Pakistan has been hit by a spate of terror attacks recently, extensive military operations had reduced the incidence of terror attacks to a great extent for the last couple of years. This new ‘wave of terror’ has transpired just as the country is poised to make its debut as a global trade destination. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor has been progressing satisfactorily, foreign investment has been rapidly multiplying and Pakistanis have never been this hopeful about the future before.
The concentrated ‘bad media’ by Western mainstream sources has also failed to dissuade investors, CPEC has proved hard to sabotage as it is also owned by China which has sizable equity investments. $30 billion have already been harnessed in the project and investments could even touch $100 billion by the time it is complete. The Chinese are major stake-holders with a 40-year lease of Gwadar port, it is not really in Pakistan’s hands to roll back or stop the project, even if a portion of the corridor is damaged with an attack, the project does not get shelved. The current proxy war has three significant aims, firstly to ‘slow down or stop’ the CPEC mega-project, secondly, project Pakistan as the latest ISIS playground and thirdly, to destroy investor confidence by labelling Pakistan as an unsafe destination.
The timing happens to coincide with these recent developments;
- The new synergy in the Kashmir freedom struggle after the martyrdom of Burhan Wani.
- CPEC achieving its milestones notwithstanding the media war against it.
- China-Russia-Pakistan talks with the Taliban.
- The election of Donald Trump.
- A new Pakistan Army chief assuming office.
The string of attacks started with an incident of suicide bombing on Mall Road in Lahore, two smaller incidents also took place on the same day. The Lahore attack was claimed by the Jamaat -ul-Ahrar branch of the ‘Pakistani Taliban’, this was followed up by a devastating attack on a Sufi shrine at Sehwan in Sindh, the perpetrators taking responsibility as ‘ISIS.’ The intent is to create an evident pattern of ‘ISIS presence’ since November, even though such an outfit could never occupy land here to declare its occupation like it has done in Syria and Iraq. Anyhow, this ISIS phenomena claimed its first attack on a Sufi shrine in November in Balochistan province , it also took responsibility for a deadly attack on police cadets in the city of Quetta last year. and now the Sehwan blast in which 88 people were martyred.
This trend could continue, as Brig Samson Simon Sharaf writes,
“Middle East, Afghanistan and Ukraine comprise a triangle of instability. Russian intervention in the region was a matter of time. It came first in Ukraine followed by the Middle East. Now it is also getting involved in Afghanistan. The space of ISIS is shrinking in the Middle East. The theatre along with the ISIS threat is shifting to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The regrouping of old hands with new names has already taken place. A loud battle cry has been made in Lahore and Sehwan Sharif. Militants are more emboldened in attacking security forces along the Pak-Afghan Border and also in depth. Ultimately, this new game will hit CPEC.”
Realistically though, the ‘ISIS’ attacking Pakistan is more than a decade old, it is the same proxies with the same handlers, only the names are new. Sure enough, the Lahore blast investigation revealed that the website of terror outfit Jamaat-ul-Ahrar is operated from the city of Chennai in India according to the IP address.
The intention might be to turn Pakistan into another ISIS war theatre, neglecting to consider the reality that it is a nuclear power with a very capable army. In the past, foreign media has mostly blamed Pakistan and attached ethnic or sectarian motives behind most attacks but this time ISIS was being named even before it took responsibility. This impression is propagated on purpose by Indian media as the intention is to create the perception that Pakistan is not suitable for investment or tourism.
Destabilizing and weakening Pakistan is India’s’ idee fixe’ since 1947, it just cannot co-exist and has declared its intentions publicly at times. Ajit Kumar Doval’s tirade against Pakistan is one example, especially as he is the Indian National Security adviser for the present Indian government. His paper Internal Security — Need for Course Correction is a must-read for understanding the Indian psyche;
“The Indian security establishment has become lax in its attitude towards Pakistan, Indian foreign policy must re-gear itself to go on the offensive against its enemy Pakistan by funding, arming, training and directing non-state actors to wage a campaign of chaos within Pakistan by exacerbating existing sectarian and ethnic differences through violence. India will never be secure until Pakistan is destroyed, China is silenced, and Muslim and Sikh anti-state groups in India are forever extinguished.”
Ever since Doval became NSA, the Indian proxy war against Pakistan received impetus and terrorism peaked in Karachi, FATA and Balochistan. The ISIS project in this part of the world is his doing as he made trips to Syria and Iraq to hire mercenaries for Afghanistan, there have been reports in Indian media about seven Indian companies that are involved in the supply chain of over 700 components used by ISIS to construct improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Doval’s plan is to engulf Pakistan with ISIS terror attacks to turn it into another Syria or Iraq and the Afghan intelligence agency NDS helps him execute his strategies.
There is a lot of testimony and evidence available where this RAW/NDS nexus is concerned. Only last year, a serving RAW officer Commander Kulbhushan Yadav was caught by Pakistani intelligence agencies, he disclosed that he managed a massive network of proxies involved in ethnic and sectarian terror attacks in Karachi and Balochistan. This terror infrastructure was made possible with the collusion of RAW and NDS, mercenaries would filter in from the Pak-Afghan border for carrying out terror attacks, leaving India clear of suspicion. India has maintained five consulates in Afghanistan, out of which three are located near the Pak-Afghan border for organizing these terror proxies.
