Daunting challenges faced by security forces
Asif Haroon Raja
Pakistan faces formidable array of challenges, both at external and internal fronts. Internal threats are as daunting and menacing as the external threat. So much so that for the first time in Pakistan’s history, it cannot be discerned with certainty which of the two threats is more dangerous? The Army Chief Gen Kayani has however plainly graded internal threat to the security and integrity of Pakistan more hazardous. He said so because war on terror fought inside Pakistan among us has claimed more human lives than the fatalities incurred in all the wars and conflicts with India. Our sensitive and highly defended installations that could not be struck by our arch enemy during the war are being attacked daringly by home-grown non-actors. Few thousand militants merged in the sea of 180 million people prowl behind every bush and corner or stand among a crowd unnoticed and throw a bomb or blow themselves up whenever opportunity comes their way.
For a guerrilla to operate successfully, he should have terrain suited for guerrilla war, should be adept in living off the land and techniques of fighting surreptitiously. He cannot operate for long without local support, safe sanctuaries, funds, armaments and sophisticated communication system. He should have safe exit routes to go across the border whenever cornered. Mountainous terrain of FATA and interior Balochistan, both attached with Afghanistan are suited for irregular warfare and hence favor TTP and BLA respectively thereby enabling them to wage an asymmetrical war for last so many years despite being hounded and badly bruised. Members of the two banned outfits are tribesmen and proficient in guerrilla war. Al-Qaeda allied with TTP gained experience during the eight-year Afghan Jihad against the Soviets and later against the Americans once they were ditched.
The war was first confined to FATA and some parts of interior Balochistan inhabited by Bugtis, Marris and Mengals. Hence it didn’t much bother the ruling elite and it kept following the dictates of the US to do more. When the war spilled into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa settled areas and then to major cities and incidents of terrorism kept increasing, it then alarmed the rulers. But by then the situation had become very complex because flames of terrorism had spread all over the country.
Intrusion of TTP militants into urban centres became possible because of the marrying up of urban-based Jihadi groups that had been banned by Gen Musharraf and their activities across the LoC blocked. Kashmir focused Jihadi groups remained underground for some period but then reappeared under different names and most got associated with TTP and al-Qaeda since the two outfits are more organized and rich in resources and have better facilities of training. New group Junoodul Hifza involved in tragic incident of Nanga Parbat on 23 June has claimed affiliation with TTP which indicates a trend of expanding influence of TTP.
While TTP supported by foreign powers organizes training of militants in FATA and also arrange weapons, sleeping cells of urban-based militant groups get activated whenever a target is programmed to be hit in a city. Al-Qaeda provides the technical support. Punjab based Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has also aligned itself with foreign aided BLA to satiate its sectarian hunger in Balochistan. It has struck Shia Hazaras viciously and is also involved in Karachi and other places. It attacked the women university bus in Quetta on June 15, believing that girl students were Shias. Agents of CIA network, RAW; MI-6, RAAM and Blackwater as well as Afghan refugees keep adding fuel to terrorism and sectarianism. Pakistan is awash with terrorists of all hues making the task of security forces and intelligence agencies that much difficult.
TTP is waging a so-called Jihad against Pak security forces by naming them as collaborators of USA. Of late Hakeemullah who owes allegiance to Mullah Omar has decided to supplement Afghan Taliban’s spring offensive which commenced last April. Segment of TTP has reportedly launched few operations deep inside Afghanistan against ISAF but TTP’s main focus is still on Pakistan. Fazlullah, part of TTP Swat chapter patronized by Afghan intelligence agency continues to operate from safe havens of Kunar and Nuristan to hit targets inside Pakistan.
The Army cannot draw battle lines against them nor have the means to identify the non-actors from among the actors. With no front to defend, and with exposed front, flanks and rear, and with no safe zone, it becomes difficult for them to confront the faceless enemy. Moreover, the enemy avoids face-to-face pitched battles and instead prefers hit and run tactics. It is always on the lookout to exploit the vulnerable spots and suddenly pounces at the unprepared target like a lightening and then vanishes into the thin air.
An isolated post is surrounded and overwhelmed with a twenty times bigger force. Moving convoys are either ambushed or hit with a cleverly concealed IED. It strikes the chosen high-value target at a time of its own choosing after thorough preparation and identifying the loophole in the security system with the assistance of an insider. In most high profile attacks, insiders were involved and technology was provided by CIA. Those venturing to attack come prepared to die. Civilian targets are randomly hit mostly with a view to terrorize the public, embarrass the security forces and to give a message of its prowess.
Army and paramilitary forces are fighting the war with one hand tied behind. They remain ever mindful of collateral damage occurring to the civilians in any clash with the militants. The militants on the other hand use civilians as human shields. Division within political parties over the issue of terrorism is another handicap for the military. It has to also remain wary of the biased Indo-western media and own media which waste no opportunity to discredit the Army and ISI, up against six foreign intelligence agencies based in Kabul as well as well-knitted local terrorist groups.
We remember how vehemently Asma Jahangir and her ilk lambasted the Army on human rights after it had rendered huge sacrifices in freeing Swat from the clutches of Maulana Fazlullah in 2009. She launched her offensive to endorse sleazy stories of western media. Now Ayaz Amir is nudging Hakeemullah Mehsud not to spare Punjab. He is lamenting that but for TTP’s selective target hitting during election campaign, PML-N couldn’t have won. He is also melancholic that Doha peace talks have ruptured the chances of an operation in NW. How silly of him.
In Balochistan where the separatists supported by foreign powers are hell-bent to make the province independent, Asma, Jahangir, Kamila Hyat, Hamid Mir, HRC of Pakistan and many other secular writers completely overlooking the reign of terror unleashed by BLA, BRA, BLF, Lashkar-e-Balochistan against Punjabi settlers and pro-Pakistan officials and Balochis since 2004 are shedding tears of sympathy for few dozen missing persons. Most have reportedly joined rebel groups to earn monthly salary of Rs 30,000 and other rewards. Incidents of mutilated bodies of Baloch nationalists found dumped alongside roads are sensationalized and pitied as if something extraordinarily horrible is happening in the ongoing war.
These so-called sympathizers of not more than 1-2 dozen mutilated bodies’ cases, which for sure is the handiwork of BLA and foreign agencies, killing two birds with one stone, have no love lost for the Baloch nationalists as can be seen that none has ever visited Balochistan to console the aggrieved families. They are bashing Army, FC and ISI on the prompting of their foreign benefactors. They make their prejudice noticeable by remaining tightlipped over atrocities of Baloch rebels, US-NATO forces in so many Muslim countries and that of India in Occupied Kashmir and against other minorities in India.
The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org