Real Chal­lenges Fac­ing Pak­istan

The nexus be­tween the Pak­istan Army, ji­hadists and hard­line na­tion­al­ists shall con­tinue to drive Pak­istan’s do­mes­tic and for­eign pol­icy agenda

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Dr Monika Chan­so­ria

The nexus be­tween the Pak­istan Army, ji­hadists and hard­line na­tion­al­ists shall con­tinue to drive Pak­istan’s do­mes­tic and for­eign pol­icy agenda

AS WE USHER IN a New Year, few re­al­i­ties per­tain­ing re­gional se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity in South Asia do not seem to be chang­ing or mov­ing to­wards the bet­ter. Most wor­ry­ing among th­ese is Pak­istan, a na­tion that con­tin­ues to be en­trapped within as fun­da­men­tal­ist ide­ol­ogy seem­ingly tight­ens its grip over state and so­ci­ety. Con­se­quently, this wave is not just driv­ing the do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal agenda and ranks within the mil­i­tary, but caus­ing a cas­cad­ing ef­fect in the im­me­di­ate South Asian neigh­bour­hood. Given that the mil­i­tary, in­tel­li­gence and nu­clear es­tab­lish­ment are not ac­count­able to Pak­istan’s civil­ian gov­ern­ment, the sit­u­a­tion is not likely to change the nexus. Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary, polity and the In­ter-Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence (ISI) have his­tor­i­cally tar­geted In­dia and Afghanistan most of the times to di­vert at­ten­tion away from a much frac­tured do­mes­tic fab­ric and in-house chaos—a trend that is most likely to carry on and plague the re­gional se­cu­rity sce­nario in South Asia. Three re­cent in­ci­dents in­volv­ing Pak­istan in the past three weeks re­veal and seal the un­de­ni­able pic­ture be­ing thread to­gether.

Fish­ing Boat In­ci­dent

First, and most re­cently, on De­cem­ber 31, 2014, In­dia acted upon cred­i­ble in­tel­li­gence in­puts that a sus­pi­cious fish­ing boat car­ry­ing ex­plo­sives had taken off from the port of Keti Ban­dar in Pak­istan’s western Sindh prov­ince and was ap­proach­ing In­dia’s western coastal state of Gu­jarat. Lately, the In­dian Coast Guard and other se­cu­rity agen­cies have been main­tain­ing high vigil in In­dia’s mar­itime and coastal ar­eas given that sev­eral in­puts on threat em­a­nat­ing from the sea have been re­ceived. In the post-26/11 Mumbai ter­ror at­tacks sce­nario in 2008, the In­dian Coast Guard was ad­di­tion­ally des­ig­nated as the au­thor­ity re­spon­si­ble for coastal se­cu­rity in ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters in­clud­ing wa­ters to be pa­trolled by the coastal po­lice.

The boat in ques­tion was in­ter­cepted by the Coast Guard ap­prox­i­mately 365 km off the port city of Por­ban­dar in Gu­jarat as a follow-up of Coast Guard air­craft which un­der­took sea air co­or­di­nated search and lo­cated the sus­pect fish­ing boat. The Na­tional Tech­ni­cal Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion (NTRO) had been pick­ing up in­ter­cepts for over a fort­night be­fore the in­ci­dent which re­port­edly tracked con­ver­sa­tions be­tween the crew on­board and of­fi­cials at the Pak­istan’s Mar­itime Se­cu­rity Agency (MSA) and as­so­ci­ated “han­dlers” in Thai­land. Based on the in­ter­cept passed on by the NTRO to the Coast Guard, Dornier air­craft took off to track the sus­pi­cious boat. Upon be­ing spot­ted, the boat tried to speed away and switched off the lights, while mak­ing a des­per­ate at­tempt to es­cape to­wards Pak­istan’s side of the mar­itime bound­ary. On fail­ure to do so, the crew mem­bers on­board set the boat on fire fol­low­ing which it ex­ploded and even­tu­ally drowned in the wa­ters. Ap­par­ently, the in­ter­cepts also re­veal that nearly $8,000 was be­ing trans­ferred into the ac­counts of each of the four sailors aboard.

With De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar un­equiv­o­cally say­ing that the Coast Guard did the right job at the right time based on in­tel­li­gence in­puts and the fact that the boat, laden with ex­plo­sives, did not ven­ture on a ‘nor­mal busy route’, leaves no room for any doubt or at­tempts to mol­lify In­dia’s out­rage at this spite­ful at­tempt by Pak­istan to pull off a ter­ror in­ci­dent yet again aimed at In­dia.

