Reviewing our counter-terrorism policy

Published: July 13, 2010
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The writer has served as head of the ISI and MI for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata (asad.munir@tribune.com.pk)

The writer has served as head of the ISI and MI for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata (asad.munir@tribune.com.pk)

The 17-member parliamentary committee on national security recently urged the government to change its strategy for combating terrorism. The chairman of the committee, Senator Raza Rabbani, made the statement after the director general of military operations briefed the committee on the progress of operations in Fata and Malakand. On July 8 the DG ISI said that foreign elements are involved in increasing terrorism incidents in the country, that Pakistan would review its policy as per its national interest and that its security forces were committed to crush the terrorists in the country.

On August 14 2001, a month before 9/11, sectarian organisations were banned. Post 9/11, Pakistan banned jihadi outfits that were once used for insurgency in Kashmir. Pakistan was a sincere ally as far as al Qaeda was concerned. The army moved to the inaccessible areas of Tirah and Kurram Agency to seal the east side of Tora Bora in coordination with US Special Forces. More than 200 hardcore al Qaeda militants fleeing Tora Bora were apprehended in Kurram. Conspiracy theorists, including a non-Pashtun journalist considered an authority on Taliban, are wrong when they say that the borders of South and North Waziristan were intentionally left unmanned to facilitate the entry of Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda into Pakistan. No operations were being conducted at that time in the Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces of Afghanistan bordering Waziristan. Army units moved to North Waziristan by the end of 2001 and to South Waziristan in the spring of 2002. In Peshawar alone about 27 raids were conducted in 2002-2003. The Haqqani madrassa in Miranshah was raided thrice. The reported hideouts of Mullah Kabir and Osmani were raided as well.

The DG ISI has implied that army operations are likely to continue until the terrorists lay down their arms and guarantee that they will not interfere in state affairs. The government should provide proof to the world community about the involvement of foreign hands in terrorist activities the way India has convinced the world about Lashkar-e-Taiba’s involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

The Afghans and the US want to negotiate with the insurgents. We have done it many times, starting from 2004; each year peace agreements are signed with the Taliban operating in different area but the Taliban always violate them. If they are willing to lay down their arms the government may consider announcing general amnesty to the foot soldiers. Pakistan would like a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, one not under Indian influence. Pakistan would never want the system of government that was run by the Taliban until 2001, because we know through experience that it directly affects the internal security of Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkwa. Pakistan should be made part of any negotiations held with the Afghan Taliban by the US and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Afghanistan and the US should understand this ground reality.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (24)

  • Stephen Real
    Jul 13, 2010 - 2:05AM

    Thought provoking read Mr. Munir

    I’ve read that the Taliban and the groups that make up their forces only poll around 6% in the city of Kandahar and the Karzai government doesn’t fair much better then that while the US Army polls three and four times that in popularity, strange if you ask me, very similiar to the Sunnis from the wild west (Anbar) of Iraq.
    I think NATO and the US Army should right off Karzai, and the city of Kabul, as a wash and focus all resources and intentions on the city of Kandahar. Traditionally, from what I’ve read, the ancient Kings and leaders all came from the city of Kandahar.
    When the British left the Pashtun region in the 1890’s they handed out medals to their forces when the leadership of the Pashtuns arrived and asked them where was their medals? Saying “you couldn’t have had a decent war without us”. I think this is anecdotal evidence of the Pashtun mind. Where are the medals and places of honor for the peoples of Kandahar? This is clearly a culture built on respect and honor. I think there’s a lesson to be learned from these tales.
    (to be honest with you friend, you can’t read a Pakistani newspaper that isn’t filled with “conspiracy theories”) Recommend

  • faraz
    Jul 13, 2010 - 5:43AM

    I think you are referring to Ahmad Rashid but many other authors and journalists mention incidents where they went to North Waziristan and saw Arabs who had been living in rented rooms. The tribals later claimed that the political agent never warned them about the hazards of allowing Arabs in their territory.

    The deployment of troops in FATA was delayed due to Indian troop build up along our eastern borders after the terrorist attack at Indian parliament.

    Regarding the famous raid of Haqqania Madrassa, NSA recorded conversation of our high level army officials who warned the Madrassa clerics of the upcoming raid! The raid was pure drama.

    2000 members of banned outfits were arrested but later released. Many of whom later carried out terrific terrorist attacks.

