ISLAMABAD - In an extraordinarily challenging scenario, Pakistan’s security apparatus grapples with ever-deteriorating security situation on multiple counts involving the borderlands as well as the internal fronts.
Amid calls from certain circles for ‘peace talks’ with terrorists, the vibes from the security establishment are unequivocally categorical, not to negotiate with anti-state groups from a position of weakness.
“You do not negotiate with ant-state elements from a position of weakness. It adversely affects the morale of security forces. The state always negotiates from a position of strength. Pakistan Army backs peace process but when terrorists refuse to mend their ways, something needs to be done,“ a senior army officer, requesting anonymity, commented referring to the leniency shown by the political leadership for talks with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which, he believes, is a major contributory factor towards recent rise in terrorism.
The plethora of prevalent security challenge forms a rare situation whereby the armed forces, especially the Pakistan Army, as well as the law enforcement agencies come under repeated attacks in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), at Eastern and Western borders and the Line of Control (LoC). The Western border had lately remained calm, before the military officials alleged on Tuesday that three rockets were fired at a security picket of Frontier Corps from Afghan side in Sarkai area of Bajaur Agency to injure three FC men.
The reported development surfaces at a time when deadly skirmishes continue to take place between Pakistan and Indian armies at the Pak-India border at Sialkot Working Boundary followed by periodic exchange of fire at the LoC. Internally, the wave of security lapses goes unabated following repeated attacks on Pakistan Army and FC in Awaran and now on Levies Force in Turbat, unstoppable spree of terror hits in KP – resulting in the killings of over a hundred civilians and a dozen security men – and reported clashes between the military and militants in Kurram Agency. These events ring alarms of concern within the top ranks of the security establishment.
The situation gets more peculiar in the wake of the upcoming Islamic month of Moharram that is marked with maximum security threats, each year. While the military’s apparently vague security strategy adds to the prevailing uncertainty and confusion over the future of quake-hit district of Awaran district of Balochistan where thousands of earthquake victims need humanitarian aid, the ground indicators do not show adequate signs of improvement in the security situation.
After facing several attacks at the hands of militants in Awaran, the military had reiterated to retaliate, which did not happen. This led to the widespread assumption that Pakistan Army was making ‘discrete’ preparations for a military operation against the insurgents in the quake-affected belt and was therefore avoiding to retaliate for the time being, as part of its strategy. However, the army’s mouthpiece, ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations) denied these reports, saying the security forces were “committed in relief operation only, despite repeated attacks by miscreants on troops busy in relief work.” The question goes unanswered as to how would the military respond to the insurgents’ attacks when it is not to retaliate and has no plans to launch a crackdown against the non-state elements.
A former general who also served as an interior minister says Pakistan’s security dynamics are inter-linked in such a way that improvement or deterioration in the security situation in any given region generally has an impact in other areas. “Our security indicators, both external and internal, are complex and challenging. Ordinarily, the security situation at the borders or in any region does have an impact in the other areas. This is so because the miscreants forming the non-state actors or the anti-state elements keep looking for opportunities to destabilise the security environment. A security lapse, a militant attack or related activity encourages them to unleash terrorism in pursuit of their designs,” Lieutenant General (r) Moinuddin Haider told The Nation.
“A terror attack often triggers a chain reaction.” Referring to the Pak-India border situation, Haider believes, the phenomenon of chain reaction also applies in this particular context. “When hostile forces or elements from across the border see you getting weak, internally, they hardly miss an opportunity to strike.”
The solution, according to the retired general, lies in improving ties with the neighbouring states of India and Afghanistan and to tackle homegrown militancy with an iron hand. “Improvement in Pak-India ties is the key. It’s good that the two states have come forward but much needs to be done in this regard. In order to deal with home-grown militancy, the security forces need to enhance their operational capability through inter-coordination and effective communication to wipe out this menace.”