The security dynamics for the last few years in Pakistan have demonstrated that the transnational Islamic militants possess enough political, strategic, operational and tactical clout to challenge the very existence of the state. The military and political elites of the country seem widely divided on the question: how to deal with this gigantic threat, given the fact that they all have wide and various vested interests. Since the security establishment calls the shots in national security matters, it is not willing to lose supremacy in this regard.
The recently held general elections can be viewed as an eye-opener to nullify the assumption that the hardline radical Islamic militants’ suicide bombings against the civilians and security forces are in reaction to the US drone strikes – as there is perception among the militants that the drones are operating with the connivance of the Pakistani government. Militants totally spared right-wing political parties (PML-N, PTI, JUI-F, etc.) to have full electioneering while knocked down on the left-wing liberal political parties (PPP, ANP, MQM etc.). The agenda of these militants is enormously clear now — first to establish Islamic Emirates of Waziristan, subsequently use this emirate as a launching pad to spread over the whole of Pakistan with the ultimate aim of enforcing their own interpreted Sharia (Islamic Law) over the globe.
Things are going from bad to worse with every passing day in the midst of alarmingly dangerous developments. The self-proclaimed holy warriors (Jihadists) have already manifested their will and resolve to strike in the country wherever they want – attacks on military headquarters GHQ in Rawalpindi, Mehran Base Karachi, and Kamra Aeronautical Complex are reflections of that. Furthermore, they have successfully instilled the element of extreme fear in the minds and hearts of major political leaders – one political leader (chief minister of Punjab) even once requested TTP to spare his province from their ruthless attacks. Now-a-days, the ruling political party (PML-N) along with Imran Khan and Fazl-ur-Rahman are offering the TTP a place at the negotiating table, however, [the latter is not in the mode of paying any heed to this offer.
The fair assessment of the ground realities reveals (one may differ) that the very fabric of Pakistani society, including intellectuals, academicians, media persons, journalists, civil activists, government servants and businessmen, is under intense fear from these militants. The space for the liberals in the country is fast shrinking with the extremists getting inroads in every field of life. The story does not end here, as mentioned above; the world view of these militants is based on extremely aggressive lines. As a matter of fact, they want to resolve all issues including the decades-long Kashmir dispute with India by an open war or Jihad.
Islamic militants may drag Pakistan and India into a war through their malicious acts such as replicating Mumbai (2008) like carnage. Everyone knows ‘war is a slippery road’, it may escalate to a doomsday scenario where both states could use nuclear weapons against each other. The strategic dynamics between both the countries could drift into increasingly dangerous proportions if the militants go for a major attack on Indian interests anywhere in the world. Dr. Tariq Rahman, a Pakistani national distinguished professor, believes that the militants want Pakistan to pursue a very aggressive foreign policy vis-à-vis India. His survey is reproduced below:
|Militancy Among Madrassa Students in 2003 (N=142)
|What should be Pakistan’s Priorities?
|Take Kashmir away from India by an open war?
|Take Kashmir away from India by supporting Jihadi groups to fight with the Indian army?
|Support Kashmir cause through peaceful means only (i.e. no open war or sending Jihadi groups across the line of Control)
The views of the Madrassa teachers were even more militant:
Militancy Among Madrassa Teachers (N=27)
Source: Tariq Rahman, “Madrassa: Religion, Poverty and the Potential for Violence
The Pakistani government, especially the security establishment, needs to re-visit its policy as well as strategy to deal with these militants both in domestic and global contexts. First of all, there should not be any dialogue with these elements rather they should be dealt with an iron hand. Secondly, they should not be allowed at any cost to use Pakistani soil to replicate a Mumbai-like attack on India. Thirdly, Pakistan needs to isolate them and break their active and passive support from the ranks of common masses by using all means. And, above all Pakistan needs to make peace with India. The latter could be achieved by delinking our nuclear policy from India – starting cooperation with the international community in the realm of nonproliferation and disarmament. To let the CD start negotiations on FMCT and halting the production of weapons-grade fissile materials may be a good start in this direction.
The time has come for Pakistan that it should no longer consider India as a strategic threat — though issues are there that need to be resolved through peaceful dialogue. The newly installed democratic government in Islamabad has very rare opportunity to seize the moment by starting befriending India. India also needs to reciprocate given the fact that the lasting peace is in the larger interest of both the countries. This is the only way to save South Asia from a nuclear catastrophe.