    Truck loads of ammunition was entering the Swat valley and in one well recorded incident the local police apprehended a truck full of ammuntion which was released on the orders of some higher officials.

    We denied the presence of Quetta shura and Ahmad Rashid was heavily criticized when he talked of this “Conspiracy” back in 2006. But 4 years later, our army admitted that there is a Quetta shura whose members have now been arrested.

    According to our official history, we won the 1965 war! So declaring our double games as conspiracy theories is no problem for our officials.Recommend

  • Riaz
    Jul 13, 2010 - 6:04AM

    Negotitations should only be held with terrorists on two points,(1)they should un conditionally surrender(2)No parrallel administration should be run by them.
    The young militants,not involved in henious crimes, should be re integrated in the society,after granting them general ammensty.Pakistan should not interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.Recommend

  • Javed Iqbal
    Jul 13, 2010 - 6:45AM

    Imran Khan,Munawar Hassan and Sharif brothers should be tasked to negotiate ,with Taliban to surrender,and not to interfere in State affairs.Imran khan has given a 90 days time frame for uprooting terrorism from the country.The Taliban are not likely to surrender and lose the immense power they enjoy.They will never lay down arms even if American withdraw from Afghanistan.The solution is Army operation to dislodge them from their strong holds,and then a quick process of re construction, rehabilitation and reintegration of these elements.The policy being followed,is the best possible course to deal with terrorism in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Awan
    Jul 13, 2010 - 9:07AM

    I read this article; Thoughts of Mr. Asad Munir are informative and useful in this piece. Terrorism has become a horrible and lethal problem all over the world especially in Pakistan. In this article writer made good effort by his deeply knowledge to aware people from facts of terrorism. Recommend

  • Anoop
    Jul 13, 2010 - 9:14AM

    “…the way India has convinced the world about Lashkar-e-Taiba’s involvement in the Mumbai attacks.”

    What does this supposed to mean? Do you think the US too convinced the world of Al-Qaeda’s involvement?Recommend

  • Khalid Munir
    Jul 13, 2010 - 10:23AM

    A general amnesty can not be granted in view of the Supreme Court judgement on NRO, in which the court declared that it was specific to certain people. In case an amnesty is announced , convicts in jails on other charges will write to CJ just like, as per the reports, they did when NRO case was being heardRecommend

  • Yousaf Gul
    Jul 13, 2010 - 10:39AM

    Mr Asad a very nice and informative article indeed. According to the past scenarios we have come across to realize that no matter what happens we cannot trust the Talibans, no matter what.

    All planned peace agreements are never taken seriously by them even before. They are people with no religion, no morals no ethics and I seriously have doubt that they would ever lay down their weapons; no matter what. Even if they are way weak they would chicken out for a while and come back to strike again.

    As far as the negotiations in Afghanistan is concerned we need to be a part of it as we have penetrated way into their border and know on how they react. The ISI would be of good help if it merges with the US and Afghan Govt for negotiations with the Afghan Taliban because our country is facing the consequences of terrorism and we all have had it.

    I hope the US and Afghans do understand the ground reality.

    Good Luck Recommend

  • Asfandyar Munir
    Jul 13, 2010 - 11:07AM

    Once again, a very interesting read by the writer.

    It has been too long now that we talk about foreign involvement and I am sure it must be there. After all the foreign nations have all the right to do so!!!

    Did we not, for 20-30 years send these insurgents into Kashmir, to fight India. Why shall India no retaliate now? They handled it their way, and we should be able to handle it too. I like what the writer has written, when he says we should provide evidence enough to convince the world.

    I just do not like our policies being written on the basis of Afghanistan’s stability unfortunately. We make a fuss about our sovereignty, but the divide of land here makes us vulnerable to whatever happens in Afghanistan.

    But before we focus on the “Taliban of Afghanistan”, I believe we need to take care of the “Taliban of Pakistan”, who are everywhere. In every city. In every mohalla. Being brainwashed because the crappy education system could not help them get admission anywhere but in a madrassa names “Jamaa-ul-something” under the guidance of the revered Maulana Blahblah.

