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Can Pakistan Win This War?

By Dr Shabir Choudhry

20 December, 2009

Pakistan is at war, and this time the war is not with India. The wars with India proved disastrous. This war is with its own people and within its defined borders. Some call it America’s war whereas the government and the army call it ‘Pakistan’s own war’. Is it really? Pakistan is determined to win this war; and I sincerely hope they win it, as this is very important for peace and stability of Pakistan, Kashmir and the region.

As a result of this war Pakistan is under attack. One by one all highly guarded institutions have been attacked, clearly showing that those who target these attacks are few steps ahead of Pakistani secret agencies. Pakistan claims Talibans are behind these attacks.

Before we answer that question we have to establish who are the Talibans? We are told they are people who have studied in Madrassas (Muslim religious schools) and generally belong to poor families. They are not considered educated or even rational. They are labelled as illiterate, backward and narrow minded extremists.

If the above is true then where did these ‘backward’, ‘illiterate’ and ‘irrational people’ learn art of modern warfare? Where did they learn art of espionage and counter espionage? In which Madrassa did they learn to plan terrorism so meticulously and execute their plans so effectively that the top Pakistani intelligence agencies find themselves helpless?

How could backward and uneducated people living in caves and mud houses in neglected areas of North West Frontier and FATA have access to secret information about various places, especially offices of secret agencies, their movements and who is living where and doing what?

I am not condoning what they are doing, but question is why are they targeting offices and officers of secret agencies and officers of the Pakistan army? How do they know who belongs to ISI and who is a senior officer in the army; and where they live?

Are these terrorists – Talibans - ‘illiterate’ and ‘backward’ people who are calling the shots; or they are among those who were trained to export violence and jihad in other countries? Are these the people who were considered an ‘asset’ to conquer and control ‘strategic depth’; and now there was a conflict of interest between the trainers and the trainees? And these trained ‘boys’ feel that their mentor is fighting America’s war and protecting a ‘big Satan’, which is trapped in Afghanistan.

Apart from that, unlike Kashmiris, these ‘boys’ have grown up and have become fully matured men, and feel that they can decide what is good for them. Furthermore, unlike Kashmiris, they give preference to their interest and not to the interest of those who trained them and funded them. They think their ‘jihad’ has not ended yet, although interest and priorities of their mentors to some extent have changed.

People could argue, Taliban are wrong, they have started targeting mosques and public places where civilians get killed. But the counter argument put forward by supporters of the Taliban is that those 83 boys and girls who were killed in Bajour Madrassa were also innocent, and were there to learn Qur’an. They were killed when Tribal leaders agreed to respect the writ of government and lay down their arms. It was only when innocent children were killed in the Madrassa in Bajour that the wave of suicide attacks started. Similarly those girls and boys who lost their lives in Red Mosque and Jamia Hafisa were also innocent and they were killed and burnt by use of white phosphorous, an illegal chemical weapon.

In response to this one could say that the target was ‘terrorists’ inside those establishments and girls and boys died in a ‘collateral damage’ – a term used to cover up or justify killing of innocent civilians. But there are not many takers of this argument. If terrorists takeover London University and refuse to come out, should the innocent students, teachers and other staff be gunned down with use of heavy weapons and burnt to ashes with use of white phosphorous?

I won’t talk here of big targets like attacks on GHQ and various offices of secret agencies including offices of ISI, elite secret agency of Pakistan. I want to briefly analyse three attacks which happened in Rawalpindi.

A serving General of Pakistan army’s car was targeted by a 15/16 years old suicide bomber on the Maal Road Rawalpindi in which the General lost his life. How did this young uneducated teenager know that this was the General’s car? How did he know what time the General would be leaving hospital and reaching those traffic lights where the car was attacked?

In another incident dozens of innocent civilians lost their lives near a bank in Sader, in a suicide attack. Apparently this attack was on civilians, but reliable sources reveal that the target was a Major of ISI and his four colleagues who reached there in a car which was parked in a car park; and that was where the attack happened. The ISI Major was injured in the attack but his four colleagues together with dozens of other people perished. The question is how the bomber knew he was an ISI officer and he had four other ISI personnel with him?

The last attack in Rawlapindi was in a mosque on 4 December 2009. It was a deadly blow to Pakistan army and its image. This attack, like others in the past, was condemned by the government and the army. There was also a strong reaction from the people of Pakistan as well because the attack was in a mosque during a Friday congregation at a Parade Lanes mosque. Many declared that those who attack mosques are not Muslims. May be they are not.

But the counter argument is what about the attack on Red Mosque and Jamia Hafisa, and destruction of other seven mosques in Islamabad on Murree Road which happened during Musharaf’s rule? Those people who destroyed these mosques, were they Muslims or non Muslims?

