Frontier Constabulary, 24 to other para-military units and nine to the ISI. Of the civilians killed, 151 were Shias and 103 were Ahmediyas. Three American nationals were among those killed in 2010. On an average, suicide bombers killed 102 persons per month in 2010, compared with 2009’s average of 101 killings a month.

Earlier on August 5,2010, the Dawn of Karachi had carried an analysis of suicide terrorism in Pakistan by Manzar Zaidi, a strategic affairs analyst. His analysis covered all suicide terrorism before and after the Lal Masjid raid. It brought out two facts. Firstly, before the Lal Masjid raid, suicide terrorism in Pakistan was largely a Punjabi phenomenon confined to Sindh and Punjab. There were no acts of suicide terrorism in the Pashtun belt. After the Lal Masjid raid, it has become a largely Pashtun phenomenon with the Pashtun belt being the worst affected. Secondly, there has been an increase in attacks on military-connected targets after the Lal Masjid raid.

The analyses carried by the News and the Dawn covered only acts of suicide terrorism. They did not cover other acts of terrorism such as the targeted attacks on Shias by the LEJ in Karachi and in the cities of Pakistani Punjab and acts of ethnic terrorism involving the Mohajirs and the the Pashtuns in Karachi. Interestingly, there have been no acts of suicide or suicidal terrorism involving the Afghan Taliban in the non-Pashtun belt. The attacks of the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani group, headed by Jalalludin Haqqani, have been confined to the Kurram Agency in the FATA where there are a large number of Shia Pashtuns, who have become the victims of frequent attacks by the Pakistani as well as the Afghan Taliban as well as by the LEJ.

Neither the intensified operations of the Pakistan Army in the Malakand Division of KP and in South Waziristan, Bajaur and Mohmand agencies of the FATA nor the intensified Drone (unmanned planes carrying missiles) strikes by the US in the FATA have dented the motivation of the Pashtuns--Pakistani and Afghan-- taking to suicide acts of terrorism directed against the civilians and suicidal attacks (fedayeen attacks) against the Pakistani security forces.

The insincere counter-terrorism policies of the Pakistan Army come in the way of the restoration of law and order in the Pashtun belt. The worsening internal security situation and the persistent US criticism of its inaction against the Talibans and Al Qaeda demand that the Pakistan Army act firmly at least against the Pakistani Taliban. But,its interest in recovering its strategic depth in Afghanistan dictate that it avoid firm action against Pashtun terrorism. Its continued use of Punjabi terrorism against India demands that its support to the Punjabi terrorist organizations remain undiminished. The Pashtun terrorists are its strategic assets in Afghanistan. The Punjabi terrorists are its strategic assets against India.

Unless there is an end to these contradictory and insincere policies, the US-led NATO forces are not going to prevail in Afghanistan. Nor is the US going to prevail against Al Qaeda in North Waziristan. Despite two years of intensified Drone strikes, the US is nowhere near victory against either Al Qaeda or the Talibans. Ground operations in Pakistani territory could lead to a disruption of NATO’s logistic supplies to its troops in Afghanistan through Pakistani territory. They are, therefore, unlikely. Deniable covert actions with the help of Pakistani assets well-disposed to the US could be an alternative, but the US has avoided building up a covert action capability which can be tried on the ground.

The fear of Pakistan becoming a failed State prevents the US from acting tough against it. Soft options have failed to nudge Pakistan into acting against the terrorists. Hard options such as the denial of military and economic assistance are avoided lest there be a collapse of the State of Pakistan. The time has come to examine whether the collapse of Pakistan is something to be dreaded. A collapse could lead to a spell of sectarian anarchy, but not necessarily to the triumph of Al Qaeda and the Talibans. The very fact that the international community is prepared to let Pakistan collapse could induce some good sense in the thinking of its army and intelligence establishment. The army thinks that the world cannot afford to let Pakistan collapse. It has to be told that the world is prepared to let it collapse if it does not act against terrorism emanating from its territory effectively.

B. Raman iscSecretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Srudies, Chennai.

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