Pak restructuring regional strategy

By K.N. Pandita

Indian army commander computes the number of armed jihadis at 200 waiting along the LoC to sneak into our side of the line. 31 of the heavily armed jihadis have already managed to infiltrate.

Even when the valley was reeling under the ravages of floods, jihadis made several bids during those ten days to push as many of them across the line as they could. Most of their attempts were neutralized.

Notably bids of infiltration increased soon after Modi government took the oath of office in a function in which SAARC heads of governments, including Nawaz Sharif participated. The two prime ministers jointly spoke of containing terrorism in the region.

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

They offset any talks, non-state actors in Pakistan revived Kashmir orchestration and its reverberations were to be felt along LoC. Unprovoked firing in some sensitive forward Indian posts along the LoC and even across 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 Kashmir separatists and secessionists for a meeting in Delhi. Pak agency scored a point over Islamabad.

Behind the curtain, Track II dialect dragged on in neutral gear.

Alarmed by the likely insistence of the new government in Delhi to meaningfully pursue bilateral talks enfolding 26/11 culprits on the one hand and the new approach theory to bilateral relations pronounced by the democratically elected government in Islamabad on the other, the army decided to settle its score with the bugbear of Pak democracy.

Military coup as in previous years was out of question. Americans wouldn’t take it, neither the Saudis.

The Army had one more reason to train its guns on Nawaz Sharif. It would not allow non-military government to treat 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 Amy, which had been making serious efforts for quite some time to draw a wedge between the two main ethnic components of Tehreek-i-Taliban-i-Pakistan (TTP), succeeded in the time-tested mantra of divide and rule. The Punjabi and Pushtun ethnic groups in TTP parted ways.

A statement of September 5 quoted the chief of Punjabi chapter of TTP, Asmatullah Muawiyah hailing from Khanewal district of Punjab, announcing his surrender to Pakistan army in Attak jail. In a three minute video he said that his group gives up operation in Pakistan in the interests of Islam and Islamic Caliphate.

But more significant part of his statement was that though his group would no more operate in Pakistan but it would actively join hands with Afghan Taliban and fight along with them shoulder to shoulder against the American propelled government in Kabul and the American presence in Afghanistan.

But shortly thereafter on 13 September, TTP Commander, Abu Baseer contradicted Muawiyah’s statement saying that he had presented himself to TTP as mujahid. He alleged that Muawiyah had and continues to have links with top Pak agencies.

Before proceeding with the subject matter in hand, a few words need to be said by way of introducing Muawiyah as terrorist commander.

TTP is an umbrella of seven militant organizations of Pakistan. Previously Asmatullah Muawiyeh was a commander of Azhar’s terrorist group of Jaish-i-Muhammad. Following differences with Jaish in the aftermath of Lal Masjid operation of 2007, Muawiyeh parted ways with Azhar and went to the tribal areas with dozens of his comrades.

He formed his faction of terrorists claiming that he was 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 claimed many killings carried out independently. On June 22, 2013 its gunmen attacked foreign hikers at a base camp in Nanga Parbat leaving ten of them dead. It also claimed responsibility of attack on a church in Peshawar in September 2013 in which 80 Christians offering mass were killed.

Commenting on Rasool Park, Samanabad, Lahore terrorist attack, The Nation of July 14, 2012 wrote that it was carried by Punjabi Taliban who stormed a two-storey house and opened fire on Khyber Pukhtunkhwa prison department, killed 9 guardsmen and freed their comrades from the prison.

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 Kashmir jihad activities in Punjab to wind up. The Punjabi Taliban, comprising mostly the youth from Punjab and PoK split into two. One part 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 TTP were the enemies of Pakistan, American drone attacks extend combat over the hideouts of Punjabi Taliban as well.

But before the American drones would pound TTP, Pakistani ISI had relocated the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements in TTP in Waziristan to Kurram region 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 such of the Afghan Taliban as had sought refuge in Waziristan against the NATO attacks, Pakistan army achieved the double objective of (a) liquidating anti-army TTP, and (b) 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 supremo of TTP, having stationed himself in Kabul and 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 Kashmir clandestinely and also travelled to Afghanistan to take stock of ground situation there. The dream of Islamic Caliphate is very much alive in the head of these jihadis.

Last year, TTP expelled Muawiyeh after he had issued statement regarding PML-N government proposal for peace talks without prior approval from central leadership. He had welcomed Nawaz Sharif’s proposal for dialogue after urging Pak militants to respond 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 Kashmir and thus give a new turn to Kashmir jihad. Border violations and unprovoked firing could be a precursor to that scenario.

It is not without well careful understanding that Bilawal, the scion of Bhutto house, vows to take back Kashmir whole and every inch.

In this broad and rather grossly intertwined regional strategic scenario, ISI has played the master card by winning over Muawiyeh and through him declaring ending of hostilities against Pakistan by TTP. But the story does not end there.

After all Muawiyeh would not lay down arms for nothing. The bargain has more to it than just cessation of hostilities. In his statement, Muawiyeh 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 are that through the instrumentality of Haqqani network, Muawiyah’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 playboy of ISI and since long he has been basking in its sunshine.

(The writer is the former Director of the Centre for Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University, Srinagar, Kashmir. See my blogs Geopolitical Analysis and KASHMIR and IDPs).

Find on International Affairs Forum, by Kashi N Pandita, Sept 24, 2014:

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