Time to unleash long arm of ISI
Asif Haroon Raja
After the occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet forces in December 1979, Pakistan under Gen Ziaul Haq decided to support the Afghan Mujahideen resistance movement and to provide refuge to about 5 million Afghan refugees. The US came forward to assist Pakistan in June 1981 after making a calculated assessment that Pakistan had the resolve and competence to fight the proxy war. Pakistan was warned that the Great Bear’s next step would be inside Pakistan in search of warm waters. The package of $ 3.5 billion spraed over five years was accepted only when it was conveyed that the ISI will coordinate and conduct the entire war
without the assistance of CIA and that the US and others would restrict their support to provision of funds and weapons/equipment only.
As a Frontline State, Pakistan suffered a great deal throughout the Afghan war at the hands of KGB-KHAD-RAW-AlZulfiqar nexus and Afghan armed forces, but achieved the miracle by defeating and pushing out Soviet forces in February 1989 under the Geneva Accords.
The ten year war helped the ISI under Gen Akhtar Abdur Rehman and Lt Gen Hamid Gul as DG ISI to develop its long arm capability. It was owing to this capability of hitting the chosen target outside the frontiers of Pakistan that the ISI earned the reputation of a dreaded outfit and the best in Asia.
After achieving all its objective without employing a single soldier, the US abandoned Pakistan as well as the Mujahideen who had sacrificed 1.5 million people and had helped the US in becoming a sole super power. Pakistan was put under sanctions on account of its covert nuclear program suspected to be geared towards making an Islamic bomb. Pakistan’s nuclear program became an eyesore for India, Israel and USA.
Pakistan had to face the whole brunt of fallout effects of ten-year Afghan war. Explosive situation in Afghanistan due to civil war and power tussle among the seven Mujahideen groups impacted the security of Pakistan. Volatility in Afghanistan bred radicalism, ethnicity, sectarianism and drug addiction. The US sanctions impacted the economy and handicapped the democratic regimes to combat the consequences of Afghan war.
Defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan led to fragmentation of USSR and demise of communism. Russian Federation was highly bitter, while India was perpetually hostile and Iran was not so friendly owing to its reservations over the developments in Afghanistan. As if these troubles were not enough sudden eruption of armed insurgency in IOK in late 1989 took Pakistan by surprise. When India pumped in over 700,000 troops into the Kashmir Valley, it impacted Pakistan’s security dynamics. In 1990/91, both sides had come close to war.
Loss of a patron and increase of influence of Pakistan in Afghanistan vexed India. It feared that Pakistan may exploit the situation in IOK and liberate it with the help of over 60 Jihadi groups and take its revenge of the humiliation it had suffered in East Pakistan in 1971. It dreaded that Pakistan may replicate its model of supporting the Mukti Bahini. Sensing the gravity of the situation, India started propagating that Pakistan is behind the insurgency in IOK and that the ISI is funding, training and launching terrorists from Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK). It urged the UN and world powers to rein in Pakistan and restrain ISI from conducting cross Line of Control (LoC) terrorism.
The US, both Republicans and Democrats, had been constantly wooing India to join its camp since early 1950s, but India preferred the Soviet camp, although it professed to be non-aligned. When India became an orphan after the collapse of USSR in 1991, it fell like a ripe apple into the waiting arms of USA and both became bedfellows. Once its newfound love sought help from her paramour, the latter stood behind her and sternly cautioned Pakistan to lay its hands off IOK. All the sins of India were ignored. Change in circumstances compelled Pakistan to restrict its support to the Kashmiris in distress to moral, political and diplomatic levels only.
The long arm of ISI also began to shrink when successive political governments of PPP and PML-N from 1988 to 1999 were pressured by USA and the West and warned that if Pakistan didn’t abstain from meddling in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) and in India, it will be declared a terrorist state. Pressure was mounted at the behest of India which had become a strategic partner of USA and Israel in 1991/1992 and darling of the West.
