I never thought that my posts for this blog would be anything other than strategic in the context of doctrinal assessments and analysis. But at a time when given the current internal security dynamics, my country faces the biggest challenge ever posed by internal elements, discussing anything else seems trivial.
Pakistan is a unique country. It possesses nuclear weapons and sophisticated delivery systems. It has a population of 190 million and counting, a literacy rate of 55%, a vibrant society and a culture with liberal shades. Why would anybody want to kill the civilians and take on the armed forces of Pakistan? Do they want our nuclear weapons? Do they want control of the state? Who are they? For an interactive militant landscape of Pakistan please see this report.
The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) feeds off the ideology of Al-Qaeda (AQ). Pakistan provides an excellent breeding ground for recruiting militants because the state itself has been exploiting the jihadi mindset off and on to meet its own regional objectives. But it now has to make the ultimate choice. There are no good and bad jihadis. There is no right or wrong usage of jihadis. TTP’s concept of jihad is twisted. They are growing in numbers in Pakistan because they are not wanted anywhere else. They are fighting for every bit of land they can hold on to because they know they have nowhere else to go. For TTP, the fight is existential in nature and it is embraced and understood to be so by each and every element of that organization. For Pakistan, it is becoming existential but the embrace and understanding is yet to arrive. I don’t know how many soldiers and civilians will have to die before it is understood. I don’t know what else needs to happen in Pakistan for this fact to be accepted that we will lose territorial control if we do not establish the writ of the state and send strong signals to TTP and Al-Qaeda in general that we will not tolerate their transgressions and that we do NOT want them. Pakistan as a state needs to issue a fatwa against them.
At the time of Karachi Airport Attack, there were speculations about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nukes and at a State Department briefing the U.S. “reaffirmed its confidence” in GOP’s efforts to ensure security of its nuclear assets. So, does TTP want Pakistani nukes? There is only one thing I can say with conviction: TTP and AQ do not want Pakistan’s nuclear weapons (not that they can have them even if they had dreams about nuclearizing their suicide vests). Like any other terrorist organization, they want an audience. They want to institute terror. They want as their immediate goal to convert Pakistan into an Islamic Caliphate with Sharia, as understood by them, being the law of the land. Gaining control of nuclear weapons does not serve their ideology. These weapons without their command and control systems and delivery mechanisms are useless for terrorists. I don’t want to get into this hypothetical for the simple reason that it defies logic. For me what is at stake here is not the loss of nuclear weapons but possible loss of Pakistan’s northern territory if steps are not taken to regain control. For me what is at stake is the growing number of deaths of Pakistani civilians and soldiers who speak the same Kalima these terrorists are claiming to introduce into this country.
Where will TTP and the AQ terrorists run to when Pakistan Army shows up in full force? Into Afghanistan? Iran? India? Saudi Arabia? back to Uzbekistan? Why are they not in these countries to begin with? What are their funding sources? Please do not turn around and preach a Cold War lesson. Please do not sit in the comfort of your study and say ISI deserves it or Pakistan deserves it. Nobody deserves this. Nobody.
We are survivors. We will outlive the TTP, AQ or any other terrorist acronym under the sun. But there is a need for intense introspection with lots of courage and honesty by every Pakistani in order to understand why we are where we are and what will happen to us if we don’t do anything about it NOW.
Image: A Majeed-AFP, Getty