Battle Zones in Pakistan
New Delhi, July 27 (ANI): The Zardari Government continues to be involved in a long running feud with the Judiciary led by the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry. It is a battle of more than just egos but also a battle for survival for the President as the Chief Justice continues his relentless campaign.
So far the Executive has tried to ward off attacks from the judiciary through legislative enactments that seek to provide legal immunity to the President.
The zealous Chief Justice has expanded his campaign to target the mighty ISI on the issue of missing Baloch nationalists. Maybe he is opening too many fronts but time will determine this.
This might be fool hardy considering that he would surely have weakened after his son Arsalan got involved with some malpractices and allegations of blackmail. The Chief Justice is also being seen to be pro-Nawaz Sharif i.e. pro-Punjabi and pro-PML(N) and anti-Zardari therefore anti-PPP and anti-Sindh.
Violence has Many Excuses
Elsewhere in the country there seem to be several little bloody wars being raged, some connected with each other and some autonomous.
In Balochistan, Baloch nationalists continue their struggle against Islamabad, which is no longer merely a nationalist struggle but has now become complicated with layers of both sectarian and ethnic killings. Punjabi Shia pilgrims, on their way to Iran are routinely killed in Balochistan by Punjabi Sunni militant groups like the Lashkar-e- Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba. Baloch nationalists too have targeted Punjabi settlers apart from the Pakistan Army or Frontier Force troops. There have been eight incidents of sectarian killings since June this year, six of which have been in Balochistan. Karachi and FATA have been the other areas where similar incidents have taken place.
Karachi remains lawless with bloody battles between the powerful MQM and Pushtoon groups that represent vested transport interests and as the MQM alleges also Taliban interests. Maybe these will be ultimately manageable but the main problem that seems to be rapidly spinning out of control in the situation on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border particularly in FATA and the Afghan provinces facing FATA.
The Battle of the Drones
Various battles are going on simultaneously in FATA as well. . The US is continuing its Battle of the Drones against the Al Qaeda and Taliban as well as other ISI-backed groups like the Haqqani Network that have been attacking Afghanistan from their sanctuaries in FATA. The latest drone attack was on July 23, which killed 10 militants in Dray Nashtar village in the Shawal area 65 kilometres north of Miranshah in North Waziristan.
Lt General Zaheer-ul Islam, the ISI chief is expected to discuss the subjects of drone attacks and intelligence co-operation with his US counterparts when he visits the US next week. This is generally seen as an attempt to mend relations that had badly ruptured after the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May 2011 followed by the killing of 24 Pak soldiers in Salala in November that year.
It is believed that Pakistan is looking for precision guided munitions for their F-16 military aircraft to target Al Qaeda and Taliban hideouts in North and South Waziristan. However, the US may not be inclined to provide these saying that drones are more effective weapons. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta was very specific when he said "We have made clear that we're going to do everything we can to defend this country using every means possible and the means we use are those we feel are the most effective to go after Al Qaeda."
The debate in the US Congress that urges the Obama government declares the Haqqani Network as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation which would invite immediate sanctions. It seems that the Haqqani group has suddenly and advisedly, become very quiet.
The Pakistan Army has continued its campaign in FATA against the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan. Pakistan Air Force was pressed into service on July 22 and its military jets attacked four locations of the TTP in the Orakzai agency of FATA and an estimated 15 militants were killed. Pakistan military have lately extended their artillery campaign into Afghanistan alleging that the TTP have sanctuaries in Afghanistan.
The Afghan Connection
Afghan officials have claimed that Dangham village in the Kunar province was attacked by Pakistani artillery on July 21 and four villagers were killed. They also have claimed that 300 shells were fired on this occasion as part of a pattern that began four months ago. Shelling from Pakistan continued on the weekend of July 22-23.
This in turn has brought retaliation from the Afghan Army against Pakistani positions in FATA. Afghan troops intruded into the Upper Kurram Agency on the morning of July 25, attacked the Diassa outpost injuring two soldiers. The Pakistanis allege that earlier on July 12 Afghan troops had killed two civilians in an exchange of fire in the same area.
Mutual recriminations inevitably followed and there has been growing Afghan-Pak tension. An indication of this was the Pakistani decision to revoke the refugee status and repatriate 3 million Afghan refugees by the end of the year. Afghanistan on the other hand has protested saying that this has to be a bilateral agreement.
Meanwhile, 26 persons were killed in separate incidents of violence all over Pakistan during the week ending July 21. Nine persons, including some children were killed in a suicide attack against a rival militant group in the Orakzai agency on July 21.
Other incidents were from Upper Dir of Pakhtoon-Khwa province, Gwadar in Balochistan and Shikarpur in the Sindh province. Seven people died in a bomb explosion in the northern most agency Bajaur of FATA on July 25. (Bajaur borders Kunar province of Afghanistan, from where Pakistan alleges that the Taliban launch attacks in the Dir, Bajaur and Mohmand tribal regions). Earlier in the month, TTP had attacked an army camp in Gujrat, Punjab on July 9 killing seven soldiers and then attacked a prison guard residence in Lahore on July 12 and killed nine staff members. These attacks had come soon after Pakistan formally announced reopening of the NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.
Despite repeated claims by the Pakistan Army that these region shave been cleared of insurgents, attacks continue to take place. Maulana Waliur Rehman, originally from the Jamat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, and one of the founding members of the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan and currently its deputy leader, warned Islamabad against any action against the Haqqani Network. In a secret interview in the North Waziristan Agency, Rehman said that "This is a final conflict taking place between Islam and infidel forces, and our struggle will continue till the final conclusion, whether it is in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India or Western countries."
Members of the Afghan High Peace Council like Maulvi Qayamuddin Kashaf and Ahmed Zia Massoud (brother of the slain leader Ahmed Shah Massoud) insist that Pakistan controls the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, using them for its own ends.
As 2014 Comes Closer
Pakistan is looking at the post 2014 situation and would neither want to lose control of the Taliban and similar groups, nor would it want the Afghan National Army to become strong enough to challenge Pakistan on the western front, especially on the Durand Line.
As the 2014 deadline edges closer, there is urgency and apprehension both in the US and Pakistan. The former would like to have an understanding with the Taliban, but is unable to trust a Pakistan that may not be able or even willing to maintain stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan is apprehensive of a deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan especially on its borders after the withdrawal of NATO forces.
Given the unsettled security situation in the region, Pakistan military deployments will remain in position, which could become a source of resentment among the locals in election year in 2013.
Attn: News Editors/News Desks: The article has been authored by Mr. Vikram Sood, Former Secretary R and AW, Government of India. The views expressed are his own. By Vikram Sood (ANI)
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