Between the devil and the deep blue sea

32
96

Was there ever really a Plan B?

 

 

I want peace in Pakistan. So do most Pakistanis. There were prolonged efforts at peace talks between the government of Pakistan and Taliban. Nothing much came out of it. Taliban to attack, innocent people were victims. These attacks were mostly claimed by outfits that were unheard of; broken away factions of Taliban. My question always was; what exactly is the government’s strategy to deal with Taliban if Plan A (Peace Talks) fail? What is Plan B?

In my Op-Ed published on November 12, 2013, I had written, “The new TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah nicknamed the “Mullah Radio” was born Fazal Hayat to Biladar Khan, a Pukhtun of Babukarkhel clan of the Yusufzai tribe of Swat District where much later, he worked as an operator of a manual chairlift on the river Swat. He then joined the Jamia Mazahir-ul-Uloom — a religious seminary run by Maulana Sufi Mohammad. He married the daughter of Maulana Sufi. He has fought side by side the Taliban in Afghanistan with his father-in-law. Both were arrested by the Pakistani security forces. Maulana Sufi was sentenced for 10 years whereas Fazlullah got off lightly after 17 months and emerged as a popular Wahabi militant leader because of his activities in Swat. He reorganised the TNSM and raised a private army that he named the “Shaheen Commando Force”. In the aftermath of the 2007 siege of Lal masjid, Fazlullah’s forces and Baitullah Mehsud’s Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) formed an alliance. Fazlullah and his army henceforth reportedly received orders from Mehsud. (Al Jazeera Feb 13, 2009) Mullah Fazlullah started an illegal local FM channel in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat Valley in 2006. He also had set up shari’a courts in Swat and is known to be a hard core Islamist. Reports by a source point towards indications that there are deepening fissures within the ranks of Taliban that a sharp adversary can take advantage of. But then, a fumbling adversary may fail to do so. This brings me to the next question that needs some serious thinking by our lawmakers. With Taliban not willing to come to the table for talks, what is the Plan B? If there is a Plan B? Here we must take in consideration an important distinction. The difference between strategy and tactics; overlooked and often confused by many. The word strategy emerges from a Greek word that roughly translates into “general”. It may be defined as the plan to meet a goal or result and may include using various tactics. Whereas tactics may refer to a plan or procedure for promoting a desired end or result. The strategy answers the “what” part of the equation whereas tactics, on the other hand, are supposed to tell us “how we are supposed to reach the objectives. “A strategy may include two or more tactics to reach the goal. Therefore talking with Taliban aimed at achieving peace is one tactic out of many options. It is not the strategy itself.”

So Plan B mow stands revealed.

Voilà! It is military offensive.

The Guardian (22 May 2014) reports, “On Wednesday fighter jets bombed areas in North Waziristan, which an army spokesman said killed scores of “hardcore terrorists including some of the important commanders and foreigners”. Army spokesmen made clear it was in response to attacks in the preceding weeks in the troubled western region and also the city of Karachi. Despite numerous meetings between government and TTP representatives the peace talks’ initiative appears to be going nowhere. Terrorist attacks have continued and the movement has been riven by factional infighting. Last week a video emerged of TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah vowing the movement would continue its fight until Pakistan introduced strict shari’a law.”

“The offensive targeted the Matchis Camp near the capital of North Waziristan, an area set up to house Afghan refugees but now a hub for local and foreign militants,” a senior government official of the region said.(May 23, 2014)

Where do we go from here? The offensive will not, cannot remain restricted to North Waziristan alone.

The question is; will the terrorists restrict themselves to North Waziristan or escape to other areas to regroup in face of the military offensive?

In my op-ed published on February 04, 2014 I had questioned, “If talks do not work out; is military operation the next step? Interesting questions again emerge; once these operations start will the Taliban shift to Afghanistan? How will the present and incoming government of Afghanistan look at this? Will the border areas be used as a hideout and launching pad for their attacks? How will these operations affect Pakistan in its role of bringing about a negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan as expected by US? Needless to say, Pakistan has to face the issue of terrorism and take a proactive action aimed to end killings of innocent citizens. These questions are intricately linked with exit of American forces from Afghanistan. How will Pakistan secure peace within if Afghanistan does descend into civil war with drug barons and warlords running amok? This seems to be a likely outcome of post US forces withdrawal in Afghanistan. Pakistan must be seen as a solution to the problem, not as a problem adding to the problem.”

