A few days back, I sent an email to Imran Khan, asking him a few questions through a certain friend of mine, regarding his stance against ‘War on Terror’. And that is because, while I usually agree to what Imran Khan says, I’ve always remained skeptical of his party’s stance. More so because, I am not really sold on the idea of suicide bombings being triggered by motives such as ‘revenge’ and not ideology.

So it is today, that I received a reply, though not written by him but by the Secretary General of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (equally good for me, since I was interested in questioning their party policy to start with). Do keep in mind that while I am not completely satisfied by his answers, one of the points raised by him did in fact resonate with me i.e. Sri Lanka losing out in the long run, due to a prolonged counter-insurgency war.

Also, while questions raised by me were more of, what you might regard as tactical in nature, his reply to them is keeping in view the strategic reality of Pakistan. Read it in the same light and you’ll see what I’m getting at. What I’d like to know is what do you folks have to say about my questions and their answers.

Why these three questions? Well, that is because I’ve repeatedly seen him discussing these three points, in every single interview of his – where he gets to discuss war on terror.

Question No: 1 – Khan Sahib says that there have been no suicide attacks inside Pakistan, prior to 2001. And that the current phenomenon of suicide attacks in Pakistan is more ‘revenge’ oriented than people following a particular ideology. I find that assertion fallacious and misleading. Why? Because there have been instances of Shiite versus Sunni suicide attacks inside Pakistan, throughout the 90s. That phenomenon grew from killing each other’s doctors to full blown suicide attacks against Masajids and Imam Bargahs.

Now, committing a suicide attack, inside a settled area is not exactly a child’s play, as certain TV hosts would have you believe. It involves acts ranging from making of the bomb, its trigger, alternative blasting methods / strategies in case the primary trigger fails – just as we saw in the blast against Marriott – sending reconnaissance missions in order to know the target first hand, transporting the bomber to the target city, keeping him and the payload in a safe house until the time of the attack and not to forget taking care of all assorted logistical issues. Such a comprehensive action plan does not only need people with the knowhow of setting up IEDs (improvised explosive devices) but extensive ground information and a strong human intelligence network as well. How is it then AQ or Tribesmen from FATA were able to conduct such tactically well executed suicide attacks in settled areas of Pakistan in 2002, right after the start of Afghan war?

My explanation for that is that, the expertise that is needed in order to organize such attacks was already present inside the settled areas of Pakistan, through the very sectarian groups, that have for quite some time been finding protection in the lawless areas of FATA. And which have since joined hands with AQ and various factions of Taliban. Not much has changed since the 90s, it was the top cadre of these groups that was Punjabi and the pawns even then – as we remember – came from either FANA (Shiite) or FATA (Sunni). Ergo, most of these attacks are driven by ideology (religio-political) and not revenge.

Question No: 2 – Khan Sahib suggests that Pakistan should use FC, Khasadar and Police force inside the tribal areas, instead of combating this insurgency using the army. I believe, that what Khan sahib is forgetting here, is that is exactly what the government of Pakistan has been doing for the last few years i.e. pitching inexperienced and in-adequately equipped (you cannot possibly equip an army of 100,000+ men in a few years with top of the line gear and train them too, it takes some time) FC and Khasadar men in front of trained and war-hardened fighters from different Taliban outfits and foreign fighters allied with AQ. What happened? Those poor souls got butchered, literally.

The results were so horrifying that these forces had stopped putting up a fight altogether [I’m sure that all of us remember reading news about hundreds of FC men surrendering unconditionally], their morale had tumbled to the ground. How were they then supposed to bring peace to these areas? It’s not as if Taliban or AQ would give us a time out session – during which we could gather our FC / Khasadar forces, make them go through intensive counter-insurgency training and then put them in the battlefield.

How is such a stance, given our circumstances, justifiable?

Question No: 3 – Khan sahib says, that India hasn’t attacked Kashmiri militants with its air force or gunship helicopters. What he is forgetting here, is that India has had the luxury of concentrating man power and its land forces on its western border alone. We do not. While their primary enemy is on their western front, we’ve been flanked by enemies at either side of our borders. We cannot send in another 80, 000 + soldiers to our western border without removing forces from the eastern front. And the fact that India had landed its forces in Kashmir, in 1947 and has since the time to set up bases and prepare ground for military infrastructure in Kashmir. While we had to push inside our tribal areas, from our positions, in settled areas. I do not know why would Khan Sahib have us send in men, with no air power backing them up against entrenched fighters? For it would amount to sheer suicide. Basic military doctrine dictates that air power is to be used in order to consolidate lack of man power.

