Chaudhry Aslam and Pakistan’s Police

Chaudhry Aslam and Pakistan’s Police

After many attempts, Terrorists finally got to him. His martyrdom began a process of immortalizing a police officer who had, throughout his career, carried out illegal and extrajudicial killings. Starting with the Karachi Operation in the 1990s, Chaudhry Aslam had developed a reputation for being an ‘encounter specialist’. Rather than arresting criminals and letting justice be served in a court of law, Aslam preferred to kill them. His argument was that the courts had failed the police by routinely setting free thugs, terrorists, and criminals of the worst kind.

After his death, many hailed him as a hero for going after and killing militants in Karachi. In a city plagued with violence, going after militants with determination was indeed a brave act. Vowing to hunt down terrorists after repeated assassination attempts reflected his bravado. However, his failure to successfully convict these men in a court of law highlighted fundamental structural flaws with the police in Pakistan.

Due to poor training and investigative skills, the police in Pakistan is unable to gather sufficient evidence that can stand in the court of law. It is routine for the police to use torture in order to extract a confession that fails to hold up in front of a magistrate. The typical argument presented in court is that the police ‘knows’ that the accused is a criminal or terrorist. Not buying the argument set forth by the police, the judge sets the accused free, allowing him to return back to his criminal activities. Constantly in the line of fire and frustrated by what they perceive as an ‘uncooperative’ judiciary, police officers such as Chaudhry Aslam are forced to break the law.

Rather than hailing ‘encounter specialists’ like Chaudhry Aslam, it is imperative for us to discuss the reasons why police resorts to extrajudicial killings. The media must further highlight the fact that such killings are illegal and against the law. Police officers that specialize in these types of killings should be prosecuted by the state. Many would say that given the state of affairs in Pakistan, we must do whatever it takes to fight the menace of terrorism. However, upholding moral grounds is exactly what makes the state different than the terrorists. While the TTP is willing to use indiscriminate violence, the state and its security apparatus must uphold the law in order to establish its moral and ethical superiority. Without this superiority, the long and protracted fight against terrorism is bound to fail as both the state and terrorists resort to violence to achieve their goals.

What is also important to realize is that militants killed by Chaudhry Aslam were Pakistani citizens. In a democracy, a citizen’s life is protected by the state. Due process is guaranteed to each and every citizen and violating this sacred law reduces the legitimacy of a democratic nation. Pakistan has suffered tremendously during the last decade and the state has often used force to combat terrorism. However, the use of force in an illegitimate manner has not yielded any success. The Lal Masjid Operation was an episode where the state decided to use overwhelming force to deal with militants. The use of force was excessive and illegal – the state of Pakistan killed its own citizens in a brutal manner and refused them trial. To combat terrorism, the state itself resorted to brutal violence, leading to strategic failure. Terrorist attacks following the operation spiked, highlighting the long-term failure of the operation.

So what should we be doing to combat this menace of terrorism? For starters, a more rigorous training program for the police is necessary. These training programs must teach future police officers how courts of law operate, modern investigation techniques, and the skills required to operate in urban areas with rising extremist outfits. Secondly, police reforms that seek to depoliticize the force must be implemented. Despite VVIP police protection, politicians are routinely attacked by terrorists across Pakistan. This is due to the fact that rather than combating terrorism, the police is forced to roam around with politicians. Politicians must realize that the only way for them to be safe is for the police to effectively do its job, and providing VVIP protocol is not the job of the police. Finally, a concerted effort is required by Pakistani media and society to increase the level of respect they have for the police. Yes, the police is corrupt and often guilty of committing crimes themselves. However, the police has also suffered a lot in the last decade and a number of policemen have lost their lives. They risk their lives every day to protect citizens and we must appreciate them for this. Rather than making heroes of Chaudhry Aslams after their death, we as a society must make a greater effort to recognize the service of the police.

The war Pakistan is facing has been a long and protracted struggle where thousands have lost their lives. This war is set to continue into the near future and with terrorists using urban areas as safe havens, the role of the police will be critical. Chaudhry Aslam’s role as a police officer has showed us the flaws in our system. It is time that we make a concerted effort to fix these flaws, for without doing so, we will never be able to defeat militancy.

It’s The Economy, Stupid!

When Imran Khan announced his plans to “wage jihad against inflation” in Pakistan, one could not help but nod in agreement with what the former cricketer turned politician was saying. Ignoring the populist rhetoric about breaking free from “American enslavement,” the message from Mr. Khan made sense.