Peter R Neumann, writing for Policy Affairs in 2007 says, “The argument against negotiating with terrorists is simple: Democracies must never give in to violence, and terrorists must never be rewarded for using it. Negotiations give legitimacy to terrorists and their methods and undermine actors who have pursued political change through peaceful means. Talks can destabilise the negotiating governments’ political systems, undercut international efforts to outlaw terrorism, and set a dangerous precedent. Yet in practice, democratic governments often negotiate with terrorists.”

There are many instances to support Neumann’s claim. Joshua Keating, writing for Slate Magazine states, “The British government maintained a secret back channel to the Irish Republican Army even after the IRA had launched a mortar attack on 10 Downing Street that nearly eliminated the entire British cabinet in 1991. In 1988, the Spanish government sat down with the separatist group Basque Homeland and Freedom (known by its Basque acronym ETA) only six months after the group had killed 21 shoppers in a supermarket bombing.” (He quotes Peter R Neumann here actually).

Pakistan Today reports, “During a tense meeting, the army effectively declared it would override a crucial plank of the government’s strategy and take matters into its own hands. The army chief and other military officers in the room were clear on the military’s policy: the last man, the last bullet,” a government insider with first-hand knowledge of the meeting told a foreign news agency. Asked to sum up the message General Raheel Sharif wanted to convey at the gathering, he added: “The time for talk is over.”

The question is; will the terrorists restrict themselves to North Waziristan or escape to other areas to regroup in face of the military offensive? The answer is no to the first part and yes to the second part. Even if the security forces reportedly took the caution of sealing off exit points from North Waziristan which they did; leaks would have led to many exits before the offensive happened. The fact remains; not every Taliban is in North Waziristan, cross border ingress and support has happened before and will happen again. With the heat turned on, attacks in other parts of Pakistan and lethal attacks for that matter will be launched to divert and deflect attention. There are good chances of the fire spreading. (As I was sending off this piece to my Editor, I read the news about eight officials of the levies killed while three were reportedly injured by ‘namaloom afrad’ at a heavily armed check-post along Quetta-Karachi Highway in Wadh Tehsil of Khuzdar district). However, those who state that this is exactly why they supported peace talks need to be reminded that killings were being conducted during peace talks too; only, it was one sided and innocent blood that flowed.

Pakistan is between devil and the deep blue sea- damned if it does and damned if it does not.

32 COMMENTS

  1. For some reason Taliban seem to be having fun perpetrating the havoc on the population
    and the population takes it sitting down. On the other hand Pakistan army wish to prove
    its usefulness during the peace time with India. Much better to fight Taliban than sit around
    and count the flies.

    What is this an adult entertainment at the cost of the human lives?

    The talks failed because it was just a token effort. It almost seemed like
    there was an agreement. Come over we will pretend there are talks then
    we will declare talks had failed. After which you can go back to your joy sticks
    and we will pull our joy sticks out and have another match of some sort. Population of
    the country is getting too large to sustain any way. This may bring it down to acceptable
    size.

    People at the top, please grow up and learn to converse, negotiate and develop
    agreements. People fight because there is a lack of communication or trusts have
    failed. The challenge is to build this trust back as opposed to kill each other's innocent
    population.

    I saw the movie Moghul-E-Azam last night. The father and son go to war because father
    wont allow the son to marry a maid. Just to defend a love affair the 2 men are ready to
    have lives of 1000 men slaughtered leaving all those wives widows and children without a
    father. This mentality is so archaic and totally out of place in modern war fare with
    such weapons as nuclear devices of destruction.

    Rather than killing the population perhaps these 2 adversaries should drop condoms
    and birth control pills. So no new children are born. Thus controlling the population for the
    future.

    Syed Wajahat Hussain

  2. Ahmadzai wazirs of South Waziristan are allied with haqqani network and would support fellow wazirs of north waziristan . Nek mohammad and mullah nazir were their prominent taliban leaders. Like utmanzias, taliban have deep social roots in ahamazai wazirs. Half of their tribe is on other side of durand line so they pose a serious threat. Moreover the mehsud area is sandwiched between wazirs of south wazitistan and of north waziristan.

  3. Our govt knows of only one plan & that is expansion of business intrtrsts of state #Raiwind.Let the state of Pakistan wither .