The Kashmir oriented Jihadi groups based in AJK and in Southern Punjab however continued to extend support to the Kashmiris seeking right of self-determination as provided for in the UN resolutions. Indian security forces equipped with draconian laws and license to kill without any fear of accountability or censure by the UN and world powers carried out inhuman torture, employed massive force, and used rape as a weapon to break the will of the freedom fighters. The UN and international community turned a deaf ear to the cries of Kashmiris.
Despite the fact that IOK had become the most militarized region of the world (one soldier for 17 civilians), and Kashmiris had suffered over 100,000 fatalities, 11,000 rapes, detention of thousands in secret dens and destruction of their property, the freedom fighters kept the torch of liberty aglow. The heroics of Kashmiris against heavy odds had a telling effect on the morale of Indian Army and paramilitary forces in IOK. Soldiers suffered from demoralization and homesickness. Cases of suicides, desertions, killing of seniors and comrades by soldiers, and indiscipline jumped up at an alarming rate. Officers and men dreaded posting to Kashmir, while rate of compassionate cases wanting posting out from Kashmir shot up.
Kashmir had become a perforated wound for India and economic cost was becoming unbearable. It became difficult for India to hide massive human rights violations and barbarities of Indian security forces as well as to keep their morale high.
As if their woes in IOK were not enough, the Indian Army suffered humiliation at Dras-Kargil in 1999 at the hands of handful of Mujahideen and irregulars of Northern Light Infantry. After failing to evict them from the mountain tops from May to July 1999, the might of the Indian military lay prostrate in utter helplessness. India was eventually bailed out by the US led G-8 by exerting immense pressure on Pakistan to immediately vacate the captured territories. Indian military converted its defeat on the battlefield into victory on the media front.
After 9/11, which was an in-house affair, Gen Musharraf submitted to all the 7 demands of Washington. After the occupation of Afghanistan by US-NATO, free hand given to CIA and FBI enabled the two agencies to establish their network in FATA and later in other parts of Pakistan. Intelligence acquisition in FATA was taken over by CIA and ISI pushed on the back seat.
Seeing that how quickly Pakistan had bowed to the US demands, India also wanted to extract concessions from its arch foe. RAW cooked up a drama in collaboration with CIA and a terrorist attack was staged on Indian Parliament in New Delhi in December 2001, which was depicted as another 9/11. After fomenting war hysteria, India carried out biggest ever troop mobilization of 3 million troops against Pakistan. The Indian military suffered another embarrassment in October 2002 when it had to sheepishly withdraw from its western border after a ten-month standoff during which it had constantly huffed and puffed but couldn’t pick up courage to cross the border.
Aggressive response of Pak armed forces had taken the steam out of their chauvinism. However, the gains made on the military front were washed away after Kashmir focused Jihadi groups were reined in and India was allowed to fence the LoC. It helped India in suppressing the resistance movement in Kashmir.
Indo-Pak peace treaty in 2004 silenced the LoC, but enabled RAW to ignite FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Baluchistan and Karachi. While RAW assisted by CIA, NDS, MI-6 and Mossad made full use of its long arm to bleed Pakistan with the help of proxies, Pak security forces and ISI remained handicapped since Gen Musharraf had given a unilateral commitment that he will not allow use of Pak soil for terrorism in any other country. The so-called friends pressed Pakistan to fight terrorism on its soil, but secretly backed the terrorists. The US kept twisting the arm of Pakistan that if ISI meddled into India or Afghanistan it will be declared a rogue outfit.
Perforce, the ISI undertook protective measures only, but its defensive actions were more often breached because the so-called allies stabbed Pakistan in the back. As a consequence, RAW and its strategic partners carried out one-sided covert war while the ISI at best tried to ward off the attacks. In spite of defensive policy of the govt and ISI, and Pakistan suffering much more human casualties than any other country in the war on terror, ISI was blamed to be in collusion with Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Haqqani Network (HN), Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). These were termed as strategic assets of military establishment to overcome conventional inferiority against arch enemy India.
