The Filter Coffee

Foreign policy, strategic affairs, defense and governance

GHQ and Lahore terror attacks

The chickens have come home to roost and Pakistan is in a state of bewilderment and denial

Yesterday’s carnage in Lahore and Peshawar is a continuing catalog of the failures of intelligence and security services and of Pakistan’s inability to learn from past mistakes.  Two of the three institutions targeted yesterday — the FIA building and the Manawan training school were victims of past terror attacks.  Yet, apparently nothing was learned from those attacks and the terrorists were able to perpetrate their attacks, almost to script.

Even after yesterday’s terror strikes, enough anecdotal evidence exists to suggest that this pattern is likely to continue.  For one, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies don’t know who they’re up against.  The term “TTP affiliated organization” could mean just about anyone. That the TTP claims responsibility for any and all attacks doesn’t help separate fact from fiction.

In both the recent strikes against GHQ, Rawalpindi and the series of coordinated attacks in Lahore, certain aspects of the attacks stand out (see B Raman’s detailed analysis for more information).

The attacks in Pindi and Lahore were against (apparently well fortified) law and enforcement institutions.Both were fedayeen attacks and involved the use of handheld weapons and explosives. But both attacks were also accompanied by subsequent terror strikes in Peshawar, which resulted in more fatalities.  The M.O. of the Peshawar attacks was markedly different from that of Rawalpindi or Lahore.  Bomb-laden vehicles were detonated remotely near areas of urban concentration (a school and a bazaar).

It’s hard to say whether the attacks in Peshawar were related to the coordinated attacks in the Punjab. But they may provide some light on who was responsible for the attacks. The attacks in Peshawar are typical of the type of unconventional warfare that we know the TTP  and associated Pashtun groups are capable of waging — i.e., either “non-confrontational” attacks usually via IEDs, or single-person suicide attacks.  Insofar as unconventional urban warfare is concerned, the TTP seldom hunts in groups.

The attacks in Lahore and Pindi, however, betray the M.O. of terror groups from the Punjabi Deobandi/Barelvi madaris, which have a history of employing commando-style assaults against targets, both within Pakistan (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Sipah-e-Sahaba) and in India (Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed).

By Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s own admission, the TTP has gradually built links with the Punjabi terror groups. If the brutal acts of the past two weeks are an indication of this alliance, then Islamabad is under attack from more directions than it can hope to counter.

However, while Pakistan initiated military action against the TTP via the PAF in Ladha yesterday, nothing was said or done about the terror outfits it nurtured in the Punjab. The chickens have come home to roost:  and the Pakistani security establishment’s response is one of denial, disbelief and bewilderment.

Pakistan’s inaction against Punjabi terror outfits is because of the belief that these groups do more good than harm to “the cause”.  The real question is:  how long before the Pakistan establishment perceives that this equation has been turned on its head?

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Filed under: Af-Pak, India, Terrorism, World, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wither Pakistan?

Fatalistic articles about the future of Pakistan are nothing new. This is a subject that Indian, American and indeed, even Pakistani writers have opined on. Conflict with India in Kashmir, sectarian violence in Sindh, secessionist movements in Balochistan, a war in Swat, and the talibanization of FATA, do not help in dispelling the prophecies of dismemberment that the US’s National Intelligence Council (NIC) highlights in its paper Global Trends 2025: A Word Transformed (PDF). Ahmad Faruqui’s article on Outlook builds on that report and asks, given the current state of affairs, if it is possible to envision a rosy future for the State.

Alas, the advice to focus on the future was not taken as the nation soon plunged into reliving the battles of the past. The storm over Mumbai will eventually pass but what about the gathering storm in Swat and the full force gale that is blowing through Fata? The tussle between the ISI, the army and the civilian government continues. A new tussle appears to have emerged between the civilian president and prime minister, both of the PPP. There are few signs that the judges will be restored or that the nefarious constitutional amendments dating back to the Zia era will be annulled.

I’ve pointed to the gradual talibanization of Pakistan in previous posts because this is a matter that should be of significant concern to India. As the writ of the state of Pakistan diminishes in the western provinces, the tussle will be between the US military and the Pashtuns. While India’s relations with the United States have improved since they hit nadir in December 1971, any future presence of US forces within the territory of present day Pakistan will be viewed by India with some discomfort. Increasingly, as we move from a unipolar to a multipolar world (with India being one of the poles), India will consider the Subcontinent to be part of its sphere of influence. The presence of foreign forces within this realm of influence will bother India. India’s growing economic and political clout notwithstanding, our leaders would also do well to learn from the collapsing political engine in the Pakistani federation. With regard to Pakistan, Faruqui proposes:

To avoid a meltdown, first and foremost, a change in political culture needs to occur. Extremism has to be taken out and replaced with tolerance. The government cannot do this by fiat. The clergy, the academics, the literati and the media — they have to bring this about, from the grassroots up.

Secondly, law and order has to be restored on the streets. It is not possible to envision a rosy future if kidnappings, robberies, murders and beheadings dominate the headlines.

Vigilante justice and moral police mobs inflict chaos, increasingly with impunity in the streets of Indian cities. States’ inability to enforce law and order and the mob’s ability to unleash its own version of moral code will have very dire consequences for the Indian State. Instead of dealing with this scourge, India’s netas are quick to utter that timeless Indian phrase — “politically motivated” — to weasel their way out of taking concrete action. Pakistan’s quagmire should be a lesson to India and our leaders would do well to learn from Pakistan’s mistakes.

[CROSSPOSTED]

Filed under: America, India, Pakistan, Politics, usa, World, , , , , , , , , ,

We Are Also Victims of Terror

“We’re also victims of terror”.  This phrase has come to be used quite liberally by Pakistani leaders (civilian and military), usually in response to an incident on foreign soil that invariably involves their citizens.  It has always surprised me that our leaders and media have never called them out on this bogus statement.  At best, the statement is an unintentional gaffe.  At worst, it’s a calculated oversimplification, regurgitated with the intention to mislead.

