‘Support for the terrorist proxies inside Pakistan’

In order to assess Pakistan’s situation in this context accurately, we must take into account the role of the Iranian and Saudi funded, religiously indoctrinated ‘terrorist proxies’ in Pakistan. Their role became very apparent when Pakistan was fighting for its survival in the soviet Afghan war from 1979-1989. During the Afghan Jihad, both states funded the war. Iran funded the Tajik Mujahideen, while the Saudis funded the ethnic Pashtun Mujahideen groups.

Once the war ended, the terrorist proxies that were funded by both states were diverted to subvert the Pakistani state. Iran by then had been successful in creating, the ‘Sipah-e-Muhammad’ and ‘Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqa-e-Jafriya Pakistan’ as well as the ‘Imamia Student Organization’,which was created to provide ‘recruits’ for the Iranian funded Shia proxies. Throughout the 90′s Iran used them with impunity to create violence in Pakistan, in order to get a foothold to exploit in the future. Iranian support for these proxies is still active.

Saudi Arabia, on the other hand kept funding the fundamentalist sunni groups, including Lashker-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba. These organizations are behind the reign of terror that unfolded in many Pakistani cities. The Saudis also created and funded hundreds of Madrassas, which were used as an incubator for spreading the Salafist ideology in Pakistan. During the same time, Saudi Arabia recognized the Taliban govt in Kabul and continued support for the fundamentalist politicians in Pakistan, which is continuing to this day.

‘Dynamics of the regional security climate’

Currently, the security climate in the region is extremely volatile, thanks to this battle for hegemony between Iran and GCC. We have a civil war in Syria, extreme post war violence unfolding in Iraq, pro democracy protests in Bahrain, war in Afghanistan, terrorism in Pakistan and the bloody crackdown on pro democracy protesters in Egypt by its military. This situation is being fueled by both teams which are battling for control.This situation has created a very dangerous, hard to predict security climate in the region. Both teams are busy bringing down the existing govts and trying to install theirs.

In every middle eastern country, the fingerprints of this vicious dogfight are visible. Thousands of people have been killed and millions have been displaced or affected due to this rivalry. With a raging anti Assad civil war in Syria, the use of chemical weapons and a looming NATO strike on Syria has made this explosive situation more hard to comprehend. What becomes of the countries being subverted remains to be seen. Result of the Syrian civil war,Egyptian coup, Bahraini protests and the upcoming Iraqi and Afghan elections will decide the fate of this region.

‘Turf battle for power projection in Pakistan’

Ever since the Soviet-Afghan war, a turf battle has been fought on the Pakistani soil, by the both teams against each other. Every one of them have used illegal means to further their agenda in Pakistan. Pakistan is an important country in its own right, its the 2nd largest Muslim nation in the world and has the largest Armed Forces in the Muslim world on top of its proven nuclear deterrent.

Iran and the Arab camp have supported political parties, militant groups, lobbies, madrassas, and journalists to further their say in Pakistani political thinking. They have not spared any effort to subvert the Pakistani state when it suited their agenda. Thousands of Pakistanis have been killed as a result of this turf battle in the past. The irony is that most of the Pakistanis don’t even know how badly this subversive activity has damaged their way of life.

Apart from supporting the religious fundamentalists, some Arab nations have gone as far as supporting the Marxist mercenary groups in Pakistan’s Balochistan province for their own good. United Arab Emirates, and Qatar have been identified as the bank rollers of the banned terrorist outfits, like the BLA, BRA and BLF. For many Pakistanis, it is hard to believe that countries that they consider to be ‘friends’ are actually busy in fostering terrorism in Pakistan.

The reason behind this problem is that Pakistan has built a huge deep sea port in the Balochistan province with the help of the Chinese at a place called Gwadar. This port is strategically significant, as it is only 150 NMi away from the Strait of Hormuz. This port is being linked to China with a road and rail link, to allow China to trade and import oil from here. Both UAE and Qatar see this port, which potentially will be the largest in Asia in the next 20 years as an economic threat.

This perception has led them both to support the marxist terrorist groups in the Balochistan province. Rebellious tribal leaders have been bankrolled by these two Arab ‘friends’ of Pakistan. Their wanted leaders have been given shelter and transit from Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This is where they also receive petrodollars in order to pay for the 5000 or so mercenaries fighting against their own state. This conundrum has forced Pakistan to seek anti terrorism cooperation against the Jind-ul-Allah with Iran as a balancing act.

It is an extremely dangerous situation which can potentially damage ties between Pakistan, UAE and Qatar should these states continue their subversion of the Pakistani state. If Pakistan decides to add this aspect into its strategic calculus it will most definitely change the geostrategic dynamics of the region, which won’t benefit the UAE or Qatar.

‘Economics as a weapon against Pakistan’

Since Pakistan is dependent on the middle east and Iran for its energy needs, it becomes a viable cause for concern that these nations might want to use that energy card to further their agenda. It was recorded in 2008 when Saudi Arabia had refused Pakistan to provide oil, should a war with India break out. Since then Pakistan has been seeking alternative ways to fulfill its energy needs.

Recently, Pakistan discovered vast amounts of Shale oil and gas resources, which are thought to be enough to fulfill Pakistan’s energy needs for another 70 years. Pakistan has been actively seeking the Chinese help to install substantial nuclear energy generation capacity through a civil nuclear technology cooperation agreement. In order to safeguard itself from any oil starvation scenario Pakistan has decided to exploit its own Shale potential as soon as possible.

Pakistan plans to acquire a gas pipeline from Iran and Tajikistan to fuel its economy in the future, which will also mean less dependance on oil imports and affordable energy access in times of conflict and peace. Becoming energy independent has become a make or break deal for Pakistan.

‘Conclusion | Way forward for Pakistan’

Looking, forward Pakistan needs to stay clear of this ‘control freak’ Arab-Iranian rivalry. Pakistan’s best interests lie in becoming a state that has the capability to quell any foreign intervention, be it political or the use of fundamentalist elements as a tool for state subversion. Once Pakistan can control its internal security climate, it should work for its own interests. Pakistan should not engage in any future conflict between the Arabs and the Iranians, it must remain ‘strictly neutral’.

Pakistan is a state that has the values of friendship and common good at heart. Therefore it is required that Pakistan should always try to mediate between Iran and the Arabs, while living in its own limited capacity as well as within the fold of its own strategic interests. Any direct conflict between the two regional players including ‘hard power projection’ will have consequences for Pakistan too, therefore it is desirable that Pakistan maintains, cordial relations with both sides and try to end any possibility of a conflict between the two sides.

It is also the duty of Pakistan, to look after its own national interests and never sacrifice them for any other state. Pakistan should always think for itself first before any other state in the region. Given the opportunity and ability, Pakistan should work for better working relations with Afghanistan, C.Asia and Turkey in order to balance its geopolitical standing. Pakistan has been trying hard to become a permanent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Should its application be accepted, Pakistan will find itself in a much better position to navigate the rough seas of the Persian gulf geopolitics.

The Author is a policy critic.

Author can be reached at | aeronaut@defence.pk

This content was Published first at | Pakistan Defence