At last, Pakistan zeroes in on Baitullah Mehsud
After a successful operation at Manawan, Pakistani security forces cleared out the terrorists, capturing five terrorists alive, who will no doubt prove useful in the investigations that follow. The interior adviser, Mr Rehman Malik, has named Baitullah Mehsud, “amir” of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan, (TTP) as the planner and executioner of the terrorist operation, although the speculative reference to a “foreign hand” stays on the table “to be on the safe side”. Mehsud has claimed responsibility for the Manawan attack, and threatened to carry out similar operations in the future. The fact is that Pakistan’s enemy number one is the TTP, which commands the chaos-making activities of the Taliban in the tribal areas and Swat and is now expanding its activity to Punjab and the southern region, including Karachi.
A measure of confusion has thus been removed and Pakistan will now be more determined to act in an organised manner against the spread of terrorist activity in the country. The United States too has only recently recognised that TTP is a part of the Al Qaeda and Taliban threat by putting a price on Baitullah Mehsud’s head. Earlier, it made a distinction between Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban and complained that Pakistan was concentrating on the latter while winking at (or even helping in) the terrorist activity of the former in Afghanistan. What Pakistan has to do now is to complete the mental revision on some aspects of terrorism to bring cohesion to its anti-terrorist response.
Talking to the TV channels on Monday, Brigadier (Retd) Mehmood Shah, an expert on terrorism in the tribal areas, said clearly that the official Pakistani mind was still reluctant to connect the TTP and the country’s various jihadi organisations with Al Qaeda, and thus gave itself room to speculate about such matters as terrorist funding through which it usually arrived at the “guesstimate” about the “foreign hand” which usually implies India and even the United States. For good measure, at times even Israel is named by experts on TV, adding to more confusion than objective analysis. This in turn has resulted in the local authorities ignoring warnings that a terrorist attack is imminent, as happened twice in one month in Lahore, in respect of the attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team and the raid at Manawan. In the first attack, the TTP had only to plant the “information” that the terrorists were going to come from India.
A misanalysis of the source of terrorism has led to misunderstandings between Pakistan and the West which, led by the United States, is now expressing doubts about the handling of the situation by the ISI. From the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, down to the CENTCOM chief General Petraeus and Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, all have now expressed fears that the ISI could actually be supporting the Afghan Taliban in their terrorist attacks into Afghanistan. The trend, allegedly based on telephonic intercepts, actually began under the Bush Administration when, during President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to Washington, the “complaint” was made to the Pakistani delegation.
Pakistan’s military strategy is based on its threat perception from India, both from the eastern as well as the western border of the country. This perception compels Pakistan to look at the ongoing developments in Afghanistan as being against its national interest. Therefore there is need on both sides to make revisions and adjustments in the anti-terrorist strategy, failing which there will be adverse consequences for the region. On the other hand, Pakistan needs to realise that a regional consensus developing among Pakistan’s neighbours is bound to isolate and harm it in the coming days if it does not revisit its strategy and make adjustments.
The foremost threat is internal and it comes directly from the Taliban-Al Qaeda combine, as proved by the incident at Manawan. The Pakistani mind should now be concentrated on the removal of this internal threat. Crucial international economic assistance to Pakistan is growing in these days of global crisis in the anticipation that a common regional approach to terrorism will be evolved that will include Pakistan. Hopefully Pakistan will steer skilfully through this process to preserve its self-interest. (Daily Times)
An eye-opener for the nation
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
The terrorist attack at Munawan Police Academy again the fact that the state of Pakistan is at war against professional, determined and well trained terrorist groups which even have the capacity to sustain operations conducted by ground troops.
The Mujahideen are given more credit than they deserve for the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan. Some generals decided to use these trained jihadis as state instruments for objectives they thought could not be achieved through conventional warfare and political means.
Foreign militants from different countries headed to Afghanistan. Training camps were established. In 1998 the Taliban movement in Pakistan was initiated in Mirali, North Waziristan. In 1999 local Taliban were raiding video shops and making bonfires of TVs and videos cassettes. Orakzai Agency was partially under the control of the local Taliban. A movement against NGOs started in the whole NWFP. A mullah of Dir issued a fatwa that anyone could take in marriage any female NGO worker found in the area. In 2000 TVs, video cassettes, VCRs and cable network systems were torched in different parts of the NWFP, including, Peshawar, and in FATA.
