Editorial. Cecil Victor. December. XXVII. XIII
By Cecil Victor
Baitullah Mehsud and Hakimullah Mehsud of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan neutralized in quick succession with drone strikes by the US, followed even faster was the assassination of a scion of the Haqqani family which holds the key to the future of Afghanistan post-withdrawal of foreign forces. On each occasion the successor Amir or supreme commander turns out to be a more rabid fundamentalist than the first. The ascension of Fazlullah to succeed Hakimullah underscores the phenomenon. The ‘Radio FM’ Mullah in the siege of Swat had dictated terms to the Pakistan Army and created an enclave where Shariah law would be paramount. Had it not been for the people of Swat who rose up against the TTP, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would have been in a worse state than what it is today.
Fazlullah and his sons were taken into custody by the Pakistan Army at the height of the Swat events. In real terms it means, that as in the case of Osama bin Laden, they were to be treated as honoured state guests because they were useful assets in the war for strategic depth in Afghanistan. The Pakistani military establishment had at one time facilitated the passage of Fazlullah and a mob of several thousand jihadi fighters to regain control of parts of Afghanistan from where the Taliban/Al Qaeda had been chased out by the Americans after the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.
Before relinquishing office as Chief of Army Staff, the last incumbent General Ashfaq Kayani, talked about the “danger within” apparently referring to the Taliban threat to the Pakistani military establishment for complicity in American drone attacks. On the face of it the impression that is gathered is that since the Pakistan Army considers a section of the Taliban as dangerous to its scheme of things, it has no objection to their elimination.
It has been noticed that irrespective of what the Pakistan government thinks about the drone strikes, the US is acting on its own intelligence sources to attack as and when a jihadi commander is sighted.
That is how it has successfully decapitated several top functionaries and almost got the Al Qaeda No 2 Ayman Al Zawahiri even while Osama bin Laden was living in comfort in a Pakistani military cantonment.
For a very long time the US has been asking Pakistan to use its good offices with the Haqqani family to help the US create a consensus on the future of Afghanistan after withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force. The Pakistanis have been prevaricating. That is the reason why the US decided to play its own hand and picked out a top member of the Haqqani family who had been entrusted with the task of collecting funds for operations inside Afghanistan. The funds, quite clearly, were collected from the Pakistan Army Inter-Services Intelligence and delivered where the head of the Haqqani clan wanted it to be sent. By selecting such a person for assassination the US sent a very clear signal to the handlers of the jihadi terrorists that Washington is not totally dependent on Pakistan to deliver peace in Afghanistan.
Thus, we have the duality of the former Pakistan Chief of Army Staff talking of the “danger within” in clear reference to the Taliban/Al Qaeda network operating within Pakistan and the government and political parties of Pakistan objecting very strenuously against the US drone campaign against these very elements. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had defended his act of giving a massive gift to the reincarnation of the bloodthirsty Lashkar-e-Toiba (Jamaat-ud-Dawa) headed by Hafiz Saeed who is charged with complicity in the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai.
In his attempt to please the military Nawaz Sharief gave General Kayani a free hand in Kashmir and that worthy took full advantage to escalate tensions along not just the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir but also along the international border south of Jammu. Only the advent of snowfall prevented an escalation of the conflict. General Kayani who spoke about the “danger within” was pandering to the full to these same elements in Kashmir. The scenario is reminiscent of what happened as precursor to the Kargil invasion – constant daily violation of the ceasefire in the Drass sector and heavy bombardment of the largely Shia population. The next year the Pakistan Army entered the Kargil sector in large numbers. Something similar could be in the making early next year.
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