At­tack on Army Pub­lic School

Se­condly, the grue­some fi­day­een at­tack on De­cem­ber 16, 2014, by the Tehreek-e-Tal­iban-e-Pak­istan at the Army Pub­lic School in Pe­shawar, Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa that wit­nessed the hor­ri­fy­ing slaugh­ter of 145 per­sons in­clud­ing 132 chil­dren who were study­ing at that hour. The Tal­iban pre­sum­ably struck in re­tal­i­a­tion to the Pak­istan Army’s op­er­a­tions in North Waziris­tan. This is the lat­est among many such bru­tal at­tacks by mil­i­tants on high se­cu­rity Pak­istani mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions, thus rais­ing ap­pre­hen­sions about Pak­istan’s se­cu­rity set up. Ear­lier, in Oc­to­ber 2009 there was a brazen at­tack on Pak­istan’s most se­cure mil­i­tary com­plex, the Army Head­quar­ters (GHQ) in gar­ri­son city Rawalpindi, just a few Kilo­me­tres away from the cap­i­tal of Is­lam­abad GHQ and the po­lice train­ing school. Yet another dar­ing at­tack came in May 2011 when mil­i­tants from the Pak­istan Tal­iban en­tered PNS Mehran naval base, and tar­geted two highly val­ued pos­ses­sions – US-made P-3C Orion mar­itime surveil­lance planes at the Mehran Naval Air Sta­tion. What be­comes hard to ac­cept is that how this at­tack could be planned and ex­e­cuted with­out any col­lu­sion from within the mil­i­tary ranks, given that the mil­i­tants knew the ex­act lo­ca­tion of the Ori­ons.

Tran­si­tion in Afghanistan

Thirdly, as 2014 drew to a close, Afghanistan’s politico-se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion wit­nessed rapid tran­si­tion with Ashraf Ghani Ah­madzai tak­ing over as Pres­i­dent of NATO for­mally an­nounc­ing end of the war in Afghanistan, and Afghanistan’s con­tin­ued tryst with wors­en­ing in­sur­gent vi­o­lence, threat of Tal­iban strikes, sui­cide bomb­ings and gun at­tacks. The ques­tion re­mains, now what? To all who re­ject Pak­istan’s strate­gic depth pol­icy by virtue of which, Is­lam­abad must have for­mi­da­ble say in Afghanistan’s af­fairs, In­dia’s grow­ing prox­im­ity and ac­cept­abil­ity in Afghanistan still causes con­sid­er­able dis­com­fort in the power cor­ri­dors of Pak­istan as well as around the rugged ter­rain sur­round­ing both sides of the 2,640-km-long Du­rand Line that runs be­tween Afghanistan and Pak­istan.

Re­lin­quish­ing support to the Tal­iban in Afghanistan will not be ac­cept­able to Pak­istan’s decision-mak­ers at all. In­dia has peren­ni­ally paid a price for re­ceiv­ing vast pop­u­lar­ity from among the Afghans. Re­call that in the sum­mer of 2014, the In­dian Con­sulate in Herat came un­der heavy at­tack, one among a se­ries of ag­gres­sive moves against In­dian es­tab­lish­ments in Afghanistan. In­ter­preted as the spring of­fen­sive launched by the Tal­iban, sim­i­lar on­slaughts are ex­pected to re­cur, and not nec­es­sar­ily spo­rad­i­cally, now that the NATO’s com­bat mis­sion in Afghanistan is over.

Any pur­ported ex­pec­ta­tions from Pak­istan’s na­tional se­cu­rity pol­icy will have to first ad­dress the real chal­lenge. Pak­istan’s real prob­lem is the state ap­pa­ra­tus which di­rectly and in­di­rectly nur­tures ter­ror­ists and ex­trem­ists for transna­tional mis­sions. The cu­ra­tive mea­sures to se­cure the na­tion from the per­ils of this hazardous net­work hinges upon Pak­istan’s abil­ity to ex­act its his­tor­i­cally skewed civil-mil­i­tary power equa­tion. While it was be­ing spec­u­lated that the Pe­shawar at­tacks could well be­come Pak­istan’s wa­ter­shed mo­ment, the re­al­ity is that there are no vis­i­ble signs that Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary and the ISI are any­where near of putting an end to run­ning with the hare and hunt­ing with the hounds. The nexus be­tween the Pak­istan Army, ji­hadists and hard­line na­tion­al­ists shall con­tinue to drive Pak­istan’s do­mes­tic and for­eign pol­icy agenda. The les­son for In­dia is, in or­der to sur­vive trou­bled neigh­bours, fas­ten your fences.

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