“Pakistan was fighting a faceless enemy and passing through a very sensitive period in its history. External and internal conditions had created several security challenges.” (Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani)_____________________________________________________________________
Conversely, Pakistan is at war with different strands of militants, including Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and the threat has increased after the TTP leaders and fighters crossed over to Afghanistan from where they keep launching attacks on Pakistan’s military and citizens periodically. Despite unfriendly governments in Afghanistan for decades, the level of threat on the western border was not so grave. Today, militants in the tribal regions launch attacks on government installations and suicide bombings have killed more than 4,000 soldiers and 40,000 civilians.
Reportedly, the purpose of adding the new chapter was to prepare the military to fight the internal threat and to get the required public and political support, as some religious and political parties neither openly condemn the acts of terrorists, nor realise the seriousness of the threat. It has to be mentioned that Pakistan’s armed forces are trained for conventional warfare, but the current security situation demands change and forces fighting on the frontline in the tribal regions are now being trained according to the requirements of sub-conventional warfare.
The army prepares itself for all forms of threats and eventualities; and since the sub-conventional threat is a reality and a part of the threat matrix faced by the country, a greater focus on this danger was imperative. However, it does not mean that the conventional threat has receded. The new strategy also stresses that formulation of defence policy was not just the army’s responsibility; other organs of the state will have to play their part.
Pakistan cannot turn a blind eye to the ruses of some powers that are out to denuclearise it just because they cannot stomach a Muslim country having the nuclear bomb. Already, a propaganda campaign is being launched that Pakistan cannot rein in militants and its nuclear assets may fall in their hands if the state collapses. Some religious parties have already started criticising the new doctrine without understanding the fact that describing “internal threat” as “greater threat” does not mean that there is no threat on the eastern border.
Indeed, Pakistan cannot afford to lower its guard on the eastern border as the conventional threat is very much there. After all, Pakistan has fought three wars with India and the main cause was the core issue of Kashmir. But it must be realised that militants, resorting to guerrilla fighting, are not confined to a specific area and thus scattered all over Pakistan.
Anyhow, it is the government’s responsibility to respond to the peace overture by the TTP and to see how serious it is in holding negotiations. They should evaluate it against the previous offer of holding negotiations with Maulvi Fazlullah. In Swat and elsewhere, military action was taken only after the TTP leadership violated the accord reached between it and the provincial government; it refused to accept the constitution and challenged the writ of the state.
By the TTP’s attacks on the GHQ, Mehran Naval Base and Kamra Air Base, one can visualise that intelligence and equipment must have been provided by foreign intelligence networks. Whatever the case, they have become an existential threat because when they attack military headquarters, naval and air bases, the US/West and other countries start raising alarm that Pakistan’s nukes can fall into terrorists’ hands.
There is a perception that the TTP is an ally of al-Qaeda. Hakimullah Mehsud says Mullah Omer is his leader. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahari has in the past given provocative statements against Pakistan and its military, asking the militants to attack the army and its installations. They are united among themselves; therefore, Pakistan as a nation would have to fight the menace of terrorism like one man.
By Mohammad Jamil
The writer is a senior journalist and freelance columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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