Saturday, January 5, 2013

Light at the end of the tunnel

Every morning after I switch on my computer, I spend some time browsing the main news items for the morning. Most of the news paper sites on the internet, usually classify the news under two major groups such as national news or international news. In each of these, the headlines are further classified region or nation wise such as south east Asia, China, Middle east etc. Major news from Pakistan appears in one special group, as this country is India's neighbour.

The news from Pakistan is routinely horrific and terrible. The news items from there, only talk of bomb blasts, shoot outs, killings, sectarian strikes and missile strikes with scores of innocent people being killed every day. Here are some headlines from Pakistani news paper Express Tribune over last few days.

* Health workers killings: Swabi puts its seven courageous workers to rest

* Instilling terror: Yet another explosion in UoP (University of Peshawar)

* Sectarian violence: Militants behind DI Khan bombings arrested, say police

* North Waziristan: Three killed as mortars hit civilian houses

As the headlines go, it would appear that the whole country is up in flames. But it is not. Most of the Pakistani's are living happily and peacefully in their country. The region that is really up in flames is the border region of Pakistan with Afghanistan known as “FATA” or Federally administered Tribal areas and in parts of few major cities such as Peshawar and Karachi.

I am not trying to say that everything is well in that country. Far from it, the country is in serious trouble and is facing a major law and order problem. Unfortunately, the central authority , which can bring things in order or Pakistan Army never really recognized or appreciated it so far; at least officially.

Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has been referring to this obliquely in some of his recent speeches. In the address made by him on Pakistan's Independence day he had mentioned that “no state can afford a parallel system or a militant force” and had warned of a possible civil war. Yet Pakistan Army's official Doctrine document , called as “Green Book” never had recognized this changing scenario and had always considered traditional “enemy” India as the main threat or biggest danger to the country.

As reported by press, Pakistan Army now has added a new chapter titled ‘Sub-conventional Warfare’ to this “Green Book.” This identification of internal threats as the biggest danger to the nation is being considered by Pakistan watchers as a paradigm shift in the Army strategy. Meanwhile as details of this policy shift continue to leak out, “Dawn” one of the important news paper from Pakistan, has reported that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and other terrorists groups have been identified as the biggest threat to national security in 2011.

Taliban and other terrorist organizations have been lately displaying their increased abilities and capabilities their ability to strike at will, anywhere and at any place in Pakistan, including at military facilities. This addition of a new chapter in Army's doctrine is aiming at recalibrating strategies to face this new internal threat for which Army finds it to be inadequately prepared. Pakistani Newspaper, The Express Tribune mentions a quote by a senior official, who says that: “Pakistan’s armed forces were trained for conventional warfare but the current security situation necessitated the change. Forces fighting on the front line in the tribal regions are now being trained according to the requirements of sub-conventional warfare.”

This tacit acceptance that country's priorities have changed does not reflect in official statements, which still consider India as the major threat, for obvious reasons. Director-General of Inter Services Public Relations, Asim Saleem Bajwa, keeps harping that even though the threat matrix faced by the country has changed, it does not mean that the conventional threat has receded and Army prepares for all forms of threats.

What has baffled Pakistan watchers is the selective leaks from Army's official doctrine released to press. It could be a ruse to make India feel secure. However. most analysts believe that it is not so and is being done to prepare the ground for launching an offensive against the terrorists. If such an offensive takes place, there would be a backlash and Army wants the political leadership to formulate a response and build a national consensus.

Whatever may be internal politics of that country, it is high time that Pakistani authorities realize the imminent danger to their country, turn their gun sights from east to west and take effective steps to control the situation. The entire region is likely to be drawn in a turmoil over next two years as Americans prepare to leave Afghanistan. It appears that Pakistani's have finally seen the light at the end of the tunnel. Or at least let us hope so!

5 January 2012

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