One more testimony has been provided by Latifullah Mehsud, a captured deputy leader of TTP, he exposed the RAW/NDS nexus in his video tape confession . According to him, India and Afghanistan jointly direct terrorism in Pakistan through TTP, RAW and NDS collaborate to channel funds and impart training to the TTP through Emir Abdul Wali. These new RAW proxies are the ISIS/Khorasan chapter based in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan since 2 years.
Surprisingly, even Chuck Hagel had also revealed how New Delhi had “always” used Afghan soil for its own military purposes and how it created and financed problems for Pakistan, this statement is available on video as he said it in a debate on Afghanistan in 2011. The Indian Embassy in Washington went in a tizzy and denied everything, it must have been bewildering for the Indians as Hagel, a former U.S. Defense secretary had always advocated close U.S. /India ties during his tenure.
India has a number of reasons for launching this string of terror attacks in Pakistan at this specific point in time, at home the Kashmir freedom struggle shows no signs of abating, especially after the martyrdom of Burhan Wani. It would like Pakistan to stop supporting the Kashmir cause and stay busy on its domestic front, then the China Pakistan Economic Corridor has placed Pakistan at an advantageous position where it is getting world attention instead of moping in ‘isolation’ as Modi and his mob of supporters like to say. So many favourable events are taking place that India cannot take the pressure, recently the Aman-17 bi-annual naval exercises were held with 37 countries participating, including the U.S.
Likewise, the emergence of the China-Russia-Pakistan power troika does not make India particularly pleased, even the solution of the Afghan issue needs Pakistan’s involvement. Russia and China also want to open negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, whom they perceive as a lesser threat than the ISIS which India has deliberately planted in Afghanistan to keep the entire region unstable, all neighbouring countries want to stem this growth of ISIS except the Afghan government in Kabul and India. Then Pakistan Army has a new chain of command and the enemy saw it as a good time to strike while the new army leadership is still settling in. Finally, the U.S. has a new President and India wants to give Trump a bad impression about Pakistan before he even formulates his Pakistan policy, hence it is harping on about ISIS.
Munir Akram, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the UN summed it up very aptly, “ India has adopted a complex strategy to wear down Pakistan’s resistance. This strategy encompasses: military and political pressure; subversion; terrorism; diplomatic isolation; media and public defamation and cultural domination.”
After the Sehwan blast, Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria named India and Afghanistan as perpetrators of the terror attacks and this time Pakistan is going to take up the issue with the United Nations Secretary General. Meanwhile, a list of 76 wanted terrorists was provided to Afghanistan which serves as a hideout for all these mercenaries, the Pak-Afghan border has been closed at Torkham and Chaman and shoot-at-sight orders have been issued for anybody trying to enter Pakistan illegally.
Sustained air- strikes/ drone strikes were carried out on safe havens in Afghanistan but alongside this Rangers operations in interior Sindh and Punjab are a must for destroying the proxy war infrastructure within Pakistan. Afghan refugees have to be sent home as they often become facilitators of these proxies or even carry out the attacks. Military courts need to start functioning again and the National Action Plan has to be enforced properly this time to break the wave of terror. The flaw in Pakistan’s counter-terrorism strategy was not carrying out Rangers operations in Sindh and Punjab alongside Operation Zarb-e-Azb, so it was just a matter of time before terrorism reared its ugly head again. India has tried all this before and failed, it is definitely not the first time that it has unleashed its proxies, it will fail once more in attaining its objectives if the backlash from Pakistan is forceful. Pakistan Army has launched ‘Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad’ (رَدُّالفَسَاد) across the country, the focus is on uprooting the remaining sleeper cells and destroying terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Afghanistan has finally agreed to go forward with an ISI – NDS cooperation led by Pakistan in order to curb the menace of terrorism in the region, most of India’s proxy warfare cannot be carried out without the help of the Afghan intelligence agency NDS which seems to have been tempted with money. Afghanistan should stop being India’s patsy and concentrate on resolving the civil war at home, ISIS is no ‘lesser evil’ than the Afghan Taliban. The resolution of Afghanistan’s problems lies in dialogue, it can even reap benefits from CPEC if there is peace at home, instead of becoming India’s “ISIS war theatre.”
As for India, old habits die hard and it is bound to keep on trying to sabotage CPEC, these days the focus of Indian media is on Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan and they are making a lot of noise. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor starts from GB on the China-Pakistan border, the demand of Gilgit Baltistan is to be recognised as a Pakistani province, not become part of India.
India’s last-ditch attempt to subvert CPEC might be an attack on Gilgit-Baltistan though its inaccessible, treacherous terrain will put it at severe disadvantage. Another danger might be an attack on the CPEC route at some point to damage or severe it from the main route. However, all this will not be possible if the proxy terror network within Pakistan is effectively exterminated.