Home Pakistan's Dismantling of its Terror Infrastructure

Pakistan's Dismantling of its Terror Infrastructure

Last week, US President Barack Obama once again demanded that Pakistan “delegitimise, disrupt and dismantle” terror networks that operate from its territory. Considering similar efforts by various members of the global community in the past, it can be said that Pakistan has yet again been provided a ‘lifeline’ for its survival as a nation state. Let there be no doubt; unless Pakistan takes this advice seriously, it will continue on its path towards failure.

The internal security problems being faced by Pakistan are a result of its own machinations of the past. The policy of the Pakistani ‘deep state’ to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy, combined with nuclear coercion, subterfuge, blackmail and denial, to wrest Kashmir from India and take control of Afghanistan, which it considers as its strategic backyard, has led it inexorably down the path of self-destruction. Today, when homegrown terror groups like the TTP challenge the might of the Pakistani state and its military, it would cause no surprise that many of its cadres have been originally trained in its own training camps run by the ISI, the Pakistani state’s intelligence agency. Further, it has also been assessed that it is Pakistan, the fastest producer of nuclear weapons, and one of the worst proliferators of its technology, which is likely to witness such weapons falling into the hands of its ‘non-state’ actors.

Going back in recent history, it is no secret that the Pakistani leadership and its Army saw the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1989 as an ideal opportunity to muddy the waters in Kashmir, by diverting the ‘mujahedeen’ from the Afghan conflict into Kashmir. The plan essentially involved re-orienting the ISI controlled camps and related infrastructure, which had been utilised for training Afghans, Pakistanis and other volunteers to fight a successful sub-conventional campaign against the Soviet forces, for a new “jihad” against India. The plan also involved efforts by the ISI to concurrently start an insurgency in India’s Jammu & Kashmir state, in support of their plans. If one was to summarise the results of the last 25 years since then, it can be said that the Pakistani state and its Army have failed miserably in their plans against India. Instead, it is the Pakistani state which is close to economic collapse after facing serious threats of homegrown insurgency, terrorism and sectarianism, all of which combine to threaten the very existence of Pakistan. Any accusation in this regard by members of the global community is generally countered by the Pakistani establishment by emphasisingthat “the Pakistani state and its people are today the most serious victims of terrorism”. This may be true, to some extent, but it is also a fact that much of the terrorism and terror groups that the Pakistanis face are those created in training camps run by their own state agencies and elsewhere within their country.

It is a well-known fact that Pakistan has around 40 terrorist training camps, about half of which are currently active. It is said that each of these active terror camps, run by the ISI, churn out about fifty to hundred (‘good’) terrorists every year for ‘friendly’ groups like LeT, JeM, Haqqani Network, etc, all of whom are meant for cross-border tasks in India and Afghanistan.  The problem for Pakistan is that many of these terrorists turn ‘bad’ when they, instead, join groups like the TTP, which are sworn enemies of the Pakistani state. Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously summed up the situation in June 2014when she said - “It is like keeping poisonous snakes in your backyard expecting they will only bite your neighbour and what we are seeing now is the continuing threat to the state of Pakistan by these very same elements.” Over the last eight years or so, starting with the Lal Masjid episode, these ‘bad’ terrorists have become the bane of Pakistan; they attack the Pakistani government, its military and its people at every opportunity. Despite the heavy-handed response by the Pakistani military, including use of combat aircraft, helicopter gunships, artillery and tanks, the terrorists continue to pose a formidablethreat, while thousands of Pakistani citizens, including many innocent civilians, have been killed in the carnage perpetrated by both sides.  In the meanwhile, sectarianism and insurgencies in other parts of Pakistan like Sind and Baluchistan, continue to thrive despite concerted efforts by the Pakistani establishment.

Both of Pakistan’s neighbours, India and Afghanistan, have suffered the results of the former’s devices, recent examples being Mumbai, Samba, Pathankot, Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat. Consequently, they have made it very clear to Pakistan and the international community that they are not going to negotiate with or talkseriously to Pakistan unless the latter displays credible intent to dismantle its terror networks. Till then, both will do what they deem fit, to protect their people and their interests. The world, hopefully, has seen through all the subterfuge, blackmail and nuclear coercion that Pakistan has indulged in over the years, thanks also to its over-indulgent friends in the international community, who have provided it political, material and financial support and other resources, while pursuing their own partisan interests. It is well known that, in 2010, it was one of them, at the behest of Pakistan, who prevented the ban by the UN of the JeM and its terrorist leader Masood Azhar. In fact, it is also time for these so called benefactors to take a call. Do they want to help stop the freefall or do they want to speed it along?

Hence, Pakistan faces a paradox: to save itself from the wrath of its ‘bad’ terrorists, it must dismantle the terror camps and networks it maintains to create its ‘good terrorists’.  Failure to do so bears grim portents for Pakistan – its very survival, which is seriously at stake. Further, unless it does so, it can never discuss peace with its neighbours. That in essence is President Obama’s prescription to the Pakistanis – “delegitimise, disrupt and dismantle the terror networks”. Now, the ball is in Pakistan’s court. How it responds to this advice will decide the fate of Pakistan, and whether stability will ever be restored in the country and the region.

Views expressed by the Author are personal. Author is the Former Vice Chief of Army Staff.

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Lt Gen Philip Campose

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