Massive government deficits, an expansion of the money supply, and a sickly tax-to-GDP ratio have brought Pakistan’s economy to the brink. After taking power, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government was quick to clear the so-called circular debt in the energy sector. This debt was cleared by, you guessed it, printing about Rs. 500 billion worth of money. Money supply, which was Rs. 946.6 billion rupees in 2012, is expected to reach Rs. 1,270 billion by 2014, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.

Karachi Stock Exchange

This monetary expansion continues to wreak havoc with the economy. Dramatic inflationary pressures and currency depreciation are bound to occur throughout 2014 due to this reckless policy. Petrol prices are set to increase in the next few days, putting further pressure on the CPI. The depreciating rupee, which we expect to be north of Rs. 115/US$ in 2014, is further worsening the economic outlook.

While clearing the circular debt was a much-needed measure at the time, it was only a stop-gap solution to buy the government some time. This time should have been used to pursue structural reforms. However, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his cabinet have been clueless in initiating reforms, leading to reports that the circular debt is once again creeping up. Inflationary pressures due to this policy have meant that the State Bank has had to deploy scarce foreign reserves to defend the Rupee. The deteriorating law and order situation had already brought investment in the economy to record lows, and this massive splurge has further crowded out investment.

The opposition, particularly Imran Khan’s PTI, is to be blamed as well. Rather than act as a responsible opposition party in Parliament, Mr. Khan has continued to follow his populist agenda on the streets. This leads one to conclude that like the PML-N, the PTI has no cohesive strategy for reform. If it did have a plan, the PTI would be tabling bills and vocally opposing the government’s actions in Parliament. Instead, Mr. Khan has taken to the streets and shown that democracy in Pakistan still has a long way to to.

For starters, political parties in Pakistan must legislate for capping the budget deficit as a percent of GDP. This measure is essential to bind future governments over how much money they can spend and borrow. Secondly, action must be taken against tax evaders, including the powerful politicians who claim to not even own cars! Finally, structural tax reforms need to be introduced to boost the tax-to-GDP ratio.

Mr. Sharif’s government has failed to enact any serious reforms. If opposing political parties, in particular the PTI, wish to showcase their credentials for leading Pakistan, they must begin to table reform bills in parliament. We are all for sustainable economic growth in Pakistan, but this war must be fought in Parliament, and not on the streets of Lahore.

2014 – The Year of Retreats

Making bold predictions is another honorable tradition at year’s end. Last year we had those who touted that Bashar Assad will fall in Syria. Many more firmly believed that the Arab Spring redefine the Middle East (it kind of has, but in a very dangerous manner!) Some believed that Turkey will continue to flex its muscles and that Israel would ultimately take decisive action against Iran’s nuclear program.

Keeping up with this time-honored tradition, I would like to boldly predict that 2014 will be the year of retreats. You must be wondering what I mean by this, for at year’s end we talk about progress, not RETREAT! Whether you like it or not, 2014 will be a year where nations pull back.

Obama Facepalm

Let’s start with the world’s supreme power. The United States, roiled with a paralyzed government, is set to redefine the meaning of dysfunctional as politicians gear up for mid-term elections. With a weak economy, war exhaustion, and a president teetering from one scandal to the next, I expect a lack of American leadership to be the theme of 2014. Withdrawal from Afghanistan, aloofness with allies in the Middle East, and a weak posture in the Asia-Pacific. Retreating United States? You bet!

The emerging superpower, China, has made tremendous economic progress. The Chinese have also started baring their military teeth. The setup of the air defense zone in surrounding waters is a clear-cut sign. Neighbors such as South Korea, however, have countered. Fact of the matter is that Chinese military power is not strong enough. The Chinese economy is also slowing down. Banks have made loans that no one has any clue about. Buildings are lying empty in cities. Rising labor costs have made Chinese goods less attractive. A crisis or two will emerge in China, causing the country to focus inwards and retreat in the international arena.

Arvind Kejriwal

India, the balance to China, has seen the shine come off what many called a “miracle.” With elections looming in 2014, the lame-duck Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be ineffective at best. The rise of the AAP Party in Delhi has exposed the cracks in India’s political system. As the economy continues to sputter, expect internal strife to occupy the minds of India’s leadership. Whoever takes charge in India will have an inwards focus towards consolidating power and enacting reforms (hopefully). Do not expect a confident India in 2014.

