• Sunday, February 23, 2020

Operation ‘Radd-ul-Fasaad’: Pakistan’s resolve to fight terror from within

Discussion in 'Strategic & Foreign Affairs' started by Banglar Bir, Aug 22, 2017.

  1. Banglar Bir

    Banglar Bir SENIOR MEMBER

    Mar 19, 2006
    +1 / 3,847 / -4
    Operation ‘Radd-ul-Fasaad’: Pakistan’s resolve to fight terror from within
    Salman Rafi, August 22, 2017[​IMG]
    ‘War on terror’ is a globally contested terminology, one that not only lacks a universal definition but also implies different things in different contexts; for, one man’s terrorist is usually another man’s freedom fighter. This is particularly evident from the way Russian and American interests have clashed in Syria with regard to which group(s) to be considered as ‘terrorists’ and which as ‘rebels.’ Apart from the Middle East, this absence of a mutually accepted definition is conspicuous in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region as well, where both Pakistan and the US, as also Afghanistan, have consistently failed, ever since the beginning of global ‘war on terror’, to come to terms on ‘terrorism.’ For the US, the Afghan Taliban is perhaps the only terror group worthy of Pakistan’s attention. Pakistan, of course, has a different policy perspective on Afghanistan and has consistently advocated a negotiated end of the war. What this position implies is that Pakistan does not consider the Afghan Taliban as ‘terrorists’, but as political actors, waging militant struggle, to resist foreign occupation—hence; Pakistan’s rift with the US.

    But Pakistan has its own anti-terror perspective, which has an obvious tilt towards wiping out the home-grown terror networks, networks that include both the Taliban groups and other jihadi elements, networks which Pakistan believe are supported by Pakistan’s neighbours in its east and west. It is, however, particularly the former who Pakistan has particularly targeted over the last one decade or so through its various operations. A latest manifestation of Pakistan’s resolve to eliminate terror from within is operation ‘Radd ul Fassad’ (RuF) roughly translated as elimination of evil, which was launched in the aftermath of a series of terror attacks, particularly the attack on a shrine early in 2017 in Sindh that killed almost 88 people and injured hundreds of others.

    Operation RuF was not only a continuation of earlier operations, but also saw Pakistan’s civil and military authorities turning their attention to terror groups based in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province. It was perhaps the first operation of its kind that was launched on such a large scale, covering the whole country.

    The operation was designed as a continuation of Pakistan’s by then largely defunct National Action Plan (NAP) and was meant to involve not only elimination of terror hideouts in Urban centers but also set massive de-weaponization as one of its central objectives.

    An important hall mark of this operation was its emphasis on targeting all terror groups rather indiscriminately. This emphasis was meant to have both regional and global implications. Regionally, it was directed towards answering Indian and Afghan accusations of selective targeting, and globally it was meant to serve a message to the US and its European allies about a potential shift in Pakistan towards a more focused anti-terror approach.

    The element of indiscriminate targeting was given a spin through massive search operations launched in Punjab. In February, only a few days after the official launch of this operation, the military’s public relations wing, Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) issued a press release stating that Punjab Rangers had conducted over 200 search operations in different areas of Punjab, killing 4 terrorists and apprehending few Afghans.

    Apart from it, numerous joint operations have since then been conducted by Punjab Rangers, police and intelligence agencies, recovering huge stockpiles of weapons and ammunitions and suicide jackets. Since the launch of Operation RuF, the army has launched 46 major operations in the country and over 9,000 intelligence-based operations.

    Ever since then, the operation has expanded as well. A recent expansion was the launch of Operation Khyber-4, an explicit purpose of which was to wipe out terrorism in “the most critical area in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas”.

    While Pakistan has seemingly ‘done its best’ to fight terrorism, this success has not endeared it to the US or vice versa. Despite the success, the US has withheld $50 million of the coalition support fund. A central reason for withholding this fund was, the US Defence Secretary told the US Congress, that the US didn’t believe that Pakistan had taken sufficient action the (Pakistan based) Haqqani network.

