Hard Realities

Spearhead Analysis – 31.10.2013

Spearhead Analysis Hard RealitiesReality is a brick wall that you have to face sooner or later. Even brilliant leadership when faced with the reality of a situation has a difficult time making decisions that must be made. Mediocre or poor leadership delays this moment of truth for as long as it can with disastrous consequences. Several recent occurrences have defined the contours of the hard reality that Pakistan and its leadership must face in order to set a navigable course for the nation. Leaders must remember that what they decide to do must be preceded by a careful analysis to determine what can be done with the capacity available. After all even deterrence has to be backed by a capability that can respond, should deterrence fail – without this perceived capacity deterrence is not meaningful.

A recent report by the New York Times indicates that an important Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader was arrested by the US while on his way to meet with Afghan intelligence (NDS). The report suggests that the arrest has thwarted an NDS attempt to forge links with the TTP. This is not how the event is being perceived in Pakistan because it has been saying for a very long time that the CIA-NDS and RAW are directly or indirectly supporting the TTP. There is also a perception that the arrested TTP leader was actually on his way to the Indian Consulate in Jalalabad obviously under NDS patronage when he was arrested by the US who thought he was an Afghan Taliban. Predictably the Afghans are furious and the Indians are silent. Whatever may be the truth Pakistan’s stance that the TTP is getting support from across the border has been vindicated and the perception that the TTP was created to bring the Pakistan Army to the western border areas and keep it involved denying sanctuaries and support to Afghan Taliban, has gained ground. Pakistan must now factor in this reality in its considerations.

The activation of the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir by India and Indian statements pointing the finger at Pakistan not just for the increased militancy in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) but also for the rise of home grown terror all across India with organizations like the Indian Mujahideen (IM) and Islamic Students Union (ISU) actively involved. This terrorism is probably a response to Indian policies in IHK and the activities of extremist Hindu organizations. India could rethink its policy of destabilizing Pakistan internally or it could increase the level of such activity by blaming Pakistan for its internal problems. In any case this is another reality that Pakistan needs to be fully aware of with all its implications. There are going to be many epicenters of terrorism if cooperation on a regional basis does not take place.

Recently there have been a series of violent incidents across Pakistan. The murder of senior Pakistani military personnel in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack, the church bombing in its western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK) and more recently coordinated bomb attacks in the urban areas of Sind and a bomb blast in Quetta ( Baluchistan) are all indicative of a coordinated policy to exploit Pakistan’s vulnerabilities and create new ones. The TTP leadership senses weakness when it sees mounting political pressure on Pakistan’s government to adopt the dialogue option especially when political leaders demand a pullout of the military from the western insurgency infested areas and threats to act against the US/NATO by blocking the supply routes. This is evident from the TTP leader’s statement that Pakistan backing off from a dialogue (that has not yet started) would be considered a betrayal and would lead to consequences. The reality of the environment in which this dialogue will proceed must be understood to determine the chances of its success.

Linked to this appraisal of the environment must be a realistic consideration of the US policy on drone attacks in Pakistan. All the facts indicate that there may be a temporary respite or reduction in the number of attacks but that these will be resumed (after the US pullout is completed) in support of stabilization operations that will continue in Afghanistan. The TTP has demanded an end to such strikes as a condition for dialogue. A US congressman has muddied the waters further by stating that Pakistan has capacity to stop drone strikes if it really wanted them to stop. Earlier a story in the US media (timed with the Pakistani Prime Minister’s visit to Washington) had alleged that the Pakistan government was complicit in the drone attacks. As long as the US continues to call its actions a ‘war’ against terror, the drone strikes will remain an instrument of war fighting – it is unlikely that there will be a shift from war to law enforcement against terrorists. War spawns more war – as the spread of Al Qaeda franchises and the turmoil in the Middle East indicates.

As part of its reality determining exercise Pakistan must factor in external involvement in using Pakistan soil for terrorist attacks in China’s Sinkiang province, the recent Iranian report that the Pakistan-Iran Pipeline project may be abandoned, the incident of the killing of Iranian border guards on the Iran-Pakistan border, the Pakistani judiciary’s concern over petroleum smuggling from Iran and its investigation into 1900+ missing containers or at least their lethal contents in Karachi (an incident promptly denied by the US Ambassador in Pakistan) and finally the series of attacks on the trains in Pakistan – very vulnerable soft targets – and the implications of such activities. There is also the political in – fighting and the inordinate delay in some policy decisions that could lead to a coordinated intelligence estimate of the multiple threats and a decision making tier that could develop responses to the overall threat picture that spells out the reality.

In an article in the ‘Indian Express’ (Pakistan Today  October 30, 2013) ‘Divided We Stand” Mr Bruce Riedel casts doubt on the ability of the political government in Pakistan to control the military and ISI in support of its efforts to help the peace process in Afghanistan. He calls Pakistan’s efforts ‘subterfuge’. While discussing drone strikes he says that ‘America is waging a clandestine war in Pakistan from bases in Pakistan’ and that pressure on ‘Al Qaeda in Pakistan’ will continue beyond 2014 unless Pakistan delivers on peace talks and  ‘allows American counter terrorism operations’ to keep Al Qaeda in check. He mentions the growth of the Pakistan nuclear arsenal – ‘fastest growing in the world’ – probably to indicate that this will come up once the US logistics have moved out. He ends by saying that ‘ Washington will be watching very closely to see if Sharif’s choice of Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) suggests Pakistan is prepared to cooperate in Afghanistan or remains wedded to the Taliban” How, who or why is not explained.  Mr Riedel has accurately indicated the thinking and mood in Washington. Pakistan’s leaders should note that illusions and desires do not mix with hard realities. Once faced with reality it’s time to bite the bullet.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)