Taliban’s psywar in Pakistan

Capital suggestion
The psywar

Sunday, October 25, 2009
Dr Farrukh Saleem

On Oct 23, a suicide bomber attacked the aeronautical complex in Kamra. On Oct 22, gunmen shot-dead an army brigadier. On Oct 20, two suicide attackers bombed the International Islamic University, Islamabad. On Oct 16, a suicide bomber rocked the offices of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) in Peshawar Cantonment. On Oct 15, a multi-man assault team attacked the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) building, the Manawan Police Training School and the Elite Police Academy, all in Lahore.

On Oct 5, a suicide bomber dressed in military fatigue blew himself inside the United Nations World Food Programme in Islamabad. On Oct 9, a suicide bomber attacked Khyber Bazaar in Peshawar. On Oct 10, at least nine militants in army uniforms stormed the nerve-centre of Pakistan’s robust military machine, GHQ. On Oct 12, a suicide bomber attacked a military convoy in Shangla.

Kamran Bokhari, my friend and colleague, and Regional Director, Middle East & South Asia for Stratfor, a Texas-based private intelligence outfit, asserts that this is classic ‘psychological warfare’ or psywar. According to Kamran, “The militants lack the capacity to take on the military might of the Pakistan army and so they resort to psywar.”

Over the past two weeks there have been a dozen major incidents of terrorism-related violence. To be certain, militants are no match for the 7th Infantry Division, Golden Arrow, Pakistan army’s “oldest and most battle-hardened division”, marching southwards from Razmak. Militants cannot take on the 9th Infantry Division — closing in on Makeen — in a conventional face-off.

From a purely strategic standpoint, all of these incidents put together mean next to nothing to the Pakistan army as none of this has been able to damage the core physical fighting capacity of the military. To be certain, these are all militant-designed tactical manoeuvres in a long drawn-out clash of nerves.

What message do the militants want to convey? One, that they are alive and kicking. Two, that South Waziristan is not the only troubled spot in Pakistan; Islamabad, Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Lahore are not beyond their reach either. Three, that Pakistan is in a state of civil war. Four, that the whole of Pakistan is unsafe to live. Five, they want Pakistan isolated from the rest of the world.

What do the militants really want? A Pakistan that lacks ‘order and predictability’. They want an absolute “absence of government — a state of lawlessness”. The militants want to create an environment where normal state of governance cannot continue. Kamran is convinced that there is a “method to their madness” and that the militants want to “overwhelm the state of Pakistan” and bring her down to her knees through psychological warfare — economically, socially and politically.

Psychological terrorist warfare can be defined as the “planned use of violence having the primary purpose of influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes and behaviour” in order to mould the state from taking action against terrorists. What that means is that terrorists cannot face the state of Pakistan in a symmetrical conflict and thus the use of terrorist violence to “influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes and behaviour” of Pakistanis in order to establish terrorist diktat over the state and society of Pakistan; a ‘harsh, unilaterally imposed’ diktat over the whole of Pakistan.

To be sure, the militants are serious. Between 2003 and 2009, fatalities in terrorist violence stand at 22,110 of which 7,004 were civilians, 2,637 were security force personnel. What should the state and society do? Society should not fall into the terrorist trap and the state must beef up its intelligence. Remember, it’s not symmetric, it’s war of intelligence. Society should not let incidents of terrorist violence influence its opinions, emotions, attitudes and behaviour in favour of the terrorists.

The writer is the executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS). Email: farrukh15@hotmail.com (The News)

Defending Taliban: EDITORIAL: South Punjab and Taliban

In a TV discussion, ex-Jama’at-e Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad asserted that the terrorists who were killing innocent Pakistanis were not only not Muslims but that the killing was being done by three enemy states: the United States, India and Israel. In another TV discussion, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah made the case that South Punjab was not the home of terrorism and that the territory of South Punjab was being exaggeratedly expanded by critics to include cities like Jhang.

Qazi Hussain Ahmad rounded off his scenario of a three-state attack on Pakistan by saying that the US wanted to destroy Pakistan’s nuclear programme because it did not want an Islamic state to possess the atom bomb and join the club of nuclear powers. The discussion did not pinpoint the identity of those who killed innocent Pakistanis, so we will not know what he thought of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), especially when it routinely announces ownership of the lethal suicide attacks being carried out in the country.

The JI line on the TTP is that they are own people determined to fight the Americans and that the government should talk to them instead of despatching troops into their territory. One can say that it has tactfully placed itself at the head of all the elements in Pakistan who embrace anti-Americanism and reject “conditional” American aid to Pakistan in these days of economic crisis, manifested each day by protesting state employees who have not received their salaries for months.

But one must note the reluctance on the part of JI leaders like Qazi Hussain Ahmad to define the Taliban as terrorists after alleging that those who kill are not Pakistanis but those paid to do the dirty work by the US-Indian-Israel combine. But in Indian-administered Kashmir, the Jama’at chief Mr Ali Gilani is prepared to concede that “the Taliban are defaming Islam by killing innocent people and destabilising Pakistan”.

His repartee to TTP chief Hakimullah’s claim that he was committed to spreading Islam was: “The Taliban are portraying Islam in a poor light and are defaming it. I advise them to give up violence and bring Islamic revolution in the country by adopting peaceful means”. The opinion in Pakistan too has swung around after the TTP’s misdeeds in the Malakand-Swat region. The Pakistan Army has undertaken its operations against the terrorists only after gauging the mood of the people. There was simply no other alternative.

The ANP government in the NWFP, which replaced the MMA government of which the JI was a part, thinks differently. It sees the survival of the country only in confronting and defeating the terrorists. Despite its anti-American credentials, it doesn’t think that those killing the innocent citizens are agents of the US-India-Israel combine. Additionally, it wants the Punjab government to assist in lessening the intensity of TTP violence by reining in its own Punjabi Taliban.

The Punjab government is however not convinced that the Punjabi Taliban are embedded in South Punjab alone: according to Rana Sanaullah, they are no more, no less than such elements found in all the regions of the country. It develops that the “official” delineation of what is South Punjab is different from the experts who write on terrorism in the province. Administratively, for instance, Jhang doesn’t fall in South Punjab, but culturally and linguistically it does.

If you count Jhang in South Punjab then terrorism actually owes its birth there, with time spawning breakaway outfits that spread from South Punjab in all directions. Scholars who study the phenomenon include the following cities in the 13 districts of South Punjab: Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Bhakker, Dera Ghazi Khan, Jhang, Khanewal, Layyah, Lodhran, Multan, Muzaffargarh, Rahimyar Khan, Rajanpur, and Vehari. The Seraiki Movement in South Punjab actually includes many additional districts of Upper Punjab too.

It is also denied that DG Khan has an abnormal concentration of militant madrassas. Editor of The Nation, Ms Shireen Mazari, who hails from DG Khan wrote recently: “In DG Khan, taking both its tehsils, there are 185 registered madrassas, of which 90 are Deobandi (with a total of 324 teachers), 84 are Barelvi (with a total of 212 teachers), six are Ahl-e-Hadith (107 teachers) and five are Fiqh-e-Jafaria (10 teachers)”. The unregistered madrassas are not in the count.

Punjab has done well to upgrade its police department. South Punjab is a challenge that it must tackle with a first-rate police cadre and a highly developed intelligence network. Let us not force the army to tackle what the province can take care of within its own jurisdiction. On the other hand, the JI must clear its mind about terrorism and not obfuscate the issue through populist politics. (Daily Times)



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