It’s time for Pakistan’s military to re-think its support for the Afghan Taliban, says a leading analyst.
Since the start of so-called ‘talks’ between the government and a committee nominated by Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), 175 people were killed in 40 attacks by the assorted militias directly or indirectly linked to the TTP and its patron al Qaeda. The talks’ saga was baffling even for the most optimistic observers.
Is the doctrine of strategic depth dead?
For years, Pakistani state’s tolerance for the TTP predicated on the calculation that it could not annoy the Afghan Taliban due to the future transition in Afghanistan where Indian influence had to be countered.
There is a view within the state that TTP is a means for Afghan Taliban to attain strategic depth within Pakistan increasing their leverage over the Pakistani state. Perhaps this is the time for the military to re-think its support for the Afghan Taliban. But this would require a paradigm shift which cannot take place without civilian input and oversight.
While the civilian leadership and the military grapple with the extraordinary situation — 8000 security personnel have been killed by the militants in the past few years — the absence of a comprehensive strategy dogs the future of counter-terrorism operations.
Further, the issues of state capacity to tackle terrorist methods have not been fully addressed. The police which has to be at the forefront of the counter-terrorism (CT) operations remains under-funded, ill-equipped, working under varying legal and institutional frameworks. Two provinces (Punjab, KP) have retained Police Order of 2002, while the other two (Balochistan, Sindh) have discarded it. The federal territories are even more ungoverned and this explains the rise of militant hideouts in Gilgit-Baltistan, Fata and other places. The legal system especially the courts and prosecution are unable to act as effective institutions for CT related matters. Without focusing on these areas, military operations can only have limited results.
Over the past few weeks, the most dangerous fallout of the talks-mantra has been increased legitimacy for the terrorist outfits. Political parties such as the PTI, the JI and to an extent even the PML-N, have justified peace through appeasement; and the media, out of fear, has given unprecedented space to the extremist mindset.
Maulana Aziz who fought against the state from the Red Mosque platform and whose cohorts killed army officials has been arguing on prime time TV as to why Pakistan’s constitution is un-Islamic. Al Qaeda thinks the same. Former generals have also been scaring the public of the evil designs of the US and how it is responsible for almost all terrorism in the country.
There is little or no counter-narrative to these dominant voices. Political parties are divided and wary of the Islamist narratives that may result in their unpopularity at the polls. This defeatist mindset is not a new occurrence. In fact it is a perennial theme of Pakistani politics rooted in the manufactured Islamo-nationalist identity of the state.
This extract is taken from a longer article. RTWT.
The Jinnah Institute is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.