Russia will also be in retreat. I might get some flak for saying this, especially after the resurgence of Vladimir Putin in the international arena. In the run-up to the Sochi Games, Mr. Putin has released some high profile dissidents. Putin’s calculation has been that it will boost his popularity further. Maybe in the short-term. But as the year progresses, expect these dissidents to be a thorn in Putin’s side. The protests against his regime will rise, forcing him to deal with internal matters (bombings are already on the rise). The shale gas boom in the United States will force oil prices to fall. As the Russian economy suffers, challenges within Russia are bound to grow. Russia may continue to reclaim its place in the international arena, but I expect the challenges to force Russia into retreat.

Arvind Kejriwal

On the Iranian front, a retreat from past policies is quite easy to predict. As Iran pursues diplomacy with the United States, expect the country to reduce its support for Assad in Syria. This will be part of any deal that the Iranians and the Americans agree on. Iran has already shown a willingness to draw-down its nuclear program. As it focuses on rebuilding its economy, the Iranian government will retreat from Syria, but not without agreements that guarantee Iran’s influence in future governments. This happened in Iraq. It will happen in Syria as well. Iran will retreat from a more active role in Syria to one that is more clandestine.

As nations become engrossed in internal affairs, they will leave behind a vacuum in the international arena. Like all vacuums, this will need to be filled. With no large country having the strength to fill this vacuum, I expect a 2014 that is tumultuous in all aspects. Non-state actors will have more space to operate in. They will be able to carry out attacks at a level never seen before.

The American withdrawal from Afghanistan will give the Taliban greater control. A government in Pakistan unable to fight against militants in the Tribal Areas is set to suffer after the American withdrawal as well. In Libya, Syria, Yemen, and other states, armed groups are operating with increasing ruthlessness. I expect these groups to push on and project their power across regions. While states retreat in 2014, non-state actors will advance.

Grim outlook? Yes, indeed. But this is how I see the world shaping up. Hopefully, I am wrong. Given the way things have moved forward in 2013, I do not see a better outcome in 2014. If you do, please do share!

Iran and the US – Breaking The Ice

It took classic back-door diplomacy and meetings that culminated in the wee hours of the night to achieve what was considered impossible. On November 24, 2013, Iran and six world powers agreed on a preliminary nuclear deal, giving the Iranians modest sanctions relief for agreeing to restrict their nuclear program and opening up to rigorous inspections. With time, old issues have reemerged – Iran recently interrupted further talks as a protest against a proposal in the US seeking to increase sanctions. Despite all the ongoing tussling, this recent thaw in relations between Iran and the US is good news for the region and potentially bad news for Pakistan.

Iran US Talks

In 2002, when the US invasion of Afghanistan was in its early days, the Iranian regime provided intelligence and cooperated extensively with the Bush Administration. Both the Americans and the Iranians viewed the Taliban as a common enemy and were willing to help each other. Relations took a turn for the worst once President Bush included Iran in his ‘axis of evil’, leading to a proxy war between the two nations that has lasted for almost a decade. Iran, via Hezbollah, Shia insurgent groups, and other assets made life miserable for the US, particularly in Iraq. Iranian influence in Iraq grew so much that the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki required Iranian backing and approval in order to be elected. Today, the Iranians are critical in ensuring the Bashar al-Assad survives in Syria and any future agreement in Syria will require Iranian acceptance.

Breakthrough in nuclear talks allows both Iran and the US to begin a comprehensive dialogue over mutual interests. These include the increase in radical Islamist groups, situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the overall future of the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Syria. Both nations face a common enemy in the form of radical insurgent groups, majority of whom are Sunni-dominated. These groups, while being anti-American are also anti-Shia, which is why they are fighting against the Assad regime in Syria. Talks on the nuclear issue will build rapport and ease tensions, making the leadership of both countries feel at ease about the other side’s intentions. If things move along smoothly, then we might see a shift in the balance of power in the region as the Iranians begin to exert greater influence.

For Pakistan, this is a time to recognize that relations between nations change over time. While Pakistan has had rather respectable relations with Iran over the last few years, things may begin to deteriorate, especially if Pakistan is unable to bring radical Islamist groups under control. These groups have carried out attacks on the Iranian border and the recent mortar attack by Iran in Pakistani territory is a sign of growing unease. With the US drawdown from Afghanistan approaching, there will be a fear in Iran of a rising Taliban insurgency. This insurgency, while directly destabilizing both Afghanistan and Pakistan, will have repercussions for Iran as well. The Taliban and its allies view Shias are infidels and will be keen to expand their influence into Iran. Pakistan’s failure to control these groups would mean deteriorating Iran-Pakistan relations, leading to further regional isolation for the country. Pakistan will also have to play a delicate game with the Saudis, who will view increasing Iranian influence as a great threat to their power. Pakistan, being bailed out and helped by the Saudi government during tough times, will be put under pressure by the Saudi government and asked to control growing Iranian influence. It will require deft diplomacy, but Pakistan could act as a bridge between Iran and Saudi Arabia, allowing both sides to put past differences aside. However, if the Saudis and Iranians do not negotiate, then Pakistan will find itself in a very tough situation.

