Author : Vikram Sood

Originally Published 2014-06-17 07:21:35 Published on Jun 17, 2014
Instead of shutting down its jihadi factories ten years ago, Pakistan's leaders nurtured them selectively and today, their proteges have come to haunt them. They can still be shut down, but will need an honest Pakistani appreciation of its predicament.
Running out of control
"The attack on the Indian Consulate in Herat by suspected Lashkar-e-Tayyaba terrorists on May 23, three days ahead of the swearing in of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister can be interpreted in many ways. It was carried out by "non-state actors" under no-one's control; meaning not under Pakistan's control.

Such operations are usually planned much in advance and there was probably an ear marked group for an assault who had "cased" this target in advance of a possible assault. Quite apparently, the timing of the attack, was to coincide with the swearing in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This leaves one to suspect that the plan was hastily pulled out of some shelf, dusted out and put into operation hastily.

Additionally, what must have galled the powers-that-be in Pakistan was that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was visiting India when he would be treated as one among the many equal SAARC leaders.

What would have frightened these powers was the possibility that Nawaz Sharif may actually succeed in breaking the ice with his Indian counterpart. That would have been blasphemy. Surely, the idea would have been to take hostage, prolong the event, get international coverage and embarrass both the Prime Ministers. Simultaneously, it was a jihadi anthem being played for the new Indian Prime Minister. It was the bravery of the Afghan and Indian security contingents that prevented this plan from succeeding.

The other purpose would have been to send a message to India about the shape of things to come after the Americans leave Afghanistan and that Pakistan would be in control to the exclusion of India and that Indian interests and investments were in jeopardy. This was also the message in the kidnapping of the Indian aid worker Father Alexis Prem Kumar from Herat on June 2.

As if this was not enough, there was a separate message for the Afghans when the presidential candidate, Dr Abdullah Abdullah's convoy was targeted in Kabul on June 6 killing 12 persons in the explosion. Dr Abdullah had a miraculous escape and Afghan sources blame the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba for this attempt on his life.

It is safe to assume that preparations are being made that by 2015 once the Americans have departed in strength, assets like the Al Qaeda, the Taliban (with Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mullah Omar safely ensconced in some safe houses in Pakistan), the still powerful and faithful Haqqani Network terrorists, and for added punch, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, will be thrown into battle in Afghanistan. The mistaken assumption is that it will be a cake walk for Pakistan.

At the same time, the release of Bowe Bergdahl, an American sergeant in exchange for five Taliban prisoners in Guantanamo has become controversial in the US for other reasons but as far as Afghanistan is concerned, this was a display of American insensitivity and opportunism.

The deal was struck with the Taliban, against whom the Americans had vowed to fight and annihilate, behind Karzai's back. His successor is now left with having to handle five additional Taliban returnees one of whom has already announced his intention to fight on. Earlier details had indicated that all these five Taliban prisoners were high value and had a ruthless, if not a murderous, past.

Later dispatches seem to whittle down their importance but it is interesting that even though Pakistan may keep quiet about the exchange, it is known that Bergdahl had been in the custody of the Taliban-aligned Haqqani Network widely acknowledged as a veritable arm of the ISI. It is unrealistic to assume that the Pakistan authorities were not aware of Bergdahl's detention. His release would have been possible only with Pakistani approval. The narrative of the Afghan War has been that the Americans had to fight their own ostensible ally and pay him for his perfidy in dollars. This remains the true story of the failure of the American adventure.

Pakistan assumes that it can keep Afghanistan subservient to its interests and that its moment to acquire depth in that country by prolonging and feeding the insurgencies at tremendous cost of lives, is about to come.

The tragedy today is that the Pakistani state is unable to control vast portions of its own territory or influence the particular mindset that seems to have set in. Today we see sectarian killings in different parts except in the Punjab province, Baloch insurgency that remains under reported, Karachi being destroyed by criminal gangs, ethnic militia and religious fundamentalism.

In one day alone, the Dawn of Pakistan carried four headlines, about the terror attack at Karachi airport that killed 23, at least 22 Shias (others suspect up to 100) killed on the Balochistan-Iran border by Sunni terrorist mafia, 10 suspected militants killed in Balochistan and Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of being involved in the assassination bid on Afghan presidential hopeful, Dr Abdullah Abdullah.

If that be the state of affairs in Pakistan, one doubts how Pakistan can ever hope to exercise control over a fiercely independent nation. All it can succeed in doing is fomenting an endless civil war that will debilitate both Afghanistan and Pakistan and fuel Talibanesque thought. It is a quagmire not strategic depth that Pakistan stares at and there still is a way out only if its paranoiac leadership understood this and wanted it.

Instead of pushing back its people to medieval times, the state would do better if it met other aspirations of its people. The Indian elections are a sign of the times. No longer will the people accept old stories of caste and religion; they want economic well being and progress, a better way of life here on earth. Their paradise is here and not in some make belief world sold to them by a mullah.

Instead of shutting down its jihadi factories ten years ago, Pakistan's leaders nurtured them selectively and today, their proteges have come to haunt them. They can still be shut down, but will need an honest Pakistani appreciation of its predicament.

Pakistan has to decide whether it wants to live the life of an honest neighbour or be the perpetual delinquent. There can be no preconditions except to join the neighbourhood, including India, in the search for better lives for our people. One suspects Pakistan may not be up to it.

(The writer is an Advisor to Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

Courtesy : Business Standard

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Vikram Sood

Vikram Sood

Vikram Sood is Advisor at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Sood is the former head of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) — India’s foreign intelligence agency. ...

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Holger Rogner

Holger Rogner

Holger Rogner International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

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