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Pakistan's internal security

By B. Raman

(May 10, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Mizoram in India's North-East is a peaceful and prosperous State. It has a total area of about 21087 sq.kms with 21 major hill ranges or peaks. A very difficult terrain for an army to carry out a successful counter-insurgency operation. Its population was estimated at 8,91,058 in 2001.

Mizoram was not a peaceful region before 1986. It was one of the most troubled regions of India. In February,1966, an ethnic separatist organisation called the Mizo National Front (MNF) overran the entire State in a series of simultaneous and surprise attacks and captured even Aizawl, its capital. The Indian Government and its security forces lost control of Mizoram almost as completely as the Pakistani security forces have now lost control of Swat, which has an area of only 1772 Sq.Kms with a population estimated at 1.5 million in 1998.

It took the Government of India and its security forces 20 years to reestablish the Government's writ over the State by making it clear to the MNF that violence would not pay and by reaching a political solution on the future of the Mizo people, which would enable them to remain a part of India with considerable political and economic rights.

The counter-insurgency operations carried out by the Indian security forces in Mizoram are considered a model for others to learn from and emulate. It has today India's leading counter-insurgency school and even the US sends its military officers to the school to learn from India's success in dealing with the insurgency.

The Swat District of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan came under the virtual total control of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) in 2007. The hilly terrain in Swat is somewhat similar to that in Mizoram The area affected by the TNSM insurgency is much smaller than the affected area in Mizoram.

The MNF movement was an ethnic separatist movement. The TNSM movement is a religious fundamentalist movement. Apart from this, there was another major difference between Mizoram and Swat. The Mizos constituted a small number of people confined to Mizoram. They had to fight against the Indian security forces unaided by other non-Mizo tribal groups in the region. The tribals of Swat are part of the Pashtun tribe, which is spread over a vast area in the Pashtun belt across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. They are not fighting alone against the Pakistani security forces. They are supported by the Pashtuns in the surrounding areas.

It should not, therefore, be a matter of surprise that the Pakistani security forces have been facing considerable difficulties in countering their activities.The dimensions of the Mizo insurgency were much smaller as compared to the dimensions of the problem caused for the Pakistani security forces by the Pakistani Taliban called the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), of which the TNSM is a part. Morewover, there was no sympathy for the Mizos in the Indian security forces fighting against them. There is considerable sympathy for the TNSM and the TTP among the Pakistani para-military forces.

Despite the much less serious dimensions of the Mizo insurgency, we took 20 years to prevail over it. It would be unreasonable to expect the Pakistani security forces to prevail over the TNSM and the TTP in a matter of months. The counter-insurgency operations---even if they are carried out sincerely by the Pakistani security forces--- are going to take a long time and there is no point for the international community in being impatient with Pakistan. The important point is the sincerity of the Pakistani security forces in wanting to defeat the Taliban and not the time taken by them for doing so. The international community is worried not by the time taken by the Pakistani security forces, but by the evidence of their insincerity. It finds it difficult to avoid the impression that the counter-insurgency operations against the the TNSM and the TTP are more shadow-boxing than real and that the heart of the Pakistani security forces is not in it.

At the time we carried out our counter-insurgency operations in Mizoram the international community was hardly interested in it. No nuclear factor was involved. There was no trans-national dimension of the problem except the Pakistani assistance to the MNF. There was no Al Qaeda waiting to exploit the situation to further its own agenda. We had a two-point strategy--- a campaign of attrition against the MNF and removing the MNF sanctuaries in the then East Pakistan by supporting the movement for an independent Bangladesh. The insurgency in Mizoram is a telling example of how an insurgent or terrorist movement withers away when it no longer has external sanctuaries and the covert support of intelligence organisations.

The circumstances in Pakistan today are totally different. The nuclear factor due to Pakistan having a nuclear capability of uncertain safety, the trans-national dimension of the Taliban phenomenon and its linkages with Al Qaeda have made the counter-insurgency operations against the TNSM and the TTP a matter of serious concern to the entire international community.

The perceived lack of seriousness and sincerity in the political and military leaderships of Pakistan in dealing with this problem have given rise to apocalyptic fears of what could happen in the coming months. These fears are natural, even if they ultimately turn out to be exaggerated as asserted by the Pakistani authorities.

It is important for the imternational community---particularly for the US which has a greater presence and influence in Pakistan than any other Western country--- to closely monitor the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations in Pakistan against the TTP, the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and other Punjabi terrorist organisations in order to ensure that Pakistan does what is expected of it by the international community.

How to monitor continuously without giving the impression that the US is interfering in Pakistan's internal security management and thereby adding to the anti-US anger in Pakistan? Spectacular shows, rich in photo opprtunities,such as the recent Zardari-Karzai-Obama summit are not the way. Such shows only add to the suspicions of Pakistanis and Afghans not well disposed to the US that the US is imposing on the Pakistani leadership counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism strategies designed to servre US and not Pakistani interests.

Officials of the Obama Administration have claimed that they have been able to convince the Pakistani leadership that it is the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which pose the threat to Pakistan and not India. They are hoping that as a result Pakistan will divert some of its forces from the Indian border to the Taliban-infected areas. This is good, if it turns out to be true, though I have my skepticism. Even if this comes about, that alone is not going to lead to more successful counter-insurgency operations.

Since the two countries became independent in 1947, the Indian Army has evolved into a multi-terrain, multi-target, multi-role army. The Pakistan Army has remained static in a single-terrain, single-target, single-role model. The Indian Army can fight against the Pakistan Army in the plains of Punjab and in the glaciers of Siachen, against the Chinese Army in the forbidding heights of the Himalayas and against insurgents and terrorists in the hills as well as the plains. The Pakistan Army feels comfortable only in the plains of Punjab. Outside the plains of Punjab, it feels like a fish out of water. It is unable to perceive the threats that could arise from insurgents, terrorists and other non-State actors with the same seriousness as India, the US and other countries do because the insurgents and terrorists have been its live-in companions.

To enable the Pakistani security forces acquire a multi-terrain, multi-target, multi-role capability is going to take years.There is going to be no quick end to the internal security problems faced by Pakistan.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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