As the US tries to build a new relationship with Iran, it is essential that policymakers in Pakistan realize the changing dynamics in the region. Better relations between Iran and the US will not directly impact Pakistan. In fact, they may enable the long-awaited opening of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, giving the economy much-needed energy. However, things might get tricky for Pakistan if it fails to understand that radical groups are a common enemy for all regional powers, including Iran, India, Afghanistan, China, and the US. If Pakistan fails to show a commitment towards dealing with radical groups in its own territory, then it risks isolation in the international arena, and this is bound to have drastic consequences for the country.

The Looming Disaster in Afghanistan

With the American withdrawal looming, the situation in Afghanistan is set to deteriorate. This is already in evidence with the lack of funding for grand projects, such as the Ministry of Defense Building in Kabul. As Hamid Karzai uses a tough line to negotiate a Bilateral Security Agreement with the US, tensions are set to rise. High desertion rates of the Afghan Army will further worsen the situation, as thousands leave the ANSF and form militias, leading the country towards a civil war.

US Withdrawal Afghanistan

What happens next is not rocket science: a collapsing Afghan state with an army that is fragmenting into militias, will face a rising tide of Taliban insurgents. As the Afghan government cedes space to the Taliban, insurgent activity on the Durand Line will rise, destabilizing Pakistan’s Tribal Areas and allowing more operational space to both the Afghan and the Pakistani Taliban. As Mark Twain once wrote, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” History is about to rhyme for Pakistan, as a repeat of the situation in the 90s is about to take place.

With the instability in Afghanistan, a second coming of weapons, drugs (opium production is at record highs in Afghanistan), and refugees is bound to cause havoc in Pakistan. This second coming will also strengthen militants, as radical outfits are set to view the American withdrawal from Afghanistan as a victory. In Iraq, a similar scenario played out, allowing Al-Qaeda and other insurgents to carry out bigger and bolder attacks, killing thousands of civilians. These groups expanded into Syria and formed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. A similar situation may arise in Pakistan with the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban uniting as one to overthrow both the Afghan and the Pakistan governments.

To some, this may seem far-fetched, but ask any serious defense analyst and you will get the view that this is a serious possibility. Even if the Afghan Taliban and TTP do not unite, they will collaborate and share their networks, enabling them to share expertise, weapons, and revenues from smuggling and drug-running. Today, Pakistan is as ill-prepared to deal with the blowback from the instability in Afghanistan as it was in the 1990s. To better equip ourselves, our civilian and military leadership must establish control of the Western border, disrupt current militant networks in the Tribal Areas, and empower local tribes. This, coupled with a sustained effort to re-establish the writ of the government in the Tribal Areas, FATA, and KPK is the only way Pakistan can deal with a growing insurgency in Afghanistan.

Pakistan must work with the Afghan government and security forces to establish a robust framework of cooperation and intelligence-sharing. With the Americans retreating, it is in the national interests of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to work together – without cooperation, the upcoming wave of insurgency is set to wreak havoc in both nations. The only strategic depth Pakistan can have in today’s security environment is through a strong and robust Afghanistan that is able to govern its territory. Hopefully, those developing policy and strategy in GHQ and Islamabad recognize this – failure to do so will spell disaster for our country.

Pakistan’s Strategic Dislocation

As the droning peace talks debate continues in Pakistan, one must take out some time to commend the strategy of the TTP. Looking at the big picture, one can see that the TTP has masterfully dislocated Pakistan, both physically and psychologically.

Pakistan

The physical dislocation of an adversary occurs when it is attacked in places that hamper its military movement. Supply lines get disrupted, the enemy has to operate in uncomfortable environments, and in extreme situations, unable to enter combat.

The TTP, by gaining a foothold in the tribal areas – one of the most brutal terrains in the world, has made it extremely difficult for the Pakistan Army to conduct effective operations. The cost, in money and lives, has been very high of such operations with limited results. In urban areas, TTP networks are even more robust, as local police and intelligence does not have capacity to operate. This lack of capacity and capability means that our security forces are physically dislocated, allowing TTP to operate freely.

Psychologically, dislocation occurs when an adversary loses the will and mental capacity to fight. In Pakistan’s case, one sees this willpower non-existent. Even secular left-wing political parties, the supposed guardians against extremism, are pro-talks. Our society by and large considers TTP as our ‘misguided brothers’ and vehemently believes that we can make peace with them.