    The rift has, however, not been bridged. In fact, it is widening. This is evident from the way the US has added the Kashmiri separatist group Hizbul Mujahideen to its blacklist of terrorist organisations. While this has nothing to do with Pakistan directly, this decision does emphatically show how the US is gradually drifting towards an Indian view of the terrorism in the region, a view that projects Pakistan as a villain, not as one of the biggest victims of terrorism. This has caused disappointment in Pakistan.

    To Pakistan’s dismay—and despite its successes in the operation RuF, followed by some high profile visits of US military officials who were briefed about this success—the US president has reportedly decided to cut off their military ties with Pakistan, believing that it is Pakistan’s particualr role in Afghanistan that has really caused immense damage to the US war cause and is contributing to their defeat.

    According to a latest report, the US president, in his desperate search for a winning strategy in Afghanistan wants to cut off all military aid to Pakistan. “That’s part of the strategy,” the official quoted in the report has said. “The president thinks we’re being ripped off by Pakistan,” the administration official said. “He’s just pissed about this. The DoD view is it is a troubled relationship, but we need logistics”, he added further.

    Pakistan, of course, does not see eye to eye with the US on this. In response to intense criticism coming from the US officials, Pakistan’s Army Chief was reported to have said that Pakistan was not looking for payments for its role, but recognition of its role in the global “war on terror.”

    While Pakistan wants the world to recognize the role it has played and sacrifices it has made in combating terrorism, there is still no gainsaying that one thing that has particularly allowed countries like the US and India to accuse Pakistan for not doing enough is Pakistan’s own ambivalent and not clearly defined approach to terror groups—something that then allows the otherwise ‘banned’ outfits to operate under different names.

    This is quite obvious to any observer of Pakistan’s socio-political landscape. A number of examples can be given where banned groups have turned into political parties and are fully functional. For instance, Pakistan has been keeping Hafiz Saeed, the head of Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) since January 30, 2017. While JuD was banded in November 2015 as part of NAP, the organization had started to operate as Tehreek-e-Azadi Jammu and Kashmir (TAJK). And while TAJK was again banned quietly almost 2 months ago, the JuD has now converted itself into a political party and is going by the name of Milli (national) Muslim League. The party’s operation capacity can be gauged from the fact that it has decided to contest a by-election in Lahore and its candidate has filed its nomination papers.

    While there is nothing that prevents groups from creating their own political space in a given society, there is equally no gainsaying that such developments do more damage to Pakistan than provide benefits.

    While there is no denying the fact that a very meaningful change in Pakistan has occurred with regard to how it views such groups, Pakistan does need to work out a clear definition of terrorism and execute it both militarily and politically. This has to be coordinated among all state actors and institutes. According to one prominent politician, who belongs to Awami National Party (ANP), one important reason for why Pakistan continues to face terrorism every now and then is the clear absence of civilian element and “civilian oversight” in the fight on terror—something that then causes problems like banned parties operating under different names.

    Apart from other things, what this absence and recurrent terror attacks show is that terrorism and radicalization cannot be defeated through, in the words of ANP leader, “kinetic actions” alone. This partly explains why Pakistan has to launch one operation after another.

    Unless this is done, Pakistan’s internal “war on terror” would continue to have both internal and external implications.

    Pakistan can manage internal implications by implementing in letter and spirit an indiscriminate anti-terror policy.

    It can manage external implications by making the US realize its core interests in Afghanistan and the region. While Pakistan may not be interested in opening a front against the Afghan Taliban, it can certainly play its role in ending the war by facilitating negotiations.

    The US, on other hand, need also realize that it cannot hope to “win” the war after 16 years have passed. Therefore, instead of finding a scapegoat in Pakistan, it needs to focus on finding a solution out of the mess it has caused in the region.

    For that, appropriating Pakistan seems a better choice than isolating it by squarely placing blame. The US must understand that Pakistan has been forced into fighting its own war on terror and until this is done, Pakistan will remain reluctant to wage a war on Afghan Taliban for the US.