|Hit and run
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The writer lives in Karachi
General Headquarters (GHQ) is the nerve centre of the Pakistani military and is guarded by an Infantry battalion, along with a similar number of defence security guards (DSG). Well over a thousand military officials work at the GHQ and they are responsible for running Pakistan’s military machine. Ten terrorists created mayhem for around 22 hours, disrupting normal operations within GHQ. It took a team of SSG commandos who were brought in from 70 kilometres away to end the stand-off after the terrorists took hostages in a building within the GHQ. All the terrorists were Pakistani citizens. The one surviving terrorist, Dr Usman, is a well-known jihadi, with links to groups in Punjab. The civilian intelligence apparatus had received intelligence about such an attack at the GHQ and informed their military counterparts a few weeks before the attack took place. These are the facts.
Around the facts news anchors and our favourite conspiracy theorists have been frothing at the mouth with conspiracy theories, which involve the Americans, the Israelis, the Indians, the Afghans, and the list keeps multiplying by the hour. I’m personally waiting till they get to the Angolans. While the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been mentioned, it has only been a cursory mention at best, with the focus on the “hidden hand” which is trying to destabilise Pakistan. The mindset can be encapsulated by a statement made by Liaquat Baloch of the Jamaat-e-Islami on a special debate set up by a local television channel on the Kerry-Lugar Bill. Mr Baloch stated that the jihadis killing Pakistani civilians and the military were “misguided” and were only doing so because the Americans were in Afghanistan. It all starts with “if the Americans were not in Afghanistan…” to give the impression that these are peace-loving people who are only killing and maiming Pakistani citizens because they are “misguided.” “Misguided” adults do not kill innocent people. Religious parties like the Jamaat have a long history of entanglement with organisations like the TTP and various other jihadi outfits, and have never come out and condemned them for their actions.
Another guest on the same show was the attractive yet hysterical Marvi Memon of the PML-Q. Yes, they are still around. One of her reasons for rejecting the Kerry-Lugar Bill was the clause which calls for Pakistan dismantling training facilities for terrorist groups and not providing any territory to them to launch attacks on another state. Her inexplicable logic was that if we accepted this clause, then we would lose the “moral high ground” in the future. Moral high ground?
The Pakistani state has very little reason to claim the moral high ground. Our soil has been used to conduct operations in other states and individuals like A Q Khan have sold nuclear secrets to other countries for profit. She called the clause “lethal” because we would admit that we had training facilities on our soil in the past and our territory had been used in the past. This is an educated parliamentarian’s view and shows the quality of substance during any sort of debate in Pakistani politics.
By denying the facts we are not achieving or retaining any sort of “moral high ground” but are losing a sense of what her former leader Pervez Musharraf called “ground realities.” Losing touch with reality is a dangerous thing. It is dangerous because by believing the garbage we are trying to sell to the people, our decision-making process becomes flawed.
When companies juggle numbers to paint a rosy picture to the shareholders in the Annual Report, the top management is aware of the shortcomings and the potential dangers that they pose. Until and unless the leadership of all political parties and the military establishment unanimously accept the dangers posed to the very existence of the Pakistani state by these jihadi groups and organisations like the TTP, this battle has already been lost.
The TTP and its cohorts have executed four high-impact attacks in the past ten days, which have taken a total of 140 lives. This is not the work of “misguided” people. These are cold-blooded killers who have no hesitation in carrying out what they have been indoctrinated to believe is a “higher cause.” The government has been announcing the operation in South Waziristan for months now; yet, for some reason, the assault has not begun. Ministers in shiny suits and garish ties who have been threatening to wipe out the scourge of terrorism in South Waziristan remind me of schoolyard brawls where a boy would ask his friends to hold him back otherwise he would demolish the opponent in a sort of noora kushti. So the enemy has had a couple of months to prepare for what’s coming and the element of surprise is gone. They must have collected supplies and equipment, and managed to dig in for the long fight ahead.
In the meantime, they have launched these four attacks meaning to let the government, and more importantly the military, know that they can punch above their weight and give anyone a bloody nose – not just the civvies. The symbolism of the attacks have not been lost on anyone either. The UN Food Programme was targeted to let the goras know that they’re not safe. The suicide bombing in Swat, which had been declared clear of the TTP, to let everyone know that it was still susceptible. Then there was Peshawar, to let everyone know who’s boss. And then, of course, one of the most heavily-guarded installations in the country, the GHQ, to let the army know that even their headquarters wasn’t safe. Ordinary people cannot help but ask that if ten civilians can tie up two battalions for 22 hours, then how safe are they?
Like societies, military forces must evolve; and they have evolved. The Pakistani Army has been geared to fight a set-piece battle since its inception. After fighting three wars with India, this is understandable. Yet, today the greatest threat to Pakistan is internal, and not external. Even if the TTP and its friends are being “handled” by the “foreign hand” as the nutters would have us believe on a regular basis, the bulk of the fighting is being done by Pakistani citizens. Sure we have a smattering of Uzbeks and Arabs running around in the North; but the bulk of the recruits are Pakistani kids recruited from madrasas all over the country. We have the intelligence assets and systems in place to find out the who, when and what – it’s time to change our collective mindset and kill the enemy before they inflict more damage to an already battered state. The military needs to understand that we need more counterinsurgency troops, equipment, and training. And not tanks, submarines, and other high-priced items which are being peddled. This is a battle which requires agility, mobility, and lucid minds – not hysterical rabblerousing. (The News)