The TTP has dislocated Pakistani society psychologically by playing on our deep-rooted Islamism and war exhaustion. The propaganda conducted by the TTP, arguing that peace talks are linked to drone strikes, have fooled the majority of our society. It has masterfully used its spokesperson to send out mixed signals to our society, thereby destroying our willingness to fight.

So what exactly is the solution? For starters, we need to build capacity and capability. The Pakistan Army, after almost a decade of war, has gained relatively strong counterinsurgency capabilities. Our internal security forces, however, leave much to be desired. It is imperative that we build capacity here to better conduct urban operations to disrupt TTP. On the psychological front, nothing can be achieved without strong leadership. This sadly, is lacking on all fronts and no one is willing to make the case for an existential fight. Our society today lacks a statesman, and until that happens, we cannot win this psychological war. The only way out of this is a Swat-like situation – this will shed much blood and cause widespread chaos.

From the way things are progressing, I do not see any emerging statesmen that can lead us into this fight. That leaves one option, and that can produce a haunting scenario.

War-Gaming @ Fletcher – Lessons Learnt

Simulex is a yearly event held at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy where students, military officers, and other experts simulate a crisis and seeks its resolution. The scenario this year was one that would interest any Pakistani or for that matter, anyone from our region as China, India, and Pakistan went into war and the subcontinent went into red alert.

Conflict in Sub-Continent Takes Over Fletcher

The crisis started with a terrorist attack on Indian Parliament and India responding with the Cold Start Doctrine and invading Pakistan. Meanwhile, China and India escalated the conflict on their borders near Tibet, and Chinese troops entered Pakistan to defend Islamabad. As if this wasn’t enough, nuclear warheads fell into the hands of the TTP and Taliban, ensuring the Pakistan was cornered and on the verge of collapse.

You might raise your eyebrows on this scenario, especially if you are a Pakistani, and say that this is just the type of American/Western bias that continues to isolate Pakistan on the international stage. Fletcher School of Law and DiplomacyThe goal of the exercise was to showcase a worst-case scenario and while it went to an extreme, the simulation is less about the scenario and more about how to deal with crises and learn critical lessons in strategy, diplomacy, and conflict resolution.

Lesson 1 – Stick To Your Strategy

When faced with escalating crises and scenarios that do not go your way, it is easy to compartmentalize things and lose sight of the big picture. This is where developing a cohesive strategy that lays out major goals saves the day. When one begins to get bogged down with tactics and the “hows” of a scenario, it is easy to forget about what exactly it is that you are trying to achieve. As pressure builds, it is tempting to ignore the strategy and react to the situation. Looking at your overall strategy and goals saves the day for it allows you and your team to be effective in the decision-making process.

During Simulex at Fletcher, our team was faced with scenarios that continued to become worse as the crisis moved forward. However, as Pakistan, our strategy was very clear – restore our territorial sovereignty and move towards controlling our nuclear weapons. Every single action we took, whether it was diplomatic, military, or informational, was in line with this strategy. At the end, the strategy guided us, even when the scenario dictated that our military was completely routed.

Lesson 2 – Know The Other Side

“If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles,” said Sun Tzu. This involves knowing the interests, goals, and motivations of your opponent as well as their values. A clear understanding of the opponent enables you to plan your actions in accordance with what others might do and how they would react.

This is crucial in being ahead of the curve.

As we faced the US, China, and India during Simulex, we began to quickly understand the other teams – the US wanted nuclear safety, so we took a position that Indian occupation would destabilize us, therefore the US should push India to withdraw. China wanted energy access, so we were able to convince them to stick with us despite Indian overtures of a deal. India, on the other hand, was unable to justify its unilateral aggression in the simulation, so we continued to build pressure by de-legitimizing their invasion.

Lesson 3 – Stick To Your Guns

When push comes to shove, it is sometimes easy to back down and not stare down the barrel of the gun. However, one must be willing to take a strong position based on principles and a clear narrative. There is a big difference between being stubborn and not open to compromise and taking a stand after exhausting all options. In crises, doing the latter can be an effective tool especially when one finds themselves in a corner with no outs.

In Simulex, our team took a final stand of threatening to use tactical nuclear weapons on advancing Indian units if they did not withdraw immediately. There was a great debate in our team about this move, but the decision was made to act in this manner. This was not just a reactionary move – everything we did up until that point was to ensure that things did not come to this. Our narrative was strong, our position was principled, and we decided to stick to our guns until the very end. This led to the resolution of the crisis, forced our adversary to come to the table, and agree upon a complete withdrawal of forces from our territory.

Simulex – Melting Pot of Ideas and Worldviews

Simulex 2013 was an amazing experience for me as a first-year student here at Fletcher. It was a two-day event where things I was able to apply some of the thing I have learnt in a scenario that came very close to the real world. The simulation allowed all of us to work with and understand how different people from varying worldviews, cultures, and moral and ethical beliefs think, react, and negotiate in crises. In the end, we all hung out and laughed over it, but the lessons learnt from it were immense and will go a long way in shaping the careers of everyone that participated.

Pakistan – Achieving Sustainable Peace

As the date for American withdrawal from Afghanistan draws near, Pakistan is once again faced with the challenge of dealing with a battle-hardened insurgency in both its tribal and urban centers. Since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, our country has suffered over 50,000 civilian casualties along with losses to the economy that can be measured in billions of dollars. Military operations as well as political negotiations have failed to stem the insurgency, mainly due to a lack of cohesive strategy. With a historic transition of power between civilian governments occurring, it is imperative that the current administration do everything in its power to ensure sustainable peace in the country.
Pakistan Monument

Pakistan – Oscillating between war and peace

The war in the tribal areas was initiated in 2003-2004 when the Pakistan Army first entered Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency for the first time since independence in 1947. The Army subsequently entered North and South Waziristan, prompting tribes in the region to view the Army as an occupying force working at the behest of the American-led forces in Afghanistan. In 2004, the Army fought the first of many tough battles against Pashtun and foreign Al-Qaeda terrorists in South Waziristan where over 400 Al-Qaeda operatives were arrested.

Military operations, while effective in the short-term, were unable to deliver sustainable peace. This failure prompted President Musharraf to pursue multiple peace deals starting in 2004 in South Waziristan. The last of the peace deals was signed in 2006 in North Waziristan but lasting peace could not be achieved and the truce was called off in 2007. Other deals were made and routinely broken as violence against military and civilian targets continued to intensify. During the truce, investments were made in the region to ensure economic development, but these efforts largely failed to deliver peace.

Peace talks, but with whom?

As the last of the major offensives ended in the summer of 2013 in Tirah Valley, calls for pursuing another round of peace negotiations with the Taliban have intensified. With the government and major opposition parties agreeing to pursue peace talks with the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP), there was hope that a decline in militant violence would be seen. However, this has not been the case as the TTP have conducted bolder and deadlier attacks since the new government came to power.

An umbrella group with over 45 organizations operating under it, pursuing peace talks with the TTP is bound to be a complex and frustrating experience. Divisions in the TTP have already been seen, with the commander in Punjab sacked by the leadership for his public support for peace talks. Radical elements within the TTP have intensified their operations in a bid to derail the process while the Pakistan Army has publicly committed itself to following the policy devised by the civilian leadership.

Public opinion continues to be against military operations as a majority of the population views the insurgency as blowback from the Afghan war. Successive governments have failed to take ownership of this war and this has led to a lack of clarity in civilian as well as military circles.
Future Strategy

Building a cohesive strategy

The pursuit of peace talks in a situation where the enemy feels emboldened is not going to provide any permanent solutions. With Pakistan struggling at an economic, political, and security level, the TTP feel no need to giving up ground. This mentality is visible in the increased intensity of attacks and demands by the organization, including the recent demand to withdraw the military from the tribal areas. However, the pursuit of talks seems to have increased the disagreement between competing groups within the TTP and this may give the government some room for maneuvering. A strategy to ensuring sustainable peace in Pakistan following US withdrawal from the region must rest on the following:

  • Isolate: While previous peace deals have failed, the current pursuit of negotiations has created rifts within the TTP. A sustained effort towards talks can further split the TTP, allowing the government to make peace with amenable groups while isolating radicals that refuse to talk. This will allow the military to be more effective in the use of force while enabling politicians and policymakers to build a successful narrative and gain public support for conducting future military operations in the tribal areas.
  • Disrupt: Over the last decade, Pakistan’s urban centers have become home to a large number of insurgent cells. These cells have routinely carried out deadly attacks on civil and military targets in retaliation to any operations conducted in the tribal areas. The damage in cities from these attacks has continuously led to lack of popular support for military operations. While pursuing negotiations, it is essential for the government and military to work together to disrupt these cells and erode insurgent capability to attack urban centers. This will ensure that blowback on civilian and military target from future operations against the TTP is minimized.
  • Invest: The country is faced with a stagnating economy, a booming population set to double by 2050, and educational systems that are one of the worst in the region. The lack of social development and opportunity has consistently provided operational space to radicals. Furthermore, police and civil security institutions do not have the capacity to govern urban centers and this has consistently enabled insurgents to operate freely in cities like Karachi. While negotiations and military operations can deliver peace in the short term, sustainable peace can only be delivered by investing in the social development of Pakistani society and civil institutions. There is a dire need to ensure that educational standards are raised across the country, opportunities for employment are created, and investments in security institutions be made to increase operational capabilities.
  • Fight: The process of negotiating with non-state actors that refuse to accept the constitution of Pakistan is bound to fail in the long-term. Radical groups refusing to give up their weapons and accept the laws of Pakistan must be fought against and the country must use force to deliver sustainable peace. With the population suffering from war exhaustion, it is difficult to build a case for further military operations. However, the government must take control of the situation and help build consensus in civil and military circles for future operations.

