‘The complex militant landscape of Pakistan poses a dilemma that requires a multi-pronged approach for a reintegration framework [..] We must revisit the implementation of NAP, and cater to the fundamental rights and need of our population to guard against extremism’ – Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
Islamabad, 8th May 2018: This was stated in the opening remarks by Senator Sehar Kamran, President of the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) during a roundtable discussion on “Mainstreaming Extremist Religious Organizations: Challenge or Opportunity?” at Serena Hotel Islamabad on Tuesday, 8th May 2018. Speakers at the event included National Coordinator NACTA, Lt Cdr (Retd) Ihsan Ghani; Professor Dr Nazir Hussain, Director School of Politics and IR, Quaid-e-Azam University, and the session was chaired by Air Vice Marshal (Retd) Faaiz Amir HI(M) SBt. The discussion was organized by CPGS in collaboration with the German Foundation, Konrad Adenaur Stiftung (KAS).
The discussion revolved around the mainstreaming of extremist religious organizations with possible militant links, the differences between reintegration and mainstreaming, as well as the impact of this phenomenon on the political, legal and socio-economic aspects of public life at large. It also delved into the dangerous precedents that had been set by the use of ‘street power’ by such groups to ‘threaten’ state institutions and challenge its jurisdiction/authority, in turn emboldening other fringe elements.
Senator Sehar Kamran (TI) highlighted how “violent extremism has posed one of the greatest threats in Pakistan’s history to its stability and prosperity. The two decades of the War on Terror had allowed the deadly instability along the borders to move inwards, distorting the very fabric of our society. It has taken a long and difficult struggle and great sacrifices from the people of Pakistan and its Armed Forces to reclaim this space from terrorists, but we continue to struggle with taking back the space that has become occupied by violent extremists and their narratives.” She opined that “the complexity of this issue is exacerbated by a multitude of extenuating factors, ranging from the broad religio-political spectrum in the country to our immense ethnic diversity. When the rights of the people are neglected, a vacuum is created, and violent extremist groups thrive in this vacuum. The social injustices and philanthropic activities by these groups further enhance their legitimacy among the masses as they present themselves as ‘messiahs’ for the people, and help them in narrative formation to gain attention and sympathy.”
Senator Kamran stated that “in the aftermath to Operations Rah-e-Raast, Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasad, some militant organizations have been seeking to move onto more legitimate political platforms, without altering or abandoning their demagogic ideologies, and dismissing the activities of their militant wings as irrelevant to their political messages, if owning them publicly at all. Domestically in Pakistan, voices remain divided over this ‘mainstreaming’ or ‘integration’ of violent extremist organizations into the fold of politics. It is also a fact that ideologically motivated proscribe organizations are unlikely to abandon their principal philosophies, and consequently the reintegration of banned outfits by allowing them political space without submission to the Constitution is simply not possible. Furthermore, a country faced with the sort of hybrid warfare that Pakistan has been facing, it is also important to consider the potential exploitation of these groups by hostile external parties to achieve their own goals.”
It is important to note that “Pakistan is signatory to numerous international laws that bar the inclusion of militants, militant organizations, violence, intolerance and discrimination in any form. Failure to adhere to our commitments under international law will adversely affect the state’s image and standing within the international community, and in turn, impact economic policies towards Pakistan,” she added.
Cmdr (retd) Ihsan Ghani, in his presentation, stated that ‘mainstreaming’ has the potential to be a constructive way of reforming and reorienting the current state of extremist religious organizations in Pakistan, but the political mainstreaming of these groups must not start without starting the de-radicalization process, as it would cause more damage to the political scene if not executed properly. He further highlighted that politicization without the de-radicalization process may perpetrate more violence, as these armed organizations may seek to intimidate political rivals and voters during electioneering. Consequently, it was important to first identify the stakeholders, start the process where these groups must voluntarily disarm, decommission and display their willingness to cooperate.
The organizations should who are willing to cooperate and disarm be allowed to operate, and recommended that the State must takeover the infrastructure and assets of these groups. He further said that their reorientation may cause a snowball effect, and others fringe groups may also follow suit. Nonetheless, he emphasized that a policy formulation process must start from the Parliament, and that the NACTA could play a critical role vis-à-vis mainstreaming, through its already developed policy instruments of NCEPG and National Narrative.
