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General, Enemy is Not Amorphous

 

By Imtiaz Gul

 Weekly Pulse, Jan 04, 2013

 

In his address to the 98th Midshipmen Commissioning term and 7th SSC Officers class at Pakistan Naval Academy PNS Rahbar on Dec 29th, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani made a statement that merits a critical scrutiny. 

”Today, we are pitched against an amorphous enemy when the conventional threat has also grown manifold,” said the general and added that “increasingly complex external environment and our rather precarious internal dynamics have created a myriad of security challenges.” 

Nothing could have been more out-of-sync with the reality than branding the brutal and brazen campaign of terror that Pakistan has seen in between Dec 22, when terrorists mounted a daring two-pronged attack on the Peshawar Air base, and Dec 30th, when terrorists executed 21 Levies personnel two days after overpowering and abducting them. 

Apparently, little critical thought went into arming General Kayani with the phrases such “amorphous,” “complex external environment or “our rather precarious internal dynamics.” 

The speech-writer, it appears, lives in a cocoon, unable to see what goes around us day and night. The front-page splashed photographs and the 45-minute video of the avowed enemies of the state of Pakistan i.e. the three TTP-leaders, led by Hakimullah Mehsud, are living realities – not amorphous. They clearly avow allegiance to Al-Qaeda, whose leader Ayman al Zawahiri and other link-minded cohorts within the Hizub Tahrir have been urging the lower army ranks to rebel against the GHQ and the state of Pakistan for its alliance with the United States. 

Also, the socio-political apologists of Al-Qaeda – both Arab and Pakistani – stalk the roads all over Pakistan. Some of them are part of the aberration that is called the Defense of Pakistan Council, while others openly roam across Pakistan, peddling an anti-India and anti-US agenda. Moreover, the social shelters for those who have declared war on Pakistan are not hidden either; Mureedke, Raiwind, Bahawalpur, Mansoora and Jhang in Punjab – the origin of radical Deobandi Islam - as well as scores of Deobandi seminaries in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, FATA and in Pashtoon areas of Balochistan are just a few manifestations of the socio-political space available to all those who justify their terror campaign in the name of jihad. Supporters, empathizers and activists of this ideology always wrap their love, sympathy or empathy for radical Islamist militarism in the denunciation of American-led NATO’s geo-political war-games in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the Middle East. And this probably abundantly explains the self-inflicted anomalies that the General referred to in his speech as “precarious internal dynamics.” These are not dynamics, but consequences of a policy that the establishment had lapped up in the 1980s to secure what it considered as its strategic interests in Kabul and bleed India by supporting an insurgency in Kashmir. 

No doubt, geo-politics remains at the core of some of Pakistan’s problems that the general referred to as the “increasingly complex external environment,” yet Pakistani civilian and military leadership can hardly exonerate itself from the responsibility of having turned difficult foreign policy management tasks into an intractable maze that is currently extracting a huge price. Essentially, the multiple crises flow from policies that were born out of an acute sense of insecurity vis-à-vis India. 

The tendency to justify their own failures by blaming them on external factors and finding faults with others rather than introspecting at home sits deep in the psyche of Muslims in general, and Pakistanis in particular. Dumping the responsibility of their own failures and shortcomings on others as well as projecting innocence and victimhood has in fact been part of the so-called national narrative that evolved, particularly in the post-1979 decades, guided by a skewed vision within the military establishment, and emphatically promoted by some of the religio-political groups wedded to the ideas of strategic depth and to the liberation of Kashmir. 

Essentially, the enemy and its socio-political tentacles and shelter are pretty much visible in different forms and manifestations around us. The enemy sits also within the security apparatus, particularly in the shape of those rogue elements whose loyalties have clearly shifted from the state to the non-state actors. They include officers as well as the lower cadres of various military and paramilitary organs. The police are no exception, neither are various intelligence agencies; many operatives of these outfits have meanwhile either undergone ideological transformation to identify themselves with radical Islamist ideology, or are willfully defaulting on their duties by serving militants and criminal gangs for personal benefits. 

It is these state employees also who as “enemies within” keep compromising the state institutions’ commitment and their drive against terrorists. 

Some of the enemies may be amorphous, but they owe their existence and success in many cases also to acute weakness within state institutions i.e. poor training, insufficient weaponry, wanting coordination among various arms of the security apparatus, and demonstrable failure on the intelligence front are some of the factors that inhibit state success to the advantage of the non-state entities. The Bannu Jail Break in April 2012, or the attack on the Peshawar Air Base are symptomatic of these shortcomings within the security apparatus. Terrorists also thrive off the enemies within as well as live off the support by socio-political actors. The challenge that stares the state is how to deprive anti-state groups of this social backing that is available to them all over. How to cull the godzillas that are now biting the hands that had initially fed them is the million dollar question.

Imtiaz Gul is the executive director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and the author of the recently released book Pakistan: Before and After, published by Roli Books, India

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk