Changing paradigm

Published: January 4, 2013
Pakistan army has amended its doctrine to recognise domestic militants as a larger threat than neighbouring India.

Pakistan army has amended its doctrine to recognise domestic militants as a larger threat than neighbouring India.

There may be some truth in the maxim ‘better late than never’ but the Pakistan Army has stretched just how late one can be. More than a decade after the country, and indeed, the rest of the world, recognised the obvious fact, the military has finally realised that internal terrorism is a greater threat than India. Its new Green Book, laying out various threats the country faces, finally includes domestic militancy, in a sign that the military may now take this existential threat seriously. It took the loss of tens of thousands of civilian and military deaths, estimated by some to be as high as 40,000, for the military to classify this as a greater threat than India, which has killed no Pakistani civilians in that period. Furthermore, it also needs to dispense with the dangerous business of classifying Taliban members as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, the death of Mullah Nazir (apparently one of the ‘good’ ones) notwithstanding.

Welcome though this shift in focus may be, we should not simply take words at face value. Translating rhetoric into reality will require a number of steps that the military should take immediately. The first should be to redeploy at least a fraction of the soldiers posted on the Indian border to the Durand Line. Since the military itself has now admitted that the greater threat is in that area, there is no reason for this shift not to take place. In fact, the section on domestic terrorism in the Green Book specifically mentions that many militants are taking refuge across the border in Afghanistan. Currently, about 60 to 70 per cent of our 500,000 active duty personnel are posted on the Indian border while only 100,000 patrol the Afghan border. Rectifying this skewed ratio should be a priority for the military.

More than

Another consequence of this potential shift is that it may nudge the peace process along. The military has often been seen as a roadblock in the quest for permanent peace and India is fearful that it may scuttle whatever little progress has been achieved. If the military does indeed follow through and concentrate more resources on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), it could leave our politicians free to negotiate with India without having to continually look over their shoulders.

On the home front, this change in focus also needs to be accompanied by concrete measures. That will likely mean the military will have to take the one step it has been avoiding for years: a sustained military operation in North Waziristan that specifically tackles the Haqqani network. It would be unfair to say that the military has done nothing to go after the militants since it has fought and continues to fight in the tribal areas and in Swat. But its singular focus has been the Pakistani Taliban. There is considerable overlap and cooperation between the two, as well as a shared murderous ideology, and so, if the threat of domestic terrorism is as pressing as the military now claims, it has no excuse for making this distinction. That would also require discarding the discredited and flawed theory of strategic depth, which has achieved little for Pakistan.

Despite the welcome realisation that our biggest problems originate from within our borders, the military should not be spared from criticism for other changes in the Green Book. The reference to foreign proxies being a threat to Pakistan is based on denial. It is not made clear if the proxies in question are meant to refer to the alleged Indian-backed separatists in Balochistan or is an affirmation of conspiracy theories that the TTP is a CIA concoction. Either interpretation reflects poorly on the military’s ideology. Its tendency to look outwards rather than examine itself has been one of the main reasons militancy has thrived. Introspection is sorely in order to overcome the militant threat. This new military document should be seen as a belated attempt at that but much greater awareness will be needed as well as for this awareness to seep through to the general population to eliminate the threat and recognise that the war we are fighting is for our own people.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • Mirza
    Jan 4, 2013 - 1:51AM

    I agree fully with the editorial that came a day after the top army bosses finally saw the elephant in the room. Aren’t we bone headed, slow and thick skinned people? It took a decade for us to realize the presence of terrorists in Pakistan. It might take another decade to do something about them. I hope we act quickly and protect innocent civilians from this terror.


  • imran bhatt
    Jan 4, 2013 - 2:26AM

    I believe Pakistanis should not be over-excited on this development as old habit die hard and its only an admission of another enemy along with India. It did not dislodge India-centric strategy in the long run and replaced it with terrorist-centric strategy. Even if it did, it is only for short to medium term after which we will be back to old games again.


  • Misery Ghalib
    Jan 4, 2013 - 3:26AM

    another point of view – the army wants more money – there are two enemies now – the new one is more dangerous than India – so new drones – helicopters – soldiers ……


  • John B
    Jan 4, 2013 - 3:48AM

    @imran bhatt:
    Correctly said; added one more priority enemy to the list and still harboring the idea of foreign proxies in the old sense. The foreign proxies are transnational Jihadis but that is a minor detail. As long as the people thinks that foreign proxies are India and CIA, the system can milk the bull.

    The last thing India wants is to assimilate the PAK with her mess and the last thing PAK wants is to entangle with India. But these are all the details that the public should not know and the changing paradigm is an honorable retreat from PAK policy to focus on the real domestic issue. Whether it can be achieved is a different story and I have my reservations.

    PAK may want Saichen and Sir creek resolved before redeploying the troops from eastern to western border, and if I were an Indian policy maker I will not budge on this disadvantageous PAK position except making concessions on trade and that is what happening in the past five years. India can afford to sit tight but PAK cannot.

    This is the dilemma PAK faces and the decision to implement the new paradigm depends on deciding what is the pressing issue for PAK.

    So, it will be another five years before anything happens seriously and it is a long time for several events to brew and thwart the well intentioned new paradigm.


  • Feroz
    Jan 4, 2013 - 4:05AM

    This is an excellent Editorial and must be appreciated by everyone who reads it. That it took ages for the Military to get its observations right reflects poorly on the judgments, capabilities and strategies adopted by it. No wonder Military dictators have made a hash of running the country comparable to the elected lot of Leaders.


  • Usman
    Jan 4, 2013 - 7:13AM

    Your editorial assumes if Pakistan Army tackles TTP, all evils in South Asia will be dealt with? You are saying dealing with the TTP will leave politicians free to talk with India? What are the politicians doing to tackle the TTP in the first place?.
    Did they follow successful mil ops with civilian infrastructure building, education and health care in the tribal areas? Did they help the military is coining a successful counter terrorism strategy? Are we not living in a democracy? Why gloss over the political faillure of tackling the WOT by our leaders? When will they take the initiative?

    Your criticism of the army is based on hollow reasoning and makes no sense to anyone who knows the ground realities of the war in FATA. Please check your facts before writing.


  • Usman
    Jan 4, 2013 - 7:16AM

    And why, o’ why do we take any attempt to highlight foreign involvement at least at some level as inappropriate? Media should grow out of the phase that just because foreign involvement in mentioned doesn’t mean that internal involvement is ignored. Both are a threat and the military is well aware of it. Now before you label me en ‘establishment stooge’, ill get back to my day job at a power company.


  • Wellwisher
    Jan 4, 2013 - 9:20AM

    It may take another couple of decades for the army to realise that no foreign agents are involved in Baluchistan!


  • afghanistan
    Jan 4, 2013 - 11:47AM

    Good news for us because this shift will also bring some prosperity to Afghans. we hope this atrocities finishes quickly and peace prevail in both countries. I hope pakistanies follow the model of Turkey and punish its generals for all the miseries.


  • What
    Jan 4, 2013 - 4:45PM

    Can you show me any excerpt from the “Green Book” where it explicitly states that militancy is a greater threat than India? By the way, this “Green Book” was updated months ago so not sure why news media is picking this up now.


  • cautious
    Jan 4, 2013 - 8:26PM

    Excellent editorial. I think the “better late than never” analogy maybe optimistic as Kayani made a similar speech sometime back and never lifted a finger to adjust strategic or tactical deployment of the military. As the American’s are found of saying – judge Pakistan by what it does rather than what it says.


  • Leopard
    Jan 4, 2013 - 8:42PM

    “It is not made clear if the proxies in question are meant to refer to the alleged Indian-backed separatists in Balochistan or is an affirmation of conspiracy theories that the TTP is a CIA concoction. Either interpretation reflects poorly on the military’s ideology. Its tendency to look outwards rather than examine itself has been one of the main reasons militancy has thrived”
    After having spent two decades in Khaki, to me, mere lip service will not suffice rather concrete steps shall be required. Home grown militancy has affected military itself also. Langar gap shap in ranks and files play an important role in setting the mind of normal foot soldier. Each incident and current religious extremist trend is commonly discussed on langars in each unit. Unless the religious Mufti appointed in each unit does not strive hard to neutrally brain wash the rank and files from religious fanatic ideas, controlling of home grown religious extremists may not become possible with current mind set of normal jawans in Khaki.