  4. Plan tau plan hota hae; A ya B ka kiya chakr hae?
    Worrying about plan B is not our virtue, we only dream plan A, then execute it and if it fails that is not our fault, because that's God's will. This type of western ideology is conspiracy against our belief.

  5. Bibi I loved ur definitions of strategy and tactics. But as an educator would you please point out the strategy to the solution

  6. Yasmeen

    The very fact that " peace talks" were initiated by the Sharif Govt is because they want to appease the TTP.
    One goes not need to be a Socrates to figure that one out.

    But lets try and take take a closer look at the basics. Radio Mullah is a hardliner who is out to settle many scores. The bold killing of Major Gen. Sanaullah Niazi in broad daylight was to test the waters. Nobody came gunning for TTP. In fact, nobody from the Govt leadership even offered condolences to the Niazi family, let alone turm up for his janaza. So Mullah Fazlullah has repositioned the TTP accordingly for the following:

    1. Revenge for killing of Hakimullah Mehsud by a drone attack (why should they even talk of peace)

    2. Revenge for his Swat " takeover" in 2008, where he was overwhelmed by PK's military operation

    3. The one who got away – Malala Yusufzai. (Another girl dare not try and take her place)

    Now for the Big Mullah. Mullah Omar, the ex-Emir of Afghanistan from 1995-2001 (known to be protected by ISI in Karachi) has vowed to take over Kabul within a week of the American pullout, irrespective of who replaces Karzai. The Taliban's political office functions in Doha, Qatar. One can contact their hotline by calling 1-800-TALIBAN;-)

    Assuming all that is part of Plan C, do we then even need a Plan A or B ?

    Siraj

  7. Respected
    Yasmeen Aftab Ali
    AoA.
    Your article is very important and informational. Allah apko apnay hifz o eman m rakhay.

    Regards
    Aftkhar Akbar Randhawa
    Member CCC MQM

  8. Dear YAA
    The Key word is that Sharia means "Women lose all their rights and are treated like slaves" these Fanatics have an issue with women which is totally unacceptable to ME… So the time to talk is over Regards Arif Khan T this is the 21st century not prehistorical period

  9. Exactly correct. Communications should be maintained but the primary reason is so a command structure remains that can end the slaughter. The huge mistake of both the US and Pakistan is treating worthless criminals as warriors. They are thugs using religion to justify their crimes. The counter to terrorism is not military as the primary weapon but rather police. Terrorists are criminals quality police forces are needed to effectively counter them.

  10. Must say u r really knowledgeable & straight talker..#Pakistan needs a few more of u !

  11. Damned if it does damned of it doesn't brilliantly sums up Pakistan position. A valid question about plan B

  12. Thanks. Your suggestions are well meaning but as they say, "Bains ka agae bein bajana sae kaya faida".

    These god given leaders knows it well, when you talk to them, especially when they are out of power, but won't do it when they come to power. Have seen them closely, to the level of sickening.

  13. ‘Between the devil and the deep blue sea’ was a brilliant piece which highlighted the questions policy makers must consider. But the greatest of all the problems is a general confusion at the public level – and a dangerous lack of appreciation of the size of the problem and consensus on how to go about dealing it. Policy makers cannot operate in the vacuum – independent of the beliefs, sympathies and confusions of the people they are formulating policies for and on the behalf of. Please write about what steps our government can take to clear the confusions and develop a consensus which it can then fall back on.

  14. Peace talks never actually started. Neither Taliban nor their real demands ever came on the table.

  15. I second . . . Taliban not willing to come to the table for talks, what is the Plan B? If there is a Plan B? Here we must take in consideration an important distinction. The difference between strategy and tactics; overlooked and often confused by many.
    Alas . . . Pakistan is between devil and the deep blue sea- damned if it does and damned if it does not.

  16. The status of the Tribal areas should be changed to regular Pakistani. No FATA and no PATA.. Intelligence be improved and all the so called Taliban located and eliminated.

  17. The British, when they were the sole super power, fought for almost a 100 years on the frontier. It was an unequal fight but surprisingly it was inconclusive: a lot of expenditure, loss of life and no measurable gain. This is a fact that no one can dispute.

    We can either learn from that or continue repeating history. Before we opt for the latter, please note that we are not a super power, do not have the resources, and there is no guarantee that we will succeed.