The lost intelligence space In FATA/KP was gradually recovered when Gen Ashfaq Kayani took over as COAS in November 2007 and Lt Gen Shuja Pasha as DG ISI in 2008. Operations Rah-e-Raast and Rah-e-Nijat recovered 17 out of 18 administrative units that had come under the influence of TTP. The last stronghold of North Waziristan was retrieved in 2014/15 through Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Sleeping cells, handlers, facilitators and financiers of terrorists are being fished through countrywide Operation Raddul Fasad.
The anti-Pakistan foreign agencies have been making full use of TTP, Jamaat Ahrar, Lashkar Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Islam, BLA, BRA, BLF and MQM as proxies. Daesh and PTM (a political face of TTP) are latest additions. London is a safe haven for Altaf led MQM and for Baloch rebel leaders, while Afghanistan has provided sanctuaries to TTP runaway leaders in Kunar, Nuristan and Nangarhar. Besides these strategic assets, the detractors are also making use of hybrid war with the help of NGOs, human rights activists and segment of media to achieve their sinister objectives.
Since HN, JeM, and LeT are not playing the game of foreign agencies, they are dubbed as terrorist groups and strategic assets of Pak Army/ISI. They want Pakistan to take strict action against them or else face isolation and sanctions. The US that till recent had been portraying HN and Afghan Taliban as terrorists is now holding peace talks with them and urging them to arrive at a negotiated political settlement.
As far as India is concerned, it took full advantage of the new laws framed by USA on terrorism in 2001 to brand freedom movement in Kashmir as terrorism and to project Pakistan as a terror abetting State. To that end, all the terror attacks that had taken place in India between 2001 and 2008 were pinned on JeM and LeT and their connection was made with ISI. India’s narrative was boosted up by its strategic allies, particularly Afghanistan which also accused Pakistan of supporting the militant groups. The US dubbed Pakistan as the most dangerous county in the world. Pakistan’s overall defensive policy and apologetic stance emboldened its detractors to keep whipping and bleeding it without fear of tit for tat response from ISI.
After December 2001 false flag operation, another suchlike operation was staged on November 26, 2008 in which LeT and ISI were blamed for the Mumbai attacks. Indian leaders and media once again went berserk and raised a storm. Composite dialogue was suspended, strike formations were moved toward the border and threat of Cold Start doctrine was brandished. Strong defiance put up by Pak armed forces kept the war mongers at bay, but the usual policy of appeasement of our political leadership allowed India to maintain its political and diplomatic offensive.
Since Pakistan political leadership made no effort to disprove Indian contention even after it was revealed by Indian investigative agencies and Home Ministry officials that Hindu terror groups and Indian military intelligence officers were involved in all the attacks in India, it became easier for India to further strengthen its narrative of portraying Pakistan as a terror abetting state and a nursery of terrorism.
Publication of books “Betrayal of India” by a German author Elias Davidson, “The Attack on Mumbai” by Vir Sanghvi, “The siege; The Attack on the Taj” by Cathy Scott-Clerk & Adrian Levy, “Born out of Anger” by Ramesh Mahale have laid bare the whole truth by revealing that Mumbai attacks were wholly and solely engineered by RAW-Mosad-CIA to get Pakistan declared as a terrorist state and to demean freedom struggle in Kashmir. Even then, no effort has been made on the diplomatic front to put the record straight and to expose the ugly face of India.
After the arrest of Indian spy and terrorist Kulbushan Yadhav on March 3, 2016, and many other RAW agents and startling revelations made by them, it has now been conclusively established that RAW and NDS in unison and backed by other agencies are deeply involved in proxy war in Pakistan since 2003 and have inflicted tens of thousands of cuts on the body of Pakistan and its people. Series of conspiracies have been hatched and launched to destabilize and fragment Pakistan. RAW-NDS nexus backed by CIA is continuing to use Afghanistan as a launching pad for terror attacks in Pakistan.
In order to scuttle CPEC, focus of terror attacks is on Baluchistan and KP. India is keeping the LoC on fire and have staged series of false flag operations in IOK such as attacks in Udhampur, Pathankot and Uri with a view to justify its human rights abuses and cruelties in IOK and to show to the world that insurgency in IOK is Pakistan backed. Kashmiri freedom struggle is touching new heights after the martyrdom of Burhan Wani in July 2016. Kashmiris hate for India and love for Pakistan have climaxed.