And moreover, what about the attack on Holy Kabbah by Hijaj Bin Yousaf? No mosque on earth can match the sanctity of holy Kabbah. Hijaj Bin Yousaf was a Muslim. His army was Muslim too; and those he was fighting were also very good Muslims. Also what about attack on holy Kabbah by some Iranians about three decades ago? Were they Muslims or non Muslims?

I am not justifying an attack on any mosque or holy Kabbah. I, in fact, in line with Islamic teaching respect all religious shrines and places of worship. I only want to make a point that sometimes fighting forces do attack places of worship, wrong as it is, to promote a cause they believe in or to eliminate high value target; or simply to take revenge.

In Rawalpindi mosque the target was not ordinary people who went their to pray, but the prime target was Hashim Masood the only son of the corps commander of Peshawar, Lieutenant General Masood Aslam, who is commanding operations in South Waziristan. Apart from him, 17 officers of the Pakistan Army were killed; among them was a General of the Armoured Corps, Major General Bilal Omar, a Brigadier some Colonels and Majors.

I, like other people, also condemn this attack; and express full sympathy with the families of those who lost their love ones in this tragic act of terrorism. I pray Allah to grant heaven to those who lost their lives.

Mufti Waliur Rahman Mehsud, the chief of the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan, while accepting the responsibility for the Rawalpindi said their ‘primary targets’ were the army officers in the mosque. He did not even express any remorse on the death of civilians, because in his view they were relatives of army officers and their demise ‘did not matter’.

When F16 strikes or Drones attack, innocent people get killed. They are labelled as terrorists; even when among the death include innocent children and women. There is no one to show who the victims are; and those who kill have no interest to show the damage they have inflicted. If somehow it is known that there were no terrorists and only innocent people were killed, a few lines statement is issued to say it was sad, but it was a ‘collateral’ damage.

Can anyone cover the death of innocent people in the Rawalpindi mosque under the term of ‘collateral damage’? People should not be allowed to kill innocent civilians under the cover of ‘collateral damage’, whether the killer is using F16 or a suicide jacket.

That aside my question is how did these ‘uneducated and backward’ tribesmen knew that Lieutenant General Masood Aslam’s only son was in the mosque? How did these attackers managed to enter this highly guarded and secured zone with so many weapons?

Talibans or Pathans are good fighters, and we all know that. But it is beyond their ability to collect so much intelligence, analyse it, make sense of it, and monitor activities of their targets and plan attacks with so much precision.

What this means is that someone else is providing them the required information. It is this someone else who plan attacks with military sophistication and precision; and Taliban only provide manpower or volunteers to carry out the job.

Important question is who is this someone? Many Pakistanis claim that Blackwater (new name Xe) is behind these attacks. Others say RAW and Mossad, Indian and Israeli secret agencies are behind them. Some others claim that the American’s are providing the intelligence and the Taliban are implementing the plans.

It is possible that there is more than one agency at work to destabilise Pakistan. It suits their national interest to destabilise Pakistan. But destabilisation of Pakistan also suits many Pakistanis as well; and they have different reasons for that. Because of this aspect of the war which Pakistan is fighting, some still think it is ‘inside job’.

They claim the disgruntled elements of the establishment and security apparatus are helping the Taliban by providing important information. It must be understood that the war Pakistan is fighting is not against any tribe or geographical area of Pakistan. They are fighting fanatics belonging to a cult, which is willing to die and blow them up to promote their cause. They are also determined to kill anyone who is perceived as an ‘enemy’ or threat to their cause.

These fanatics were recruited during General Zia time and groomed during 1980s and 1990s to promote a particular brand of Islam and export that ideology to serve the cause of Islam and Pakistan. To them end justify means; however wrong that might look to others. These fanatics were appointed in various ministries and in different sections of the Pakistani establishment; and with time they earned promotions and increased their area of influence.

These fanatics did not belong to one tribe or one region of Pakistan. Thousands of them were from various towns of Punjab and Frontier Province. Because of their common ideology and common goal they had good networking and coordination among them. It is this relationship which is causing so much trouble to Pakistan and Pakistani secret agencies, as their loyalty to the cult is much stronger than their loyalty to their departments.

When Pakistan made a U Turn on its policy and joined the America’s war against terrorism these people, as a matter of policy, became part of the war on both sides. However this policy could not continue for too long. Some people were made to retire and others were posted to less significant posts; but some others decided to become inactive for some time.

Some Pakistanis are claiming that they have won this war because of some success in Swat and in South Wazirstan. In my opinion it is too early to make this claim, as the war has just begun. True, Pakistan wants a quick end to this war; but the Taliban leaders have a strategy to drag it on for many years. Moreover external factors will influence the final outcome of the war.

If Pakistan wants to win this war then they have to change their strategy. They must not only rely on use of F16 and helicopters gunship. They have to win minds and hearts of the people and that could not be won by use of brute force and making more people homeless, making more orphans and martyrs. Above all they seriously need to look for moles among their ranks. It is these people who are cause of so much death and destruction in Pakistan.

Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

To view other articles see my blog:


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