    • Times have changed. FATA people now want roads, schools, hospitals and other amenities of modern life. They are sick of the Taliban types. If the government takes firm steps, it will find a lot of support from the FATA inhabitants.
      Rawalpindi, Lahore and other cities of Punjab are flooded with the FATA Pakhtoons. They are coming from both sides,ie FATA and Karachi. My colony is now 85% Pashto speaking.

    • Times have changed. FATA people now want roads, schools, hospitals and other amenities of modern life. They are sick of the Taliban types. If the government takes firm steps, it will find a lot of support from the FATA inhabitants.

      • You are absolutely right. We should spend the money on what you have noted: schools, roads, health care, jobs, etc. Are we doing that ?

    • Khalid Sb.
      What a discussion !
      The fact is that WE have the Bomb.
      Who is the father ? We all are. Each one of us must have worked to contribute to its making.

      When Muslims were being pushed out of Spain, after a long rule there by the Muslims, the people there were busy in MUNAAZARAs about petty things.

      Can we leave those things and go a little up please ?
      Do excuse me. Was just thinking aloud.

      SHW

  18. Jamaat e Islami is ecstatic! It is hoping, praying, the British police would do what Jamaat e Islami has failed to do, and cannot do in ten generations – cut down MQM.
    The Brit police may well get Altaf Hussain on tax charge, possibly also as accessory to murder, what the birdbrain Jamaatis don’t realize is end of Altaf Hussain will not be end of MQM. It has to only elect a new head and it'll be as if nothing has changed, not for JI at least, MQM will continue to boot the Jamaat e Islami out of Karachi at every election as it has for many decades.
    Matter of fact hard to visualize any party which has not booted Jamaat e Islami out of any election, anywhere.
    Maybe JI has been ahead, from the bottom, of some of other so called religious parties.

  19. The ‘father’ of the Islamic Bomb refers to himself as Mohsan e Pakistan – That’s humility, Pakistan version, for you.
    There are questions how many ‘fathers’ the Islamic Bomb has, there is more than one claimant. If one ‘father’ of a new born is not clearly identified the poor thing in some cultures including in parts of Pakistan is usually done in. Heaven help and preserve the Islamic Bomb.

  20. Father of the Bomb? A small incident. Two men were fighting with a
    little boy standing near crying. A sympathetic passerby came along
    and asked the child "why are you crying"who is your father? The little
    one replied "That is what the fight is about"
    When we blasted chagai mountains, Khaled Hasan then of Najam Sethi's
    Friday times – in a scarstic manner translated"(Bum Phar theaa hay) –
    "Bum has been torn"
    am
    ED

  21. There are two things wrong with negotiating with the Taliban, TTP or who ever else we are negotiating with.
    1. You are defacto recognizing a party who are nothing but bandits.
    2. You are negotiating with people who will not be able to deliver any thing that is agreed, because they are not elected nor do they represent a country.
    Negotiations in this case can therefore never be Plan A because this plan will never succeed. Why enter into it if it is a non starter? This only Nawaz can answer with his penchant for Soap Opera.
    If the main demand is introduction of Sharia Law in Pakistan, then let there be a Referendum in Pakistan if that is what the people want but before the Referendum let there be a paper written about what Sharia Law is. Unfortunately this cannot be an option because those people in favor of "Sharia law" will kill any one who does not agree with them.
    Khusro

  22. After air strikes earlier this month, which reportedly killed (80?) militants, here is the latest from the chief.
    http://www.pakistantribune.com.pk/15418/screws-ti

    However, the core element of the story remains unchanged. A bunch of bandits trying to call the shots on what law should prevail in PK. The Govt and the people can go fly a kite. This hi-jack has been given the name of "peace talks" by the Govt itself. If this is not a joke what is – or perhaps the PCB see-saw drama is considered far more hilarious overall in laughing stock terms..

    Osama bin Ladin lies below in the deep blue sea somewhere while other poor souls in between deal with the devil he left behind as a legacy.

  23. The situation is indeed rather sad and frightening too–let us all hope that better sense prevails because guns will not solve the problems and the roses might hopefully–Pakistan Paindabad

  24. Times have changed. FATA people now want roads, schools, hospitals and other amenities of modern life. They are sick of the Taliban types. If the government takes firm steps, it will find a lot of support from the FATA inhabitants.
    Rawalpindi, Lahore and other cities of Punjab are flooded with the FATA Pakhtoons. They are coming from both sides,ie FATA and Karachi. My colony is now 85% Pashto speaking.

Comments are closed.