And when Khan Sahib talks about Pakistan military using F-16s or Mirage fighters against militants, he forgets that these are the only planes in our entire aerial arsenal capable of firing precision guided weaponry. Why else do you believe we’re using our already aging bunch of F-16s and Mirage fighters instead of F-7PGs or even A-5s? If Pakistan military machine were to knowingly conduct genocide in these areas, as portrayed in our media at times and supported by certain politicians – wouldn’t they be better off dropping dumb bombs, NAPALMs and Cluster bombs (remember Israel – Lebanon war?)? For, they can prove to be far more successful in killing a large number of people, very easily.

Reply by Secretary General, Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf:

Dear Saad,

Your points are valid. You have drawn the attention to Shia Sunni suicide bombings ( I don’t remember many before 9/11). Khan is talking in the political sense but you may be academically correct. There is enough evidence in history that terrorism cannot usually be controlled by military force. A July 2008 study by Rand Corporation should open our eyes that only 8% terror organisations have been defeated in the last 60 years. That too where the country is stable, has no divisive tendencies inside and no foreign players. Majority of terror organisations about 58% (I do not remember figures exactly but can send you this 250 page study) become part of the political process after negotiations, and about 20% just die of when the issue dies.

You pick the best solution out of that and I will agree. Very strong principles cannot be applied on the Pakistan landscape. We are too weak, too divided, with Mohajir, Sindhi, Baloch and even Pathan history of perceived and actual deprivations, and religiously fragmented to develop a very strong reaction to bury the Taliban forever. Even US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan could not fight terror because they are augmenting it by force. The primary issues which are creating these nurseries must be handled. It requires carrot and stick but the US and Pakistan are doing much more stick and little carrot. We do not agree with the balance as is being practiced.

However if you think they can be handled in any other way you have another think coming. I have predicted in TV interviews etc. over the last 4 months that the bazaars, hotels, and western interests shall be bombed. I am depressed to say that I was right. Having said all this please do not think that I am justifying these actions. No I abhor it, but I must try and remove the cause. For some it starts in Palestine, in Afghanistan, in Bosnia, and in Iraq. I cannot do much about it, but for US actions sake in Afghanistan we are not ready to import it. Families have lived across these borders for hundreds of years. Military handling of terror creates chaos.

Of course these are well trained people. But when you send your forces, then you send your bombers as you rightly said to protect them and the best of technologies still allows hundreds more to be killed in collateral. Sri lanka is a good example of a prolonged terror war which reduced a country with Singapore like potential in the seventies (98% literacy) to what it is today. Those settlements which could have been made in 1985, both parties would grab it today with greed had it not been for the bitterness created in the last 25 years. So also for Palestine. So also for Afghanistan (Mulla Omer offered in the last days to give up Osama if he is tried in a neutral country, would not US grab it today). The list goes on.

I am attaching an unfinished article for you (will be sent out to the press shortly which delves on the civil war I see emerging). Collateral damage multiplies it. The US and UK within their countries can handle it terror differently as their population is totally united behind them, they are not aggrieved and have no polarization. The prescription should be according to the patient and what is possible. All this has nothing to do with Islam. Mr Khan therefore is talking in a bigger context and has to use all the arguments which come to mind.

It can take hours to discuss this, and my intention is never to convince but to let people know why I, and Mr Khan like so many others are taking these positions.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Arif Alvi,

Secretary General,

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf

  • Interesting post, Saad. As for Mr. Khan’s approach, he is too hard-hitting and appears to be rigid on certain issues – which is not the way how affairs of a country should be run.

    I believe what the war on terror waged by Pakistan has done is that it has made ‘us’ the target. Suicide bombings were not something new. It has enraged these terror organizations to act against the Pakistan army.

    Plus, I also believe that these terror organizations have no concept of ‘revenge’. They are heavily funded by certain elements, brainwashed over years and then sent on to so-called ‘jihad’ missions to blow apart the innocent.

    Tribesmen in the FATA and FANA are extremely loyal and patriotic people. When India started talking of war, they stood up to say that we will take care of this side of the border – the Pakistan army can move to the other… They are also against these terror outfits…

    What I believe is that such people cannot be convinced through dialogue or discussions as they have a one-point agenda: To destabilize Pakistan. Why? because they are funded and supported by those who want to see Pakistan destabilized.

    I agree to most points that you have raised in your email.

    More on it later. Good work again =)

    • Saad

      I wholeheartedly concur with the point, about such organizations being well funded from external sources. That is a point that many of our country-men need to realize.

  • Interesting post, Saad. As for Mr. Khan’s approach, he is too hard-hitting and appears to be rigid on certain issues – which is not the way how affairs of a country should be run.

