Pak military’s operational priorities

Mohammad Jamil

Tuesday, January 08, 2013 - A new chapter titled ‘Sub-Conventional Warfare’ has been added to the Army Green Book, which includes threats posed by sub-conventional warfare; and homegrown militancy has been described as the biggest threat to national security. Since the Army Doctrine deals with operational preparedness, it is reviewed in view of the changing ground realities. In the backdrop of three wars with India, it was indeed enemy number one, but at the present Pakistan is not in a state of war with India.

On the other hand, Pakistan is at war with different strands of militants including Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and threat has increased after the TTP leaders and its fighters crossed over to Afghanistan from where they launch attacks on Pakistan’s military and citizens. Despite unfriendly governments in Afghanistan for decades, the level of threat on western border was not so appalling, as today militant groups in tribal regions and terrorists attacks on government installations and resorted to suicide bombings that have killed more than 4000 soldiers and 40000 innocent people.

Reportedly, the purpose of adding the new chapter to the book was to prepare the military to fight the new internal threat and to get the required popular and political support also, because some religious and political parties neither categorically condemn heinous acts of the terrorists nor realize the seriousness of the threat. It has to be mentioned that Pakistan’s armed forces are trained for conventional warfare, but the current security situation demands change, and forces fighting on the front-line in the tribal regions are now being trained according to the requirements of sub-conventional warfare. Army prepares for all forms of threats; and since sub-conventional threat is a reality and a part of threat matrix faced by our country, the change was imperative. However, it does not mean that the conventional threat has receded. The new strategy also stresses that the formulation of the defense policy was not the responsibility of the army alone; other organs of the states will have to play their part.

Pakistan cannot turn a blind eye to the ruses of some powers that are out to denuclearize Pakistan, because they can not digest a Muslim country having nuclear devices with the delivery system. Already, there is propaganda that Pakistan cannot rein in the militants and its installations and nukes may fall in militants’ hands if the state collapses. Some religious parties have already started criticizing the new doctrine without understanding the fact that describing internal threat as a greater threat does not mean that there is no threat on the eastern border. Indeed, Pakistan cannot afford to lower its guard on the eastern border, as the conventional threat is very much there. After all, Pakistan had three wars with India, and despite other reasons the major cause was the core issue of Kashmir. Nevertheless, the difference is that India being a nation state we know the enemy and its capacity, whereas militants resorting to guerilla fighting are not confined to a specific area and are scattered all over Pakistan.

Keeping this fact in view, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani addressing 98th commissioning and passing out parade said: “Pakistan was fighting a faceless enemy, and passing through a very sensitive period in its history. External and internal conditions had created several security challenges”. He has consistently been informing the nation about the dangers ahead if the entire nation does not take a unified action against the terrorists. Anyhow, it is the responsibility of the civil government to respond to the peace overture by the TTP, and to see how serious it is in holding negotiations. They should evaluate in the backdrop of the previous experience of holding negotiations with Fazlullah. In Swat and elsewhere, military action was taken only after the TTP leadership violated the accord reached between the TTP and the provincial government; when it refused to accept the Constitution and challenged the writ of the state.

From the planning and action by the TTP militants who attacked GHQ, attack on Mehran Naval Base, and attack on Kamra Base one can visualize that intelligence and equipment must have been provided by alien intelligence networks. Whatever the case, they have become an existential threat because when they attack military headquarters, naval and air bases, the US, the West and other countries start raising alarm that Pakistan’s nukes can fall into the hands of terrorists. The TTP seems to be playing in their hands not realizing the dangers in weakening the state. God forbid, if any harm is caused to Pakistan, these militants and those supporting them would not be spared by the enemies of Pakistan. There is a perception that the TTP is an ally of Al Qaeda. Hakimullah Mehsud says Mullah Omer is his leader. Al Qaeda leader Aiman-al-Zawahari has in the past given provocative statements against Pakistan and its military, asking the militants to attack military and its installations.

Reportedly, Mullah Omer had once criticized Baitullah Mehsud for not focusing on jihad in Afghanistan but attacking Pakistan military. But for Pakistan, it is an enigma, as it is not clear who is in command, and if at all any chain of command exists. Yet the question can be asked if the Afghan Taliban leaders do not wish to cause any harm to Pakistan, why don’t they persuade or force Tehrik-e-Taliban holed in Kunar and Nuristan in Afghanistan to stop killing military personnel and innocent citizens of Pakistan? Anyhow, the time has come to ask hard questions, and then act.

In March 2012, a video was posted on jihadist forums in which Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called upon Pakistanis to join the Arab Spring uprisings and revolt against their government, saying the country’s leaders were slaves of America. Anyhow, anti-Pak Army propaganda campaign by Al Qaeda is aimed at damaging the image of Pak Army not only in the eyes of Muslims worldwide but also among the Pakistani masses. And this is exactly the American agenda.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.

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