Pak Restructuring Regional Strategy

By K.N. Pandita

Indian Army estimates that 200 armed jihadis are waiting along the Line of Control (LoC) to sneak into Indian Territory, 31 of these have already managed to infiltrate.

Even when the valley was reeling under the ravages of unprecedented floods, jihadis made several bids to push many of them across the line. These bids were however, neutralized. The infiltration bids increased soon after the BJP led NDA government took oath of office. At the swearing in ceremony, where SAARC leaders including Pakistan’s Prime minister Nawaz Sharif participated,  the prime ministers of India and Pakistan jointly spoke of containing terrorism in the region.

A gradual change in the idiom of General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi could be discerned when perfunctory hints emanated from Islamabad that bilateral talks with India would be resumed.

To offset any talks, non-state actors in Pakistan revived Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) orchestration and its reverberations were felt along the LoC. Unprovoked firing in some sensitive sectors along the LoC and even across International Border (IB) in RS Pora sector assumed threatening proportions.

Pak agencies subtly scuttled foreign secretary-level meet by predicating it with Pak High Commissioner’s invitation to the separatists and secessionists for a meeting in Delhi, thereby scoring a point against Islamabad.

The Pakistan Army, alarmed by the insistence of new government in Delhi to meaningfully pursue bilateral talks with the democratically elected government in Islamabad enfolding 26/11 culprits and the new approach theory to bilateral relations, decided to settle its score with the bugbear of Pak democracy.  Military coup was out of question as neither Americans nor the Saudis would take it.

The Army was already peeved with Nawaz Sharif for treating Musharraf, its former Chief with disdain. Hence it pressed into service the option of mobocracy. Logjam continues around the seat of the government.

Allowing the stalemate to linger on, the Army, which had been making serious efforts for quite some time to draw a wedge between the Punjabi and Pushtun ethnic groups of Tehreek-i-Taliban-i-Pakistan (TTP), succeeded in the time-tested mantra of divide and rule.  A statement from the chief of Punjabi chapter of TTP, Asmatullah Muawiya on September 5, 2014 declared that his group would no longer operate in Pakistan but would actively join hands with Afghan Taliban and fight against the American propelled government in Kabul and the American presence in Afghanistan. TTP Commander, Abu Baseer denigrated Muawiya by asserting that he always had links with Pak agencies.

Before joining TTP, Muawiya was a commander of Maulana Masood Azhar’s terrorist group, Jaish-i-Muhammad. Following differences with Jaish in the aftermath of Lal Masjid operation of 2007, Muawiya parted ways with Azhar and went to the tribal areas with dozens of his comrades.

He formed his faction of terrorists claiming that he wanted to avenge the killing of jihadis in Lal Masjid operation by Pakistani security men. He named his faction Jundu’l-Hafsa after the name of girls’ seminary Jame’ul Hafsa attached to Lal Masjid.

Jundul-Hafsa carried out many terrorist attacks independently, which included attack on foreign mountaineers at the base camp of Nanga Parbat at an altitude of 4200 m, on June 22, 2013 and an attack in September 2013 on a church in Peshawar killing 80 Christians, while offering mass.

After becoming part of TTP, Muawiyeh had become the chief of its Punjabi chapter. In 2003-4, General Musharraf, the then President of Pakistan, directed the Punjabi Taliban conducting jihadi activities in Punjab to wind up. The Punjabi Taliban, comprising mostly the youth from Punjab and POJK split into two. One group migrated to Waziristan where it raised the banner against Pakistani army.

It is noteworthy that in the initial stage of drone attacks, Americans avoided attacking TTP groups in Waziristan, in the hope that they would not make a common cause with Afghan Taliban. But when Pakistan declared that all members of TTP were the enemies of Pakistan, American drone attacks started targeting the hideouts of Punjabi Taliban as well.

But before the American drones could pound TTP, Pakistani ISI had relocated the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements in TTP from Waziristan to Kurram Agency where they enjoyed security.

The simple objective of Pakistan in categorizing all TTP as its enemy was to help disperse the Afghan Taliban either to Kurram or to safe havens in Afghanistan wherever they could find it. Then after the purge it could take on the remnants of TTP easily and hunt them down one by one.

Obviously, Kabul government took care of those elements that were forced to withdraw to Afghan territory in the face of Pakistan army’s heavy attacks on TTP which ultimately reduced it to shambles.

Having finished the TTP in Waziristan, without causing harm to much of the Afghan Taliban, which had taken refuge in Waziristan against the NATO attacks, Pakistan army achieved the twin objectives of liquidating anti-army TTP, and retaining anti-Kabul lever in its hands in the shape of Kurram-based Afghan Taliban.

On the other hand, this strategy found replication in the shape of Maulvi Fazlullah, the commander of TTP, who having positioned himself in Kabul is patronizing the anti-Pakistan army elements that are temporarily located or concentrated in Afghanistan.

Until Aug 13, 2013 Punjabi chapter of TTP remained under TTP. During that period Asmatullah Muawiyeh had twice come to Indian part of J&K clandestinely and also travelled to Afghanistan to take stock of the ground situation there. The dream of Islamic Caliphate is very much alive in the heads of these jihadis.

Last year, TTP expelled Muawiyeh after he had issued statement regarding PML-N government’s proposal for peace talks without prior approval from the central leadership. He had welcomed Nawaz Sharif’s proposal for dialogue after urging Pak militants to respond to the offer.

In all probability, the inference is that Pakistan Army will, in slow degrees, induct its protected and patronized hordes of Afghan Taliban into J&K and thus give a new turn to jihad in J&K. Border violations and unprovoked firing could be a precursor to that scenario.

In this broad and rather grossly intertwined regional strategic scenario, ISI has played the master card by winning over Muawiya and through him declaring the end of hostilities against Pakistan by Punjabi Taliban. However, the story does not end there. In his statement, Muawiya said that while he would work in the interests of Islam and in propagating its true teachings, he would join in fight against Kabul regime and the Americans now sitting in Kabul.

Reports indicate that through the instrumentality of Haqqani network, Muawiya’s group will move to Afghanistan and join hands with the Afghan Taliban in bringing down the Kabul regime and throwing out the Americans and finally giving proper shape to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan or the Caliphate of Khurasan.

Haqqani is an old time stooge of ISI and for long has been acting as per its commands.

Professor KN Pandita is the former Director of the Centre for Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University, Srinagar. The views expressed are his own.

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