A complex matrix

08 Jun, 2014


A NUMBER of events in the last two weeks in the southern part of Fata and renewed militant attacks in northern Fata and the urban centres seem to have apparently complicated the existing matrix of militancy in Pakistan.

The Khan Said Sajna group, which has been renamed the Khalid Mehsud group of South Waziristan, parted ways with the mainstream Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan last month. Sajna’s spokesperson Azam Tariq issued a ‘charge sheet’ while talking to the media on May 28, claiming that the mainstream TTP was involved in bomb attacks with ‘bogus’ names as well as extortion. He said the TTP had “fallen into the hands of conspirators”. The government and the Mullah Fazlullah-led TTP have so far opted not to respond to these charges.

A jirga was held in Mirali in North Waziristan on the last day of May, which was reportedly supported by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, commander of the Shura-i-Mujahideen. The shura has been in agreement with the government for almost seven years now. The jirga “aimed to establish peace in the country in general and in Waziristan in particular”. It stressed upon the government to halt the military operation in North Waziristan.

A day or so after the jirga, a pamphlet was issued by Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan threatening to revoke his shura’s agreement with the government. The pamphlet also exhorted the local population to leave the area by June 10.

A piecemeal approach can enlarge the scope of violence.

On May 31, TTP-affiliated militants attacked a military post in Bajaur Agency in which, according to the ISPR, one soldier was killed and two others were wounded; the banned TTP claimed 20 security officers were killed. Two military officers and three civilians were killed in a suicide attack in the Tarnol area of Rawalpindi on June 4. TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid claimed responsibility for both the attacks.

These events may have three major impacts on violence in the country. First, the piecemeal approach towards militancy might enlarge the scope of extremist violence in Pakistan. History is witness to the fact that whenever partial, sporadic and temporary tactics have been employed by states to weaken the militants, the insurgents have gained more political, social and cultural space. Moreover, splinter groups have proven to be even more dangerous.

The increasing rate of extortion, targeted killings and kidnapping of traders and professionals for ransom in Peshawar and Islamabad, not to mention other parts of Pakistan, seems to be the result of this approach by the government and the security establishment.

Second, it seems as if Pakistan’s government and security establishment have focused on a single aspect of extremist violence at present. The government and security establishment perhaps deem it a success to reduce active violence in the shape of decreasing the number of attacks on security and civilian targets.

This has so far proved to be flawed whether the tactical approach has been adopted intentionally or unintentionally. This approach not only narrows the scope of the understanding of ‘peace’ but also results in having a disastrous effect on both the state and society of Pakistan.

Third, the so-called reduction of active violence in Pakistan is thought to be directly proportional to increased violence in regional states, including China. It is in Pakistan’s own long-term political, economic and strategic interests that it takes complaints from Afghanistan, Iran, India, China and the Central Asian states seriously.

It is high time that Pakistan confronts the complex matrix of extremist violence in its totality. The matrix is the result of both internal and external factors. Three aspects of this matrix need to be dealt with simultaneously.

First, Pakistan cannot escape the fact that militancy has permeated its veins and arteries. This discourse is now eating into its vitals. The dream of a lasting peace can never be achieved until a pluralist discourse starts running in the veins of the Pakistani state and society.

Second, space and finances for militant networks need to be denied. A paradigm shift is needed regarding tolerance for private militias and vigilante mob aggression in educational institutions, the socio-cultural environment and the political arena.

Third, the use of force and strategy of dialogue must be part of a comprehensive policy and not sporadic, retaliatory and reactive phenomena. Lack of a comprehensive reintegration and reconciliation policy might take away whatever support the government has for its policies to deal with extremist violence.

The use of force must be based on coordinated intelligence accompanied by a policy to minimise hardships for the civilians caught in the crossfire. The intentional and unintentional policy of the security establishment to hurt the collective ego of the people by razing whole villages to the ground and by making mobility difficult at check posts ultimately increases support for militants.

The writer is a political analyst based in Peshawar.


Twitter: @khadimhussain4

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2014