Professor Dr Nazir Hussain, in his remarks, said that ‘violence starts where an argument is no longer possible’. The core problem, he argued, lies in State policies, and without structural reform within the current political scene, the mainstreaming of religious elements will continue to pose a massive threat. He also highlighted that there also remains a threat of these religious parties being ‘hijacked’ by more savvy entities for their own ends. Dr Nazir also expressed his appreciation for the orders of the Supreme Court, under which the ECP would be scrutinizing all electoral candidates under Articles 62 and 63. He encouraged think-tanks and sub-state institutions like CPGS and the CII to put forward policy recommendations and questions for debate to the Parliament.
The panel also put forward a series of policy recommendations including:
The roundtable was attended by prominent dignitaries and practitioners, including H.E. Mr. Ahmed Fadel Yacoub, the Ambassador of Egypt, Mr Qibla Ayaz, Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology, diplomats from the US, Russia, France and Belgium, as well as by government officials, experts, academics, practitioners, and university students.
By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
April 29, 2018
‘Reliance on kinetic measures to intercept non-linear threats is no longer an option, and modern statecraft in the country must absolutely familiarise itself – and quickly – with alternate tools to tackle the emerging complex and unpredictable internal and external security landscape.’
Global and regional dynamics of conflict are rapidly changing and posing a challenge to traditional state structures and military approaches. Conflicts between conventional armies are gradually waning, giving rise to a nonlinear matrix of actors and techniques. Likewise the meanings of ‘victory’ and ‘defeat’ in battle are also changing, with the terminology quickly becoming a relic of past. South Asia is no exception; the perennial state of conflict between India and Pakistan are changing and ‘blurring the line between the states of war and peace. Wars are no longer declared and, having begun, proceed according to an unfamiliar template.’
In a similar strain, concerns were raised by Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, while addressing the 137th PMA Long Course ceremony, when he stated that “Pakistan is facing enormous challenges both in conventional and sub-conventional domains,” and that “our enemies know that they cannot beat us fair and square, and have thus subjected us to a cruel, evil and protracted hybrid war.” Without naming any countries, Gen Bajwa clearly indicated the precarious situation on Pakistan’s eastern and western borders with India and Afghanistan – and the growing covert activities of hostile agencies to “inflict wounds within.”
In this brand of warfare, an enemy uses ‘multiple instruments of power simultaneously and intentionally exploits creativity, ambiguity, non-linearity and the cognitive elements of warfare, and it remains below clear detection and response thresholds, and often rely on the speed and digital technology that characterises the present information age’.
It is no secret that India’s notorious intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has been carrying out covert operations inside Pakistan through proxies and terrorist networks that fall within these parameters for a very long time now. In 2009, then Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani handed over a dossier of RAW’s involvement in terrorist activities to his counterpart, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during their meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. The dossier highlighted just how India’s security and intelligence agencies had been using Afghanistan’s soil to train and fund terrorist activities in FATA and other parts of Pakistan. Furthermore, India was directly involved in igniting the ‘insurgency in Balochistan’, through clandestine support to insurgents and their militant organisations. It was also reported later, in Indian media itself no less, that in 2009, India had hosted Baloch insurgents in New Delhi.
In 2013, Indian Army chief General Vijay Kumar Singh admitted that following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the Indian army raised a Tactical Support Division (TSD), which carried out bomb blasts in Pakistan, and doled out money to the separatist elements in Balochistan. Such clandestine activities further increased when Narendra Modi, a demagogic hardliner and dogmatic agitator became the Prime Minister of India in May 2014. From then onwards, Indian policy has been guided by the so-called “Doval Doctrine”, coined by the former RAW chief, Ajit Doval, who became the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister.
The “Doctrine” envisages engaging the enemy at three levels, i.e. defensive, defensive-offensive and offensive. The “offensive-defensive mode” requires going into Pakistan and ‘tackling the problem where it originated’. As his infamous statement further clarifies: “You may do one Mumbai; you may lose Balochistan”. Ergo, India would use conventional means in an unconventional manner to achieve their more controversial goals – which is what ‘hybrid war’ is all about.