    I am proud to be called a Muslim, but it seems that the ideology on which this nation was created is heading us towards doom. We have been brainwashed over 60 years into all of this through our curriculum, now its time for a change. A change that shall make us all better human beings, Haqooq-ul-Ibad must be our top priority. Recommend

  • Mansoor Khalid
    Jul 13, 2010 - 12:54PM

    Thought provoking as always. I believe the counter-terrorism authority along with other steps to curb terrorism should also focus on fighting this war at ideological level. Unless the mind-set of people is changed to a more rational, liberal and tolerant one, you cannot expect to win this war.Recommend

  • Farukh Sarwar
    Jul 13, 2010 - 1:34PM

    A holistic counter terror policy is important in gaining control over the militants and their hideouts. The war has lingered too much and now there should be a peaceful end to it.Recommend

  • Riaz
    Jul 13, 2010 - 1:42PM

    There is a need to change the mindset of our urban middle class.The so called illiterate people have never caused any harm to this country.They cast their votes every time in the hope that someone would change the prevailing system,and their life.Most of them are anti Taliban and extremism.The real problem is with middle class,specially of central Punjab.They want to capture Lal Qila,fight against all world,free Palestine,liberate Kashmir,fight Ghazwa e Hind,and our media represent only this class.We should accept that ours is a poor, 3rd world country and instead of wasting time on GHAIRAT we should improve the living standard of our poor people.Recommend

  • Sadia Hussain
    Jul 13, 2010 - 2:39PM

    There is a dire need to chalk an elaborate counter terrorism strategy that not only includes fighting extremism but also addresses the social elements which promote extremism in society.Recommend

  • Asad Munir
    Jul 13, 2010 - 2:45PM

    *Faraz,The foreign militants entered North And South Waziristan in 3rd week of March 2002,in the after-math of Operation Anaconda, conducted by NATO forces in Shahi Kot area of Paktiya Province.The first raid against them was conducted, in South Waziristan, in April 2002.Many people are not aware that a number of targeted raids were conducted in 2002/2003,in Waziristan,Peshawar and other areas and many AL Qaeda operators were apprehended.Yes they were provided refuge by tribal of both South and North Waziristan.They were living and operating from that area.The events of 2002/2003, as narrated in media,are nothing more than conspiracy theories.How do they then justify the apprehension of KSM,Abu Zubaida,Ramzi Bin AL shibh,Abu Fraj Al Libi,Ahmed Khalfan and many other important leaders by our agencies?The US officials, directly involved, with the issue of raids on Haqqani Madrassa, may not agree with report about NSA recording.Recommend

  • abid
    Jul 13, 2010 - 3:41PM

    Syed Nadir Edroos, I want your reply to this one and quick!Recommend

  • Marjan
    Jul 13, 2010 - 5:46PM

    Ahmed Rashid knows little about the Tribal areas.What he has written in his book about AL Qaeda and Taliban in FATA, in the post 9/11 situation, is all based on speculations.He is not even aware about the operation conducted in June 2002 in Azam Warsak area,in which Army suffered heavy casualties.He thinks that the first action was carried out ,under pressure of American, in 2003.He is totally wrong in describing these events.It is, therefor, safe to assume that whatever he wrote about rise of Taliban,may also be just his perception.Recommend

  • Wazi Swazi
    Jul 13, 2010 - 6:17PM

    You cannot hide the Sun by you Thumb! Punjabis created the Taliban and Al Qaeda in order to terrorize Pashtuns, and they still support it. If Pakistani army of half million on USA pay cheque cannot eliminate a force of a few thousand Taliban, then what this Army will do against the Indians if they uleashed their dogs on Pakistan. It seems the Pakistani Army and ISI are collaborators of Taliban, and their mission is to destroy whatever is Pashtuns. The International Community knows this fact, and they are waiting for the best opportunity how to deal with Pakistan. This terror related exports & imports of Pakistan are not just limited to past 10 years, but from the existence of Pakistan. Pakistan’s policy is to terrorize Pashtuns and their neighbours, and as we have seen the entire world in order to survive. Why it matter if the Afghan Joulnalist is non-Pashtuns? I believe that he offers facts.Recommend

  • Mohmand
    Jul 13, 2010 - 7:51PM

    In this war the only losers are Pashtuns.For the last more than 30 years they are being killed in a war which is not of their own choice.The Pashtuns had a rich culture of dance ,music,poetry,art, on both sides of the Durand Line.JASHN E KABUL was an event, which we as students, would enjoy through a RED PASS.Ustad awalmir,Ahmed Khan,Qamargulla,Obaidulla Kandhari,all were singers of Pashtuns.Both males and females would dance Attan.Rabab and tapay in the hujra.All have been destroyed by Americans and Punjabis.Taliban are not Pashtuns.The pride,culture,openness all have been taken away from us.We want our culture restored and Taliban eliminated.Recommend

  • Jamal
    Jul 14, 2010 - 3:08AM

    1- When Sofi Mohammad announced to fight against US and took thousands of fighters across the border where were you sleeping? Sofi was later arrested and then released

    2- When your army announced that they ahve surrounded Fazlullah (FM mulla) and that he was wounded and can’t walk, how did he manage to escape to Afghansiatn? Did foreign elements help him get out of there?