    I believe what the war on terror waged by Pakistan has done is that it has made ‘us’ the target. Suicide bombings were not something new. It has enraged these terror organizations to act against the Pakistan army.

    Plus, I also believe that these terror organizations have no concept of ‘revenge’. They are heavily funded by certain elements, brainwashed over years and then sent on to so-called ‘jihad’ missions to blow apart the innocent.

    Tribesmen in the FATA and FANA are extremely loyal and patriotic people. When India started talking of war, they stood up to say that we will take care of this side of the border – the Pakistan army can move to the other… They are also against these terror outfits…

    What I believe is that such people cannot be convinced through dialogue or discussions as they have a one-point agenda: To destabilize Pakistan. Why? because they are funded and supported by those who want to see Pakistan destabilized.

    I agree to most points that you have raised in your email.

    More on it later. Good work again =)

    • I wholeheartedly concur with the point, about such organizations being well funded from external sources. That is a point that many of our country-men need to realize.

  • Why does it have to be only revenge/anger or only ideology?

    • Saad

      There has to be some driving force behind such attacks, what do you reckon that is?

  • Why does it have to be only revenge/anger or only ideology?

    • There has to be some driving force behind such attacks, what do you reckon that is?

  • Well though-out questions.
    The rise is terrorism in Pakistan has nothing to do with ideology as suggested by you. Agreed, ideology plays the part of a hook, and without the hook, there is no fish. But the fisherman is the real deal, not the hook.
    I can not agree more with you that ideological loopholes left unfilled by our failings are now used with great affect to lure in the weak of mind & faith (teenagers etc). (please, I do say ‘weak’ to point out a flaw, I believe it is a ‘feature’ of people at that agegroup, generally).

    But I think you should consider, and then pursue further (in this interview’ing manner and others etc), the high possibility of a direct involvement of ‘external forces’. I also understand that external forces is now a loaded word, so much so that it is considered a scape goat of sorts. I do not use it like that. The fact that the Balochistan insurgency going on for years is a direct result of RAW and CIA collaboration, the fact that Shia-Sunni rioting has a direct link to India’s RAW, the fact that CIA and Mossad had a direct link in Pakistan’s political scene since God knows when – all these are not only for consideration, but for us – as Muslims, as Pakistanis, as bloggers, as writers – to wake up a bit more and smell the steaming cup-o-java brewing under our noses.

    Although I support PTI for the sad fact that I have no other party to support, I think the party’s stance as pointed out in your insightful mini-interview is well rehearsed. The fisherman is not ideology. Remove ideological loopholes from the equation not with the intent of removing the terrorism virus, but for the sake of correcting the ideology. The fisherman will find some other bait, some other set of tools, to sit out on the corner, waiting.

    • *(please, I do NOT say ‘weak’ to point out a flaw … )

    • Saad

      To fight with the ‘fisherman’, we need a long term plan. That not only involves improving our defenses but also the living conditions of our 160 million people.

      That said, in the short run, we should not lose the sight of fighting / changing / editing this particular ideology set as well. For at the very least, it shall allow us to establish some sort of control over the situation.

      But, frankly speaking, I’ll beg to differ about your assertion that ideology is not responsible for the sudden rise in terrorism related events, in Pakistan. Whilst, there is no denying that foreign entities are in fact responsible for ‘bucking’ them up. If you read more in to the ideology, you shall see that this particular clan actually rejoices the fact that God Almighty is delivering to them, from those ‘who do not believe’, in order to enable them to fight for their cause. It’s not just one side which knows how to play this ‘game’.

  • Well though-out questions.
    The rise is terrorism in Pakistan has nothing to do with ideology as suggested by you. Agreed, ideology plays the part of a hook, and without the hook, there is no fish. But the fisherman is the real deal, not the hook.
    I can not agree more with you that ideological loopholes left unfilled by our failings are now used with great affect to lure in the weak of mind & faith (teenagers etc). (please, I do say ‘weak’ to point out a flaw, I believe it is a ‘feature’ of people at that agegroup, generally).

    But I think you should consider, and then pursue further (in this interview’ing manner and others etc), the high possibility of a direct involvement of ‘external forces’. I also understand that external forces is now a loaded word, so much so that it is considered a scape goat of sorts. I do not use it like that. The fact that the Balochistan insurgency going on for years is a direct result of RAW and CIA collaboration, the fact that Shia-Sunni rioting has a direct link to India’s RAW, the fact that CIA and Mossad had a direct link in Pakistan’s political scene since God knows when – all these are not only for consideration, but for us – as Muslims, as Pakistanis, as bloggers, as writers – to wake up a bit more and smell the steaming cup-o-java brewing under our noses.