The devastation wrought from this war has occurred mainly due to the lack of a cohesive strategy. Successive governments have dealt with the problem in either military or political ways, leading to continuous failures. To ensure peace, it is imperative that policymakers develop and implement a cohesive strategy that includes political, economic, and military tactics.

Cyber Security – Building New Alliances

Cyber Security Fundamental in Protecting Global Systems

The world continues to march towards an interconnected world completely dependent on digital systems. With the internet becoming the backbone of modern society, the potential damage, locally and globally, from a successful cyber attack on key infrastructure and installations can wreak tremendous kinetic and non-kinetic damage. With state and non-state actors building on and showing their capacity to disrupt private and government organizations, it is imperative for the United States to adopt a unified approach in protecting its interests all over the world.

While conventional frameworks have defended the interests of Western powers during and after the Cold War, the need of new frameworks and rules of engagement based on combined security in the digital realm is arising. The development of these capabilities will enable the United States and its allies to share knowledge, build defenses, and develop capabilities to respond to threats in a unified manner.

During the Cold War, NATO played a key role in protecting the United States, its allies, and their combined interests across Europe and all over the world. This was made possible by developing a cohesive land, air, and sea strategy resting on the idea of deterrence and mutually assured destruction. Today, this conventional role of NATO is becoming obsolete as cyberspace becomes a new battleground where tremendous damage can be caused without utilizing any form of conventional forces.

China has effectively used this space to conduct cyber attacks and espionage campaigns that have sought to steal information from the United States and its allies. With 41 percent of malicious traffic originating from China, many security experts have concluded that the country is directly involved in stealing confidential information about the United States’ diplomatic, economic, and defense interests. Attacks on these interests compromise US national security interests around the world, making it imperative that the US forge a policy that seeks to protect its interests at home and abroad.

Current Cyber Security Systems Inadequate

Recently, NATO members agreed that cyber security measures need to be enhanced and improved across the organization. With all 28 members sharing critical information, infrastructure, and knowledge, a breach in the digital infrastructure of one country can compromise all members and their national security. While efforts have been made by the organization to move this issue to the top of the priority list, such measures have run into operational difficulties. These operational difficulties arise for the following reasons:

  1. Framework for cyber security does not exist. Since its inception, NATO has been able to devise strategies and tactics based on conventional warfare. The cyber realm is one that is newly emerging and the lack of frameworks specific to the cyber realm make the issue of preventing, detecting, and responding to cyber attacks very difficult.
  2. Lack of trust exists amongst partners. The leaked reports on the PRISM program operated by the NSA caused a large amount of distrust of the United States and its cyber policies. According to reports, Germany, a member of NATO, was the second-most spied country in this program. This, along with the already prevalent norm of secrecy in the cyber realm makes it difficult for countries to share technology that can protect member states, especially those that are most vulnerable to attacks.
  3. Globalization has made NATO less relevant today. While NATO consists of 28 member nations, the threat to US interests in the cyber world is global. Protecting only the member states of NATO, while a good start, will not be sufficient in the medium to long term. The interconnectedness of the digital world means that both state and non-state actors can target critical infrastructure all over the world. Even if efforts to make NATO more capable of handling cyber attacks succeed, the threat of significant damage will continue to exist as a majority of critical digital infrastructure will remain exposed. The global nature of the threat means that defenses must be built to protect critical infrastructure all over the world.

Tackling Cyber Security Threats Today

With cyber emerging as a new battleground, the conventional norm of deterrence upon which NATO built a significant part of its strategy is being eroded. In today’s world, deterrence in the cyber realm is difficult to achieve, especially when one is dealing with non-state actors and rogue states such as North Korea and Iran. These states, as well as China, have largely isolated themselves from the rapid transformation occurring in the digital world by building firewalls that act as barriers to entry. Non-state actors on the other hand have nothing to lose should they succeed in disrupting critical infrastructure both within and outside the United States.