Pulwama attack on February 14, 2019 in which India’s 44 CRPF soldiers have died appear to be link of the same chain of false flag operations to demonize Pakistan and the freedom struggle. This attack has been enacted at a time when Modi’s popularity is waning as is evident from electoral losses of BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan; fast changing security situation in Afghanistan where US-Taliban peace talks have made a breakthrough and Trump has announced his intentions to withdraw 7000 US troops this year; planned peace talks between Taliban and the US in Islamabad on 19th; freedom movement in IOK is peaking despite Indian forces breaking all records of state terrorism; rejuvenation of Sikh movement, opening of Kartarpur corridor and their planned referendum in 2020; Kalbushan who has confessed his crimes and has been awarded death sentence, his case is being heard by ICJ on February 18; visit of Crown Prince Salman to Islamabad on 17-18 February and his intention to make heavy investments in Pakistan to give further boost to CPEC; lastly, Pakistan has bridled terrorism, minimized chances of cross border terrorism through improved western border management and fencing, upgraded nuclear program to full spectrum deterrence; under the new leadership, Pakistan is on the road to economic recovery, it is no more isolated and encircled.
All these events have unnerved India particularly when all its browbeating tactics have failed to intimidate Pakistan. Both IOK and Afghanistan are slipping out of India’s hands while Modi’s hard line policies in IOK have proved counterproductive.
Like the previous false flag operations which were exposed, Pulwama attack has already begun to unravel. While the blame was put on JeM and Pakistan when smoke was still coming out of the two charred vehicles, the arrested militant Adil Dar has stated that he belongs to Hizbul Mujahideen. It has come to light that Adil Dar who has made a confession of his involvement, is already in the custody of Indian police since 2017. It looks to be another Ajmal Kasab like case, who was an Indian and in the custody of the police since 2006 and was planted in Mumbai attacks in 2008. With barricades placed after every hundred yards, how come the militants managed to transport 300 kg explosives undetected.
Pulwama attack could be yet another insidious ploy of India to strengthen her narrative that Pakistan is a terrorism abetting state and is anti-peace. In a huff, India cancelled the ‘Most Favored Nation’ status given to India and has called back its High Commissioner in Islamabad. While Indian media has gone bonkers, the extremist Hindus in Jammu and India have been given a free hand to lynch Muslims and burn their vehicles. 80 cars have been torched and 8 Muslims burnt alive in Jammu. There are reports of heavy exchange of fire along the LoC and increased activities of Indian air force have been observed. Some troop movement has been seen along the Torkham border.
Modi is in a catch-22 situation. If he tries to pacify his extremist Hindu community by carrying out a misadventure against Pakistan and gets a tougher response, it will end his political career and will discredit Indian military. And if he doesn’t, he will lose the next election in May.
The way the civil and military leaders of India have been hurling threats and the way war hysteria is once again being built up, one cannot rule out the possibility that India might undertake a token military act in the form of a surgical strike, or a limited attack on a tactical objective close to the LoC, or a high profile terror attack against a military target to up the ante and recreate 2002/2009 like war situation.
Having collected tons of evidence, yet Pakistan has been taking the barbs and whips without a whimper and hasn’t picked up courage to strike back. The long arm of ISI remains sheathed for reasons best known to the policy makers. Our defensive and apologetic policy has given a free hand to our enemies to continue bleeding Pakistan without any fear of retaliation. Going by the well-established concept that ‘offence is the best defence’, until and unless the ISI pay back the RAW and NDS in the same coin, one sided bleeding of Pakistanis will continue.
ISI’s long arm must be unsheathed and unleashed particularly when India and its strategic partners have left no stone unturned to blame ISI for all the attacks in India, IOK and Afghanistan. Our foreign policy as well as diplomacy that have shown improvement must be made pro-active. Our media must counter the hype of Indian media and fully expose the true face of cow worshipping and Muslims hating bigoted Brahmans ruling India.
The writer is retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of 5 books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, DG Measac Research Centre, and Member Central Working Committee PESS. firstname.lastname@example.org