    Although I support PTI for the sad fact that I have no other party to support, I think the party’s stance as pointed out in your insightful mini-interview is well rehearsed. The fisherman is not ideology. Remove ideological loopholes from the equation not with the intent of removing the terrorism virus, but for the sake of correcting the ideology. The fisherman will find some other bait, some other set of tools, to sit out on the corner, waiting.

    • *(please, I do NOT say ‘weak’ to point out a flaw … )

    • To fight with the ‘fisherman’, we need a long term plan. That not only involves improving our defenses but also the living conditions of our 160 million people.

      That said, in the short run, we should not lose the sight of fighting / changing / editing this particular ideology set as well. For at the very least, it shall allow us to establish some sort of control over the situation.

      But, frankly speaking, I’ll beg to differ about your assertion that ideology is not responsible for the sudden rise in terrorism related events, in Pakistan. Whilst, there is no denying that foreign entities are in fact responsible for ‘bucking’ them up. If you read more in to the ideology, you shall see that this particular clan actually rejoices the fact that God Almighty is delivering to them, from those ‘who do not believe’, in order to enable them to fight for their cause. It’s not just one side which knows how to play this ‘game’.

  • Probyn

    Thanks for sharing this Saad. It made for an interesting and sad read.
     
    Interesting that the tactical nature of your questions was completely missed by Dr. Alvi but that could also be deliberate as they would require direct answers. Answers that would require positions to be crystallized and be made apparent.
     
    Sad in the sense that it has been painful to observe the very public unravelling of IKs credibility and even sanity in my own eyes. It is always painful to see a childhood hero be reduced to a reactionary caricature. Although I believe that IKs personal integrity remains and will remain beyond reproach.
    But that hasnt been a shield against him allying himself with those that have been pre-1947 enemies of the middle/lower middle class Muslim salariat.
     
    IK/PTIs contention that there were Suicide bombings pre-2001 are utter nonsense. I believe the first instance was the egyptian embassy in 95. Also, I believe that Supah Sahaba raiders that massacered Shia Muslims in their mosques all thourgh the 90’s also counted a sort of suicide attack. So again, all these were ideology based.
    IK for some inexplicable reason does not realise that the core motivation that folks such as the TTP have is Takfeer. Im sure you are well versed what what kind of a fitna that is.
    Now, once you are at the receiving end of an ideologically based killing spree, whether 8% or 80% of such groups have been defeated by any military action, any state of individual is left with no option but to fight. The only other option is to submit and be overwhelmed because the state does not have the stomach for the fight.
    It is here that I find IK almost unforgivable. While my friends and coursemates have been fighting and dying (leaving behind small kids), IK plays a role of almost the anti-churchill. He knows he commands credibility and right earned yet his message to the Jawan in the trench fighting the Takfeeri animal in what is, by my accounts, the most ferocious close quarter combat on the planet, is that you Jawan/young officer are a mercenary.
    I will never forgive him for that.
    I happen to believe that regardless of a state’s technical and financial capacity to fight, total public buy in and no surrender mentaility of the general public can prove insurmountable to even the most hardy enemy.
    He states that he knows the enemy and is better able to understand and engage them but I feel it is the opposite. It’s almost that he has gotten high off his own supply and started to believe some artificial construct where drones force these honourable tribals to become animals.
    Again, unless Takfeer as the guiding force behind these people (not to mention the almost 50 USD per day being paid to some TTP fighters in some areas) is aknowledged, we will coontinue to fail and the blood of my comrades will be spat upon by IK who STILL thinks that Nizam e Adl was a good idea and a genuine demand of the people.
    There is a reason why he hasnt been to Swat since it’s liberation. The local populace would hound him out for his childish and Jamati views.
    It’s one crying, fucking shame the man IK has become. For a while there I thought he was the one.

    • Factual

      Dear Probyn
      Would you like to elaborate ,how the egyptian embassy bombing in any way is connected to  the conditions of FATA today?About swat,here you have totally over looked the history of swat as an independent state.In that era Swat people enjoyed swift justice at their door step.when they find themselves besieged by Pakistani corrupt set of laws they had no other option but”cry over spilt milk”.Call it Nizam-e-adl or what ever but the reality is those people want justice which they are not finding in the current pakistani judicial system , in fact nobody is finding in Pakistan.Academic discussions on a problem is one thing and finding practical solution is another ,I hope you appreciate that Imran khan has atleast some solution to the problem ,I don’t know who else has the solution other than the United states?