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Wed. October 04, 2023
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Pakistan Restructuring Regional Strategy
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An Indian army commander computes that two hundred armed jihadis have positioned themselves along the Line of Control to sneak into the Kashmir. Thirty-one of the heavily armed jihadis have already managed to infiltrate. Even when the valley was reeling under the ravages of floods, jihadis made several bids during those ten days to push as many of them across the line as they could. Most of their attempts were neutralized.

Notably, bids of infiltration increased soon after Modi government took the oath of office in a function in which SAARC heads of governments, including Nawaz Sharif participated. The two prime ministers jointly spoke of containing terrorism in the region.

A gradual change in the idiom of General Headquarters in Rawalpindi could be discerned when perfunctory hints emanated from Islamabad that bilateral talks with India would be resumed. To offset any talks, non-state actors in Pakistan revived Kashmir orchestration, and reverberations were felt along the Line of Control (LoC) including unprovoked firings in some sensitive forward Indian posts along the LoC and even across the border in the RS Pora sector.

Pakistani agencies subtly scuttled a foreign secretary-level meeting by predicating it with the Pakistan High Commissioner’s invitation to Kashmir separatists and secessionists for a meeting in Delhi.  The Pakistani agency scored a point over Islamabad.

Behind the curtain, Track II dialect dragged on in neutral gear.

Alarmed by the likely insistence of the new government in Delhi to meaningfully pursue bilateral talks concerning 26/11 Mumbai culprits and the new approach to bilateral relations pronounced by the democratically elected government in Islamabad, the army decided to settle its score with the bugbear of Pakistan democracy.

As in previous years, a military coup was out of question. Neither the Americans or Saudis would be accepting.

The Army had one more reason to train its guns on Nawaz Sharif. It would not allow non-military government to treat its former Chief with disdain. Hence it pressed into service the option of mobocracy; a logjam continues around the seat of government.

Allowing the stalemate to linger on, the Army, which had been making serious efforts for quite some time to draw a wedge between the two main ethnic components of Tehreek-i-Taliban-i-Pakistan (TTP), succeeded in the time-tested mantra of divide and rule. And the Punjabi and Pushtun ethnic groups in TTP parted ways.

On September 5, the chief of a TTP Punjabi chapter, Asmatullah Muawiyah, announced his surrender to the Pakistan armyl. In a three minute video he said that his group gave up operation in Pakistan in the interests of Islam and Islamic Caliphate. But the more significant part of his statement was that though his group would no more operate in Pakistan it would actively join the Afghan Taliban and fight alongside them against the American propelled government in Kabul and the American presence in Afghanistan.

But shortly thereafter, on 13 September, TTP Commander Abu Baseer contradicted Muawiyah’s statement saying that he had presented himself to TTP as mujahid. He alleged that Muawiyah had, and continues to have, links with top Pakistani agencies.

Before proceeding further, a few words need to be said about Muawiyah. TTP is an umbrella of seven militant organizations of Pakistan. Previously, Asmatullah Muawiyeh was a commander of Azhar’s terrorist group of Jaish-i-Muhammad. Following differences with Jaish in the aftermath of Lal Masjid operation of 2007, Muawiyeh parted ways with Azhar and went to the tribal areas with dozens of his comrades.  He formed his faction of terrorists claiming that he was to avenge the killing of jihadis in Lal Masjid operation by Pakistani security men. He named his faction Jundu’l-Hafsa, after the name of girls’ seminary Jame’ul Hafsa attached to Lal Masjid.

Jundul-Hafsa claimed they carried out many killings.  On June 22, 2013 its gunmen attacked foreign hikers at a base camp in Nanga Parbat leaving ten of them dead. It also claimed responsibility of attack on a church in Peshawar in September 2013 in which 80 Christians offering mass were killed.

The Nation wrote that the Rasool Park/Samanabad/Lahore terrorist attack was carried by Punjabi Taliban.  They stormed a two-story house and opened fire on Khyber Pukhtunkhwa prison department, killing 9 guards and freeing their comrades from the prison.

After becoming part of TTP, Muawiyeh become the chief of its Punjabi chapter. In 2003-4, General Musharraf, then President of Pakistan, directed the Punjabi Taliban conducting Kashmir jihad activities in Punjab to wind up. The Punjabi Taliban, comprising mostly youth from Punjab and PoK split into two. One part migrated to Waziristan where it raised the banner against Pakistani army.

It is noteworthy that in the initial stage of drone attacks, Americans avoided attacking TTP groups in Waziristan in the hope that they would not find a common cause with the Taliban. But when Pakistan declared that all TTP were the enemies of Pakistan, American drone attacks extended to hideouts of Punjabi Taliban as well.

But before the American drones would pound TTP, the Pakistani ISI had relocated the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements in TTP in Waziristan to Kurram region where they enjoyed security.

The simple objective of Pakistan in categorizing all TTP as its enemy was to help disperse the Afghan Taliban either to Kurram or to safe havens in Afghanistan. Then, after the purge, it could take on the remnants of TTP easily and hunt them down one by one.

Obviously, the Kabul government took care of those elements and they were forced to withdraw to Afghan territory in the face of Pakistan army’s heavy attacks on TTP, ultimately reducing it to shambles.

By finishing off the TTP in Waziristan, without causing harm to such of the Afghan Taliban - as they had sought refuge in Waziristan against the NATO attacks, the Pakistan army achieved the dual objective of liquidating the anti-army TTP, and retaining an anti-Kabul lever in its hands in the shape of Kurram-based Afghan Taliban.

On the other hand, this strategy found replication in the shape of Maulvi Fazlullah, the supreme leader of TTP, stationed in Kabul and patronizing the anti-Pakistan army elements that are temporarily located or concentrated in Afghanistan.

Until Aug 13, 2013, the Punjabi chapter of TTP remained under TTP. During that Loperiod Asmatullah Muawiyeh clandestinely came twice to the Indian part of Kashmir and Afghanistan to take stock of ground situation there. The dream of Islamic Caliphate is very much alive in the head of these jihadis. Last year, the TTP expelled Muawiyeh after he had issued statement regarding the PML-N government proposal for peace talks without prior approval from central leadership. He welcomed Nawaz Sharif’s proposal for dialogue after urging Pak militants to respond to the offer.

In all probability, it is thought the Pakistan Army will, in slow degrees, induct its protected and patronized hordes of Afghan Taliban into Kashmir and thus give a new turn to Kashmir jihad. Border violations and unprovoked firings could be a precursor to that scenario.

It must be understood that Bilawal, the scion of Bhutto house, vows to take back every inch of Kashmir.

In this broad and rather grossly intertwined regional strategic scenario, ISI has played the master card by winning over Muawiyeh and through him declaring ending hostilities against Pakistan by TTP. But the story does not end there.

After all, Muawiyeh would not lay down his arms for nothing. The bargain has more to it than just cessation of hostilities. Muawiyeh has stated that while he would work in the interests of Islam and propagate its true teachings, he would join in the fight against Kabul regime and Americans in Kabul.  

Reports are that through the Haqqani network, Muawiyah’s group will move to Afghanistan and join with the Afghan Taliban in bringing down the Kabul regime and throwing out the Americans and finally giving proper shape to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan or the Caliphate of Khurasan.

Haqqani is an old time playboy of ISI and since long he has been basking in its sunshine.

(Kashi N Pandita? is the former Director of the Centre for Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University, Srinagar, Kashmir). www.world-citizenship.org


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