    3- Haqqani’s Headquarters are few hundred meters way from Army camp you know this

    4- Your country has given free hand to taliban like Zaid Hamid on leading media channels.Recommend

  • meena
    Jul 14, 2010 - 9:22AM

    a thought provoking article.. Pakistan should never interfere in internal affairs of Afghanistan.Recommend

  • Riaz
    Jul 14, 2010 - 1:07PM

    *JAMAL
    *Even if someone was awake, what do you suggest,should have been done with 6000 armed men?
    *Sufi Muhammad was awarded 7 years Rigorous Imprisonment by PA Kurram in 2001,which he completed in 2005.but he refused to come out of jail with any precondition.
    *No body knows ,at least not the Americans.You are going to be a Millionaire,if you indicate the Haqqani camp to the USA if you are so sure.BTW which Army camp are you talking about?
    *The right person to answer yr question is Fazlulah himself.Ask him to narrate his escape story.You may earn few bucks more,if u sell it to some producer.So overall you have a bright future.Good luck.I would be waiting for the news of Drone strike on HAQQANI CAMP.Recommend

  • Zaman
    Jul 15, 2010 - 7:51PM

    Someone should be held accountable for conceiving and pursuing the policy of liberating Kashmir through Jihad.They are still active at various forums.At least they should admit that they lacked the vision to foresee the likely negative implications of this ill conceived strategy.They always thought that the jihadis are under their control and could be regulated as per requirements,but they were proved wrong.The policy of military operations, combined with strategic development,reintegration and rehabilitation seems to be the only available option.Informative piece.Recommend

  • Khan
    Jul 20, 2010 - 4:39PM

    FATA and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is a very perplexing area.
    After the british left Hindustan and the Muslims acquired their own free land, it was the tribal laskhars who went to fight for Pakistan in Kashmir. As for the rest of khyber pakhtunkhwa, go to any remote village and you’ll find the people are hardcore pakistanis who love the pakistan army and the national flag (perhaps they don’t have access to enough subversive media). Its safe to say that if today there is a war with India there would be massive number of volunteers moving to the borders to fight from these pashtun areas.
    On the other hand there are ties between the tribals of FATA and bordering Afghanistan and if you ask any Pashtun from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he’ll tell you that deep inside he has love for Afghanistan. For example the Yousafzais would call themselves Afghans till recent times (their roots being from Kandahar). The meaning of the word of Afghan has changed. Previously when you said Afghan it was synonymous to the word pashtun. Now since the pashtuns have ruled for so long in afghanistan, the country is called afghanistan and any uzbeks, tajiks or hazara are also afghan nationals.
    The point I’m trying to make is that the Pahstuns of Pakistan are loyal citizens, but to think that Pakistan shouldn’t be part of any NATO/US negotiations with the Taliban (pahstuns), is silly. Its not interference, its common sense for Pakistan to be a part of it.
    The Pakistan Army has done more in the fight against terrorism than NATO or US. They pressurise Pakistan to do more when they are thinking of peace talks. I understand some pushtun dislike towards the punjabis. It’s not just punjabis, this feeling has existed through out history for sikhs or Mughals, for understandable reasons. But to say that the punjabis created the Al-Qaeeda or the Taliban? Conspiracy theory! Next thing we’ll hear is there was no 911 or that it was staged by the free masons or something.
    Pakistan army has a large number of Pushtuns who are fighting the Taliban. And in their free time they dance the attanr and sing pushto songs. It’s not a war against pushtuns, though the pushtuns must suffer because we have been proud of hundreds of years of history full of war and ironically the saga must continue.Recommend

  • Farukh Sarwar
    Jul 22, 2010 - 12:36PM

    Counter terrorism must involve an all inclusive approach that involves the use of all tactics to fight insurgency. Recommend

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