  • syed baqar ahsan
    Jan 4, 2013 - 9:24PM

    First army revert to its old motto”Unity,Faith & Discipline.Extensive lectures on this at level,wash all old mind set. Army must do following to succeed :-

    1.For 6 months seal the boarders.Strictly supervise those already on boarders and add on where required.No to all illegal activities
    2.Ensure reverting complete civil police to thana in complete Pakistan,make it independent not at all any political interference.50%internal security problem will be over
    3.This discipline in 17 supreme court judges agreeing with every judgement is very dangerous,never seen or heard of any where.CJP is too disturbing,its actions suits others.Needs nod
    4.Army as a mission shift all the Afghan refugees close to Afghan boarder,action first listen later,national interest is supreme then any other international rule or law
    5.Protect and promote those who show command/control/decision skill,present promotion criteria do not give leaders.
    6.Human/religious/sympathetic factors has ruined army and its discipline,aim of army “gun answers the gun first”


  • Dr V. C. Bhutani
    Jan 5, 2013 - 5:28AM

    The Express Tribune publishes my submissions occasionally. I write in the hope that I may be lucky this time.
    The editorial “Changing Paradigm” is based on sound common sense and a high degree of objectivity. This is commendable and this is an indication that there may just be a possibility that India–Pakistan relations may be destined to lift up. What is most heart warming is the acknowledgement that the so-called territorial depth which Pakistan seemed to see in Afghanistan is now being seen as rather unreal.
    It may be in order to submit that no one in the wide world has accused India of starting any of the four India–Pakistan wars of the past – 1947-48, 1965, 1971, 1999. It was unfortunate that Pakistan for 65 years consistently and persistently called India its Enemy No. 1, while the fact is that no one in India subscribed to that idea.
    Let us hope that the present realization may produce better results and peace between the two neighbours, who have much more that is common between them than what really divides them. There are enormous complementarities between them. If leadership in the two countries set out on the path of cooperation, then the sky is the limit.
    There is no reason for Pakistan to amass so much of its army on the Indian border: India has no plans of an invasion of Pakistan, which if it ever came about shall achieve precious little. There is no sense in hostilities between India and Pakistan on any scale. Nor is a war going to produce results that the twain could live with. War shall merely create bitterness and no good. Resources that shall be expended on war can be much better applied to better objectives – on both sides of the Radcliff Line.
    V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, India, 5 Jan 2013, 0558 IST


  • Z.Khan
    Jan 5, 2013 - 12:56PM

    @Dr V. C. Bhutani:
    I endorse your idea. But please do some thing to calm down the anti Pakistani element of India also. Just see Javaid Miandad has to cancel his sport oriented trip of India due to such fanatic elements.


  • Robert
    Jan 5, 2013 - 7:12PM

    @Z Khan With all due respect, @Dr. V.C. Bhutani was making the point that anti-India sentiment of Pakistan Army and the larger society was on a scale that needs paradigm shift where as the fact that most people in India don’t subscribe to the theory that India is Pakistan’s enemy. It means that anti-Pakistan sentiment is, by an order of magnitude, that much smaller. So, somebody making noise about Miandad (who has astonishingly married off his daughter to the son of an internationally known thug who plotted to kill many Indians) is not on the same scale as what the article is talking about and what Bhutani is talking about.


  • Z.Khan
    Jan 6, 2013 - 7:37PM

    With due respect I beg to differ as it is your perception. Recently I visited Onida and went in big as well small cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Agra, Amritsar etc. The moment I revealed my Pakistani origin I could feel the changed attitude of not only normal but even every highly educated Indians. Who has created such hatred amongst both the nations is debate able. Which country is to blamed more is also debate able. Study, paper analysis and researches depict different perceptions but when one goes on ground then finds very different and hard realities. Specially when one Indian or Pakistan visits each other and mixes up in routine things of both the countries.


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