Terrorism is a very broad term, and one that has been made popular by the Bush Administration to almost always mean Islamic terrorism, perpetrated against the West or Western targets.  Therefore, the 9/11 and 7/7 attackers in New York City and London were “terrorists”, while those that attacked Mumbai last month, were merely “gunmen” or “militants”.  Theoneste Bagosora’s people, who butchered 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in the worst genocide the world has seen in decades, were Hutu “militia”.

“The Mumbai attacks were directed not only at India but also at Pakistan’s new democratic government and the peace process with India that we have initiated. Supporters of authoritarianism in Pakistan and non-state actors with a vested interest in perpetuating conflict do not want change in Pakistan to take root.”

– Asif Ali Zardari, “The Terrorists Want to Destroy Pakistan, Too“, New York Times (12/8/2008)

Even the term “Islamic terrorism” is a very broad generalization.  It is precisely the obscurity of this term that allows Pakistan the convenience of hiding their incompetence and/or connivance with the ruse that they are victimized by the same groups.  This, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth.  In terms of pan-Islamic interests, Al Qaeda is the most significant organization that Pakistan today battles in NWFP.  Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar were trained and equipped by the CIA and the ISI to fight against the “Godless” Soviets.  When the Soviets withdrew, they turned around and bit the hands that fed, as it were.  Pakistan today fights the Taleban and Al Qaeda, not because they have ideological differences with them, but because they were forcefully dragged into the “War on Terror”.    It is interesting though that in the many tapes that he has released to Al Jazeera, bin Laden has rarely ever mentioned Kashmir or India.  This isn’t because he doesn’t have anything against India (he clearly does) , but because his immediate priorities are different.

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Bacha Khan, aka Frontier Gandhi

Khan Abdul Ghaffar "Bacha" Khan, aka "Frontier Gandhi"

In Baluchistan, FATA, and NWFP, a region that boasts of colonial-era heroes such as Bacha Khan (“Frontier Gandhi”), the theater of violence is limited in scope to the aspirations of the tribes and ethnicities in the region. They do not think of themselves in being part of a pan-Islamic struggle against the “infidels”, but as good Waziris and Baluchis fighting for autonomy to preserve their way of life.   For them, the tribe is more important than the concept of the nation, which they dismiss as a western concoction.  Therefore, those suspected of masterminding the assassination of Benazir Bhutto (e.g., Baitullah Mehsud) were motivated by a perceived threat to their way of life by a liberal, decidedly pro-western politician.  Despite the gradual radical Islamization of these regions, there is no direct threat to India emanating from the various tribes and groups.

However, there are two types of terror groups in heartland Pakistan — those who seek to act in Pakistan, and those who seek to use Pakistan as a base to act elsewhere. The fight to act in the heartland is along inter-ethnic (Shias vs. Sunnis, Pashtuns vs. Sindhis, Sindhis vs. Mohajirs, etc.) and anti-government lines, and includes terror organizations such as Lashkar-e-Omar and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.  The Mariott bombings in Islamabad in September 2008, were, by many accounts, perpetrated by terrorists opposed to the political process of Pakistan.  Other radical actors, such as the Ghazi brothers who held out in the Lal Masjid in 2007, fought for a more fundamental implementation of Islam in Pakistan, and were against Parvez Musharraf’s quasi-western “enlightened moderation” policies.  Although JeM’s Maulana Masood Azhar is said to have delivered speeches at the Lal Masjid, the interests of Pakistan’s new adversaries in the heartland, again, are confined to the politics of Pakistan.

Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) are different.  That they enjoy the protection of the ISI and elements of the Pakistani army highlights the impotence of the country’s civilian leadership.  JeM’s objectives include the liberation of Kashmir and its subsequent incorporation into the dominion of Pakistan.  Its leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, was languishing in an Indian jail before he was set free by India in exchange for the lives of Indian civilians aboard Indian Airlines flight 814, which was hijacked to Kandahar by JeM in 1999.  To show gratitude for his release, Azhar sent his thugs around in 2001 to attack the Indian Parliament.  Similarly, LeT’s objectives are clear — the liberation of Kashmir (a goal closely aligned to Pakistan’s own objectives), and the Islamization of South Asia (i.e., wiping out Hinduism).  Indeed, the group’s founder, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, appears to have no quarrels with the State of Pakistan, and considers himself a patriotic Pakistani — a very different view indeed from the other terror groups that denounce political division as a western idea, and see themselves as warriors of the Muslim brotherhood.

In summary, yes, Pakistan, you are a victim of terror, but, no, it isn’t the same kind of terror, and it isn’t being perpetrated by the same terrorists. Seven years ago, you called the people who attacked India “freedom fighters”.  You offered them “diplomatic” and “moral” support.  So let’s be clear: the people that attacked Mumbai, attacked Mumbai — not Karachi.  They attacked India, not Pakistan.  And while Asif Ali Zardari paints his nation as a victim on the international stage, Lashkar’s aiders and abettors, citizens of his country, under the protection of the very agencies that he supposedly oversees,  are busy plotting their next big bloody assault on India.

Filed under: 11/25/2008, 25/11/2008, 9/11, Al Qaeda, America, asif ali zardari, Ghazi Brothers, India, Indian Army, isi, Jaish-e-Mohammed, jem, Kashmir, Lal Masjid Attack, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Laskhar-e-Toiba, let, Maulana Fazlullah, Mumbai, Mumbai Terrorist Attack, november 25, NWFP, Obama, Pakistan, pakistan army, Swat, Terrorism, Uncategorized, zardari, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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