In the aftermath of the NATO forces’ operation in Torabora, the foreign militants fled Afghanistan and took refuge in different parts of Pakistan. In March 2002, the NATO forces conducted operation Anaconda in Shahi Kot area of Paktiya province. A large number of foreigners crossed over to North and South Waziristan agencies where the local tribal provided them shelter because of religious fervour, monetary benefits and the Pashtunwali code of hospitality. Most of these foreigners had not taken part in the jihad against Russia. These militants had one thing in common. They had differences with the ruling regimes and the systems of government in their own countries and wanted to change their governments through violent means. They came to Afghanistan from for training and went back to destabilise their ruling regimes through terror and violence. Very few had any affiliation with Al Qaeda. After 9/11, the Taliban movements in the tribal areas had subsided. They disappeared from Orakzai Agency and were no more active in North Waziristan In 2003 Gulbadin Hikmatyar, the Taliban and Al Qaeda entered into an alliance to fight the NATO forces jointly in Afghanistan. The apparent strategy was to start guerrilla warfare against the NATO forces, causing attrition and prolonging the conflict to tire these forces out and force them to leave Afghanistan. They also sought to restore the Taliban state existing in Afghanistan before 9/11. At the same time, they wanted to discredit the NATO forces through a propaganda campaign presenting the war on terror as a crusade launched by infidels against Muslims.
They exploited the sentiments of the Pashtuns’ code of Pashtunwali to get shelter and support in those areas.
They wanted to eliminate prominent elders and Maliks, create terror by use of brutal force and to Talibanise the whole tribal area so that security forces could not operate freely in the area. They portrayed both Karzai and Pakistani rulers as puppets of the US.
The Mujahideen and local Taliban joined hands with this alliance and started raids against the NATO forces across the border. The strength of foreigners started swelling. New volunteers joined them. The tribal areas were safe havens where NATO forces could not conduct ground operations against militants. Most of the prominent Maliks who could stand against them were killed. As long as Pakistani Army operations were targeting foreign terrorists and were not directed against the local facilitators and tribal Mujahideen they avoided confronting the Army.
With the establishments of border post manned by the Army and FC the cross-border movement on frequented routes became difficult for Al Qaeda and its local allies. Therefore, the militants reviewed their strategy. Raiding of army convoys with IEDs started. In 2004, The Army and FC suffered heavy casualties. Targeting of law enforcement agencies and brutal killings of local Maliks and suspected informers continued throughout the year. In February 2005 a peace deal was signed with Baitullah Mehsud, who until mid-2004 was an unknown person in the area. Baitullah virtually took control of Mehsud areas of the agency. A reign of terror was let loose against those who could pose a threat to the Taliban’s rule. Those tribals who did not support the Taliban’s brand of Islam assumed that the law enforcement agencies were not serious in establishment of the writ of the government, and they surrendered to Biatullah. Al Qaeda and other foreigners felt more secure in Mehsud areas. The Taliban were now more confident and started spreading their influence to other tribal agencies. In December 2007, Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan was established.
The Taliban are now controlling most areas of FATA and some parts of the settled areas of the NWFP. Some politicians, journalists and majority of middle class think that we are fighting Americans war. They do not realise the magnitude and nature of threat this country is confronted with. Baitullah is not going to lay down arms and sit on a shop once the NATO forces leave Afganistan. Fazalullah, Gul Bahadur, Faqir Muhammad and all other Taliban leaders would not like to part with the power they have. Once NATO forces leave Afghanistan they will continue with their activities and will try to spread their rule to the rest of NWFP and the rest of Pakistan. This is our war and we have to win it, using dialogue where it is useful. (The News)
The writer is a retired brigadier. Email: email@example.com
Mehsud threatens more attacks
* TTP chief claims responsibility for Lahore attack
* Vows attacks inside American territory
PESHAWAR: Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the attack on a police training academy in Lahore and suicide attacks in Islamabad and Bannu, and warned of further attacks in Pakistan in the coming days and later in the US.
“These (attacks) were in reaction to (US) drone strikes in the Tribal Areas,” Baitullah Mehsud told BBC Urdu over the telephone from an undisclosed location.
“Over the next few days, more such attacks will come … two or three suicide attacks will take place,” warned Mehsud, without naming any cities or targets. “As long as the drone attacks continue, we will not stop.” The Taliban leader said he would himself “teach the US a lesson”.
“Very soon we will take revenge from America, not in Afghanistan but in Washington, which will amaze the entire world,” he told the AFP news agency over the telephone. “The maximum they can do is martyr me. We will exact our revenge on them from inside America … but let us avenge [those in] Pakistan first.”
Analysts said Mehsud’s announcement on responsibility for the attacks could pressure the Pakistan People’s Party government to order a military operation against Baitullah.
“Rehman Malik described the incident as an attack on Pakistan … the government should now move against Mehsud for ordering the attack in Lahore,” said the analysts.
Rehman said on Monday that an initial investigation into the Lahore attack indicated Mehsud’s involvement. (Daily Times)
Muhammad Amir Khakwani
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