Recent events in and around Pakistan have widened the fissures within a fragmenting Pakistani society. Sensationalism combined with opaqueness in policy has contributed to speculation and rumours mill tearing at the seams. If tweets, blogs and views of an educated liberal class of Pakistanis are a measure, the events are certainly taking Pakistan to the gallows with testimonies from our very own.
Nothing more highlights the absence of an informed internal debate on the calculus of the National Power/National Interests or the pressing issues of national well being and nationism. At the governmental level, nothing positive and redeeming is happening. The war cabinet has never been commissioned. Defence Committee of Cabinet is ineffective and marred by divisions. The leadership environment in crises is nonexistent. Ruing such initiatives, I had written in ‘Rising Pakistan: A New Narrative’ that the media would soon relish an opportunity of sensationalism never witnessed before. It happened earlier than I expected.
As regards Kakul, it is yet to be ascertained if there was complicity from within. As a combater it is impossible for me to believe that Strategic Military Surprise had the nation confused for 24 hours. Refuelling arrangements at Kala Dhaka lend credence to my complicity theory.
The attack on Mehran Base was a bombshell with insufficient explanations. How was it possible that the terrorists achieved surprise? Did the local security in its rush cut off the route of withdrawal and trapped some militants while many others firing rockets into the aircrafts managed to escape undetected? Have the crossing points on the stream used by the militants been examined for any signs leading to a rendezvous? And have all the empties of rockets fired at aircrafts been collected? Why were the terrorists allowed to pin down security forces for 17 hours and why ground combat troops held back? Where was the Joint Staff Headquarters with all its coordination? Unless these facts are known, the nation will continue to speculate and divide within.
The murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, the one man team of investigative journalism needs to be investigated to meet the ends of justice and punish those who killed him most brutally. The incidence has provided the much needed impetus to the propaganda and media tirades of a certain segment who see the military and intelligence establishments of Pakistan as enemies and use the propaganda unleashed by the western media against its own establishment as gun powder.
Lack of ‘need to know transparency’ at the ends of the armed forces and intelligence are providing space to both well meaning and ulterior motivated criticism of the armed forces. Why is it that suddenly the western media, White House critics, Pentagon, segments of political parties and some Pakistani media also join the same chorus?
A national army cannot remain divorced from the events that take place around it. Inasmuch as the nation, the events narrated above must have definitely dented military morale crucial for a battlefield. They realise that unlike Swat, the entire nation is not behind them. Amidst this mist of events, half truths, rhetoric and disinformation, they need a cause worth fighting for. In the backdrop of over 7000 casualties, many would be questioning if it was ever worth it and to what purpose. This is a most unsuitable environment to throw an army into large scale counter insurgency operations when other pre requisites emanating from the civil sector are totally missing. In any army, soldiers fight through motivation and that is just what the army needs.
Barawal Valley in Dir has been under constant conventional attacks launched from Kunar Afghanistan in the past few days. Earlier too, this sector had witnessed large scale organised attacks. Why is this pressure being brought on the Northern Flank of Mohmand Agency again facing Kunar? What have the NATO Forces and Afghan Military done so far to stop such incursions and who keeps supplying these insurgents with reinforcements and logistics. It is no coincidence, that when the security forces carried out search and clearing operations in the past, the NATO Forces failed to provide the much needed anvil. The militants were able to escape from one side and enter from another. The same is also true of the South Waziristan Operations followed by the usual accusations from CENTCOM that Pakistani security forces lack the holding capacities in areas that they secure. Will future operations in FATA and PATA witness the same levels of coordination? If they do, it means nothing.
Both USA and the Pentagon need to realise that in the military strategy the credibility of intent, clarity in mission and professionalism in execution cannot be over ruled by intelligence intrigues. All operations executed by Pakistan to first set its own house in order are to be supported through intelligence and the military anvil.
It appears that none of the Politicians in Pakistan realise that the country is fighting a war against its own attrition. Grateful to an NRO that puts each one of them in power in some capacity, they are content to play their familiar politics and wait for the time when the security apparatus is decimated enough to give them absolute power. The President and the Prime Minister neither seem to share the security concerns of the establishment nor willing to visit the embattled field formations. The economic and other policies being implemented do not indicate that Pakistan is passing through its worse crises, nor enough to arrest the momentum of constant attrition. With the economy effectively rolled back, factionalism proliferating, growing urban terrorism and the defence establishment constantly embarrassed, the scene will inevitably shift to the heartland Punjab and expanses of simmering Balochistan. To stop this we all have to become Pakistan’s Pakistanis.
It appears that the military leadership too has run out of ideas, primarily because its security narrative based on a two front war was deficient in addressing the issues arising out of militancy and US cooperation. The narrative lacked vital sociological inputs for a long drawn conflict. The assumptions that formed the important plank of the counter insurgency strategy were faulty. Having ceded initiative early on, it was never in a position to seize initiative crucial to a conflict. Its tactical military successes were never backed by viable and credible socio-political initiatives. In a faulty socio-politico-military calculus, there never was that civil backup to take over from where the military left.
Given that the same dispensations are likely to continue, so will the attrition. Much will depend on how USA treats Pakistan and how Pakistan’s leaders react.
On its part, Pakistan must insist that it first needs to put its own house in order by defeating the militants within. This will take the form of selective operations based on accurate intelligence. The cost will be urban terrorism and heavy loss of life and infrastructure. At the same time it must prevail upon Afghan groups amenable to it to negotiate peace. However, this part can only be ensured if the entire nation is united under a new national narrative.
The recent budget has indicated that there is none.
Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.