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Fri. January 27, 2023
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IA-Forum Interview: Haider Mullick
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International Affairs Forum: The bomb that went off in Peshawar city during last Saturday's voting was a reminder of the security problems facing newly sworn-in Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. Where did Pervez Musharraf go wrong in terms of security policy and what should Zardari do differently? Haider Mullick: The original sin of President Musharraf was the failure to sell the ill-named Global War on Terror (GWOT) to the Pakistani people and the regular soldiers of the Pakistani Army. From a few hours after 9/11 to the day Musharraf was forced to resign the Pakistani population was perplexed at best and infuriated at worst. The Army officers, however dedicated and trained to defend Pakistan’s security, were informed at the highest levels but the message never resonated with the mid and low-level officers. They kept asking, why are we fighting fellow Pakistanis in a very ethnically complex region – tribal areas (FATA) , North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Baluchistan? In other words not only were most Pakistani citizens and soldiers kept in the dark no overarching national counterterrorism policy was created, let alone debated or sold to the nation. Second, Musharraf failed to form natural alliances with left-leaning secular local political parties, such as the Awami National Party (ANP), because of perceived mistrust based on ANP’s prior separatist tendencies. Instead, Musharraf allied with MMA – a conglomerate of Islamist parties – to legitimize and sustain military rule. Being a natural ally of the Pakistani Taliban MMA won a provincial landslide in the national election on a mainly anti-US vote. Third, Musharraf failed to monitor the changing web of militant groups ranging from international militants such as Al Qaeda types to Pakistani Taliban. The ISI – Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency – could have misled Musharraf to protect – or worse – abet certain militant groups, however. Fourth, peace deals failed because militants broadened their support and regrouped during ceasefires rather than expelling and deterring terrorists. Fifth, Musharraf failed to redefine Pakistan/Afghan relations in a post-Taliban and post-9/11 world. For several years after 9/11 Musharraf kept on emphasizing on the distinction between the ‘good’ (controllable) and the ‘bad’ (uncontrollable) Taliban until there were no good Taliban left. Finally, Musharraf stirred the hornets’ nest by enflaming the Baluch insurgency allowing Al Qaeda to gain local support in Baluchistan by promising the separatists autonomy from Islamabad. Proselytizing a better path to Zardari is easier said than done. Most of Musharraf’s mistakes were not entirely his own doing, external US pressure and internal religio-political factors played a significant part in making him swing erratically between positions and actions. These forces still exist and will make sure that Zardari’s willingness to do Washington’s bidding is not a cake walk. On the other hand, Zardari is the president of a more experienced army and co-chairman of a political party that holds a plurality in the parliament. He could pull it off albeit not alone. IA-Forum: How do you expect Pakistan's relationship will change under Zardari? Mr Mullick: Zardari has promised everything that the United States has asked for on the condition that his government will have Washington’s backing: a steady flow of aid and on-demand political manipulation if the army or ISI gets any ideas. We know that Washington wants results quickly but Zardari has another 170 million voices screaming at him to deliver socio-economic relief in the wake of high food and energy prices and shortages. How Zardari will balance these two pressures only time will tell but if he is half as good as president as he was when he brought his party and its historical rival Pakistan Muslim League together after Bhutto’s death then I am hopeful about Pakistan’s near future. IA-Forum: Does it need to change? Mr. Mullick: When US Special Operation Forces enter Pakistan without prior consent from Islamabad – and do so publicly – to interdict terrorists and their sanctuaries, I say Yes the US/Pakistan relationship must be salvaged. For the last few months Pakistan’s counterinsurgency policy has essentially run on auto-pilot with coordinates set in November 2007. While the new government was busy creating political coalitions and removing Musharraf – the expected, legitimate and constitutional prerogatives of a democracy – Al Qaeda and affiliates were busy strengthening their base in FATA and increasing terrorist attacks against NATO-ISAF troops and Pakistan army and in major Pakistani cities. Impatient Americans, paranoid about the possibility of the next 9/11 emanating from FATA, decided to up predator attacks. When these attacks weren’t enough troops were sent into Waziristan/FATA. Despite these unfortunate turn of events Pakistan’s sovereignty must be respected. A major rethink of US/Pakistan relations is needed based on shared intelligence and counterterrorism practices. Zardari can play an important role by going beyond strong anti-American rhetoric in public and bowing to US demands in private. He must implement a multifaceted policy toward FATA that brings back territory lost to the Taliban. To begin with the political and socio-economic parts of the multi-prong approach must be examined and emphasized. The quicker the Pakistanis can gain control of FATA the faster the Americans will resist sending troops. On the flip side the Americans should restrain from sending troops beyond high profile search and destroy missions based on verifiable actionable intelligence. IA-Forum: In terms of relations with neighbors, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has placed a lot of the blame for insecurity in his country on meddling by Pakistan. What do you make of these claims? Mr. Mullick: President Karzai’s concerns are important. The Afghan and Pakistani Taliban do share similar broader goals of installing strict theocratic regimes in both neighbors and giving sanctuaries to Al Qaeda types. However, his specific allegations against Pakistan’s ISI’s involvement in terrorist attacks against the Indian consulate or Karazai’s life are yet to be confirmed. The bottom line is that Karazai is happy that Musharraf is gone and hopes to form a mutually beneficial relationship with Zardari – both want to please Washington and interdict terrorists, and in turn weaken Islamist political parties. There political longevity, however, depends on pleasing the millions of their respective voters who are equally important if not more to achieve US, Afghan and Pakistan security goals. The number one cause of insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan is lack of speedy justice and governance. IA-Forum: Do you think direct dialogue with the militants should be pursued? Mr. Mullick: Several peace agreements were signed and broken – at times instantaneously – by Islamabad and the militants; the most recent one was signed by the new government headed by the Pakistan’s Peoples Party. The main lesson learnt: militants used agreements to broaden their local support and influence to attack security forces at a later stage. The Army pledged to stay away but broke agreements by conducting search-and-destroy missions with significant collateral damage. To make matters worse the traditional decision makers and yielders of power in the tribal areas were systematically replaced by young criminals with Taliban franchises. Many times agreements would be signed by tribe elders that held questionable clout and/or would not stay alive long enough to implement the agreements. If Zardari’s government wants to beat this dead horse again they better come up with some new ideas to create trust with verification. Pakistan’s new experiment with democracy does not come at an opportune time – there are no time outs when terrorists are attacking state infrastructure, setting up parallel legal systems, beheading soldiers, and killing innocent civilians through IEDs or suicide bombings. Political bickering and power broking, no matter how necessary and desired, must be minimized and the Pakistani nation must genuinely come together to fight the menace of terrorism, bring socio-economic stability and take back its perceived and real loss of national pride and sovereignty. In a globalized world national sovereignty is not a right it’s a privilege. Haider Ali Hussein Mullick is a Senior Fellow at the Joint Special Operations University and conducts research on counterinsurgency and US foreign policy toward South Asia. For more details and contact information please visit www.haidermullick.com

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