Settling regional disputes on the basis of give and take



M Ziauddin

IT TAKES just once in a while for the terrorists to succeed rendering the almost 100 per cent successes of the law enforcement agencies (LEA) in pre-empting the attackers’ plots for mayhem. There was a time during the second half of the first decade of the 21st century and early in the second decade when Pakistan used to suffer such attacks by the weeks if not on daily basis. The frequency of these attacks went down considerably soon after the launch of Zarb-i-Azb in June 2014. Since then the frequency has come down from almost once a month to once every third month and now almost nearly every six months.
But then these resounding successes of the LEA against the terrorists pale into insignificance when contrasted against the August 8, 2016 colossal tragedy of Quetta. The entire civil society of the city along with almost all its senior lawyers has been wiped out. In this bloodbath two of media’s very young cameramen also lost their lives. And the number of other lives lost— young and old, men and women— is still counting.
This useless loss of valuable lives becomes all the more unnecessary when viewed against the physical backdrop of the scene of the attack.
Quetta is a small city with just 12 streets each of which has been under the strict watchful eyes of our LEAs especially that of the well-armed and well-equipped Frontier Corps (FC) round the clock now for almost many decades because of the volatile insurgency by a group of separatists that the province has been suffering for many years. The city swarms with Afghan Taliban and their local sectarian connections among the groups like Lashkar-i-Jhangvi. Lately Daesh is also said to have established its presence in the province.
And after the threat held out by Indian National Security Advisor, Mr. Doval sometime back to counter what he believed to be Pakistan’s clandestine militant incursions in India, especially inside the Indian Held Kashmir, by using disgruntled elements within Pakistan to force it to give up its so-called jihad in IHK, it was very clear that Balochistan was what he had in mind for recruiting elements that were unhappy with the way they had been treated by Islamabad and Rawalpindi all these over 65 years.
So ordering the launch of combing operation in Balochistan at this late hour sounds more like a statement designed to play to the gallery. Also those who have without waiting for the investigations to complete started blaming RAW and/or international forces inimical CPEC too are not doing anything else. The repeated use of RAW and forces opposed to CPEC without any evidence to explain the failure to pre-empt such attacks is likely very soon to lose its lustre of veracity and be regarded by general public as no more than what it actually is, a lame excuse.
Not only this. Only in 2013 an incident of similar pattern had taken place when two senior police officers were killed in targeted attacks followed up by the suicide bombing of the funeral prayers for the dead police officers which took a toll of 30 lives.
The target killing of the President of Balochistan Bar Association should have alerted the LEA into taking pre-emptive steps to stop the hospital massacre. In fact, the LEA should have either foiled the target killing itself or in case of failure to do so, they should have been able to apprehend the killers quickly because of so many check-posts that dot the city making it impossible for anyone to slip out of the dragnet without having been noticed.
What is a matter of wonder is that the LEAs have not yet apprehended the target killers despite the dragnet. Indeed, if instead of trying to fathom how the suicide bomber slipped into the crowd of lawyers at the hospital the LEA were to focus on catching the killers of the Balochistan Bar Association chief, it is more than possible that they would be able to unearth the planners, facilitators and executioner of the Quetta mayhem without much difficulty.
But success in getting to the bottom of the Balochistan massacre is not going to make much of a difference to the ongoing war against terror. It is a deep rooted malaise, part of which was allowed to germinate as a foreign policy and defence instruments by our own security agencies against the advice of patriotic Pakistanis.
The blunders that our security institutions committed on the excuse of liberating Indian Held Kashmir have brought the country to such a dire pass from which it appears almost impossible for Pakistan to escape.
When we finally came to the conclusion after three unsuccessful wars against India that the latter was too strong militarily to force it to offer us IHK on a platter in the battle-field, we decided to send in armed infiltrators to join the freedom fighters across the Line of Control. But this too failed to achieve the objective. In fact the Kargil misadventure made us almost to lose our Kashmir case as we admitted in front of the entire world that the withdrawing troops were our own regular army personnel and not indigenous freedom fighters of the IHK.
As we tried to dismantle these groups of jihadi infiltrates under the pressure from our American friends, these jihadis turned against us and started attacking our security installations. Even the GHQ was not spared.
Meanwhile, in keeping with our strategic-depth related Afghan policy we had provided secure hide-outs to Afghan Taliban and allowed them to use our soil to mount attacks on the civilian governments in Kabul. In this case as well we finally found ourselves on the wrong side of our of cold-war friend the US and which is now forcing us to abandon these Taliban and to rub salt in the wound has joined up with our ‘enemy no.1’—India.
The US has used Balochistan to spy on as well as disrupt Iran during the period it had imposed nuclear related sanctions on Tehran. So Tehran too is not very happy with Pakistan for Islamabad’s assumed help to the US in causing trouble inside Iran in the last 15 years or so.
So, regionally speaking the three countries with which we have physical borders—India, Afghanistan and Iran—seem extremely hostile towards Pakistan. In view of the above, one cannot rule out the possibility of mounting clandestine counter-attacks inside Pakistan by these three hostile countries on our border.
Since there exists massive trust deficit between Pakistan and the world capitals for various reasons most of which are of our own making while some seem also to have been deliberately concocted to make us a escape-goat for the failures of the US in Afghanistan and its blunders in Iraq and Syria, Pakistan’s pleadings of being a victim rather than exporter of terrorism are not getting the desired response from the countries that matter.
It seems we are on our own and; it is we who would be entirely responsible for taking the country down the hill or lifting it out of its current crises.
It is wrong to blame the state of governance or/and corruption in the country for the militant mess that we are facing today. Countries where governance is in an ideal state and corruption has been brought largely under control like in Europe and the US, have also been suffering from terror attacks of great magnitudes at regular intervals lately.
What we need to do urgently is to completely wipe out all the remnants of jihad and jihadi culture from Pakistan. Tell the Afghan Taliban to go home and fight their battles from their own soil. Also, we must post haste send leaders like Hafiz Saeed and Sheikh Rashid into total oblivion and ban their utterings in the same way as we have done to the speeches of MQM chief Altaf Hussain.
Next, we should develop a narrative based on Quaid-i-Azam’s September 11, 1947 speech to the constituent assembly (which was actually inspired by Misaq-i-Madina) to counter the narrative of the terrorists that is based on some distorted version of Islam.
This new narrative of Pakistan should be promoted by both the political parties of Pakistan as well as its security institutions using every communication vehicle at our disposal including all kinds of media—print, broadcast, internet and social media.
Next, we should call a regional conference on terrorism that should include all the five regional countries—Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Iran and China. This conference should take into consideration all the provocations that inspire militancy including religion, Kashmir and territorial disputes and come to some kind of lasting arrangement on these issues on the principle of give and take.

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