This makes it difficult for the United States and its allies to develop capabilities that can demonstrate offensive capabilities and deter enemies from attacking. Developments in the future may enable the US and its allies to build offensive capabilities and a 21st century model of deterrence. For now the US must push for developing greater defensive capabilities in conjunction with its allies in the form of new cyber alliances. This can be achieved by:

  1. Cooperation: By enhancing technological and security cooperation in the digital realm, the United States can ensure that its allies possess the capabilities to withstand cyber attacks in the future. In the cyber realm, all infrastructure is as strong as the weakest link, making it imperative that allies operate at a level where they are equally secure.
  2. Standardization: Standardized regulation is required to ensure that all sectors critical to national security are protected on an equal footing. This holds true for both local and international infrastructure and capabilities. The United States must pass regulation at home to ensure that local and global companies have standardized cyber security protocols.
  3. Restructuring: The internet was built with the concept of anonymity at its heart. This capability has made it very difficult to establish attribution. The United States, being the technological leader in the world, must push for a restructuring of the internet that enables ease of attribution.

The threat from cyber attacks makes it imperative that a new model of collective security is developed. These new frameworks and rules of engagement will ensure that contingencies and response mechanisms are in place to deal with any cyber attack.

Buying time: Pakistan pushes for peace

It has been quite a busy month or so for me: As I finally settled at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Syria began taking over the discussion forum here in the United States. Along with the intriguing conversations and discussions with other students, I had to stay on track with the rapidly changing global environment. On the business end of things in Pakistan, the government seems to have succeeded in bringing all major political parties on board with its peace process. This process seemed to have been picking momentum but as with everything in Pakistan, unpredictable events threw things back up in the air. By killing a Major-General in Dir and demanding complete withdrawal of troops from the tribal belt, the TTP might have pushed things a little too far.

Taliban Soldier

Those who questioned the sensibility of pursuing peace talks with an armed umbrella organization that refuses to accept the constitution of Pakistan would feel redeemed today. They will say, and rightly so, that the exercise of negotiating with an armed group that is bent of killing our soldiers and threatening our citizens is a futile exercise. After all, weren’t such peace talks made in the past? Didn’t these talks only allow the TTP and its affiliates to reorganize themselves?

Government must showcase its will to use force

Prime minister Nawaz Sharif, despite having good opinion polls after the first hundred days in office, faces a tough choice. By carrying out a daring attack on a high-ranking army officer, the TTP have shown the government that they are not backing down. Nawaz Sharif, as the elected prime minister of Pakistan, must use force to send a message to the TTP and its affiliates. It is necessary that the government uses force to signal to the Taliban that despite its desire to make peace through negotiations, the government can and will strike the TTP if it continues to carry out such attacks.

The Pakistan Army, for all its efforts, continues to face an enemy that evolves and adjusts rapidly. This enemy has infiltrated Pakistan’s urban and rural areas and possesses the ability to carry out deadly attacks almost at will. However, despite its capability to respond, the army has been unwilling to conduct any major operations due to a lack of civilian support. During the APC the army showed a willingness to respect the right of the government to push for peace. This strategy seems to have failed and it is about time that civilians give the armed forces the mandate to take decisive action against the Taliban.

Negotiations must occur from a position of strength

Ever since winning the elections, the government of Pakistan has almost begged for peace with the TTP. While I understand the need to pursue peace talks, the strategy to negotiate from a position of weakness seems quite futile. It has been months since Pakistan took any kind of major action against armed groups and this has enabled them to bunker down and regroup. In fact, the bold attacks on jails have added to their numbers and emboldened the TTP and boosted morale among its rank and file.

Pakistan faces a regrouped, emboldened, and adaptive enemy keen on taking the fight to the government. This group, while indulging in irregular warfare, is no longer afraid of any possible repercussions. To make a push for peace, the TTP must be weakened to a point where it is unable to carry out future attacks with such ease. The TTP’s organizational and operational capabilities must be weakened and it must be made aware of the fact that Pakistan is willing to put up a fight. Without conducting effective strikes against TTP hideouts, the government is bound to fail in its long-term peace strategy. Limited strikes that aim to disrupt the TTP will go a long way in creating an enabling environment for a peace process. These strikes might lead to blowback in the short-term, but if sustainable peace is to be achieved, then Nawaz Sharif must be willing to make some sacrifices in the next few weeks.

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