Evidence of the deployment of such tactics was discovered in March 2016 when Pakistan’s intelligence and security agencies unearthed the largest clandestine RAW network to date, which had been involved in sabotage, espionage, and terrorist activities. Leading this network was the now infamous Kulbushan Jadhav, an Indian Navy commissioned officer, operating from the Pakistan-Iran border areas. The Indian spy confessed to the nefarious nature of his activities, which included terrorism among the approaches intended to destabilize the country. Furthermore, he also confessed to being assigned by RAW “to plan and organise espionage and sabotage activities” in the Balochistan Province and Karachi, the southern port city that is the country’s commercial hub. But Indian confessions continue to fall on deaf ears internationally, just as they did with the Samjhota Express Bombings, which eventually were acknowledged – and by the Indian National Investigative Agency (NIA) no less – to have been carried out by members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) National Volunteer Corp – an extremist Hindu paramilitary organisation.
After the Uri and Pathankot attacks, once more India blamed Pakistan without any substantial evidence. Subsequently, in order to weigh options for ‘retaliation’ for the perceived ingresses, Prime Minister Modi held high level meetings and a famous statement that created a stir in national and international media; presiding over the Indus Water Commission meeting, he said, ‘blood and water cannot flow together at the same time.’ In the aftermath of these events, it became increasingly clear that a multipronged strategy had been put in place to pressurize Pakistan on multiple fronts. The aims of this strategy appeared to be to isolate Pakistan diplomatically, as well as to raise the possibility of carrying out military strikes and hint at suspending the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) brokered by the World Bank (WB).
Eventually, Indian media was to claim that ‘surgical strikes’ had been carried out across the Line of Control (LOC), and the alleged ‘launching pads’ of infiltration destroyed, again without concrete proof of either claim. Pakistan’s military spokesperson categorically denied these claims, rubbishing the rumors of ‘military operations’ on Pakistan’s side of Kashmir, while analysts opined that the drama of ‘surgical strikes’ was hatched by Narendra Modi to conceal his failures in delivering on his political promises on the one hand, and to shore up his declining political support in the country on the other.
That said, the true motivation of the Modi government still appears to have been diverting the attention of national, regional and international community from Indian Occupied Kashmir and the recent spate of brutalities that have been inflicted upon them by the Indian armed forces. Additionally, under Prime Minister Modi, the security situation on the LOC has been flared up by serious ceasefire violations and the targeting of innocent civilians along the LOC by India.
The most recent scheme that appears to include the efforts of both RAW and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) to undermine Pakistan’s political unity and sovereignty has been through the support and funding for the newly teethed “Pashtun Tahafuz Movement” (PTM), which, less than a couple of months after gaining notoriety, has somehow managed to attain endorsement from none other than the Afghan President himself, when there are other far more dedicated, better known and supported organisations. The attempt to hijack a national tragedy has been thwarted, but the timing of the entire incident has been interesting, to say the least.
As it is increasingly clear to the adversaries of Pakistan that it is no longer possible to overpower this nuclear nation through kinetic means, the only other option to engage becomes a drawn out, painful, civilian-targeted and resource-exhausting form of hybrid war to achieve strategic regional goals, including (but not limited to) the disruption of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It is also clear that Pakistan has been subject to this phenomenon for a very long time – with strategies moving from more kinetic approaches through sabotage and terror proxies like the TTP, to the broader spectrum approach we see today that is challenging the country simultaneously on multiple fronts, including diplomatic coercion and isolation, security threats ranging from LOC violations, terrorism, trafficking etc., economic pressures and openly expressed threats to the CPEC, internal destabilisation and ethnic dissonance.
When the nature of the game changes in this manner, it is of the utmost importance to adapt to the new rules to avoid isolation, demoralisation and eventual loss. Just as our military leadership has acknowledged the presence and impact of hybrid warfare on the country, it is important for the political and military leadership to step up to the challenge collectively and strategize accordingly, in advance and in proportion to the gravity of the multi-faceted threats we face. At moments like these, the principles of our Quaid for attaining national harmony – principles of unity, discipline and faith – remain as true as they did 70 odd years ago.
Reliance on kinetic measures to intercept non-linear threats is no longer an option, and modern statecraft in the country must absolutely familiarise itself – and quickly – with alternate tools to tackle the emerging complex and unpredictable internal and external security landscape. This also includes tackling internal pressure points (particularly ethnic sensitivities and civil rights issues) to prevent their misappropriation by external elements. Strong leadership and institutional harmony are needed today more than ever before, and in the run up to the national elections, this is an aspect of policy that ought to be addressed candidly.
Same version of the article appeared in The Nation
Research & Compiled by: Tahir nazir
Infograph designed by: Fatima Sureyya
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