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Internal Security Threats to Pakistan

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  • March 09, 2012
    Fellows' Seminar
    Open to all Members; others pl. contact Conference Cell

    Chairperson: Dr Ashok Behuria
    Discussants: Shri Rana Banerji and Professor Kalim Bahadur

    Topic:Internal security threats to Pakistan
    Discussants: Prof. Kalim Bahadur, Mr Rana Banerji
    Chair: Dr. Ashok Behuria
    The paper focused on the myriad threats that are challenging the internal security situation within Pakistan and the implications of the threats for the region. In discussing the above, the author widely classified the threats under the following heads: militancy in Pakistan, radicalisation in Pakistan, ethnic dissent, sectarian strife, energy shortage, paucity of water and economic downslide to be the causal factors of instability within the country.

    Beginning with militancy in Pakistan, the author stated that Pakistan was witnessing a massive spurt in violence by militant groups due to its self-defeating policy of using jihadis in War in Afghanistan during 1979-1989 and its romance with the Taliban later. The Taliban connection has radicalised Pakistani society in an irreversible manner. In recent times, Pakistan is facing an insurgency waged by a network of militants under the banner of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or Pakistani Taliban. It seeks to undermine the writ of Pakistani law and establish Sharia all over. The TTP has perpetrated hundreds of suicide attacks and justified their action as jihad against the enemies of Islam. Even investigations into recent spate of attacks like Mehran Naval Base have established TTP’s links with the Al Qaeda. That apart, suicide bombings and kidnappings have become common and preferred option for the militants as major source of funding. Most of the groups involved in such activities emanate from the tribal areas of Pakistan like Jandola, Waziristan and so on. Pakistan Army’s operations and well-coordinated drone attacks by the US agencies have not been effective. They have only led to regrouping of the militants and further radicalisation and violence. It has also led to a huge population of internally displaced people who suffer hardships that create dissent against the government.

    Next threat that the author discussed was that of radicalisation of the state. The forces of radical Islam, she held, have managed to infect the social and political fabric of Pakistan. The onward march towards extremist politics in Pakistan can be termed as Talibanisation. The type of education imparted in the Madrassas is not the only reason for rise of militancy in Pakistan. Exploitation of popular grievances against unequal social, political and economic systems by the extremists has also fueled such a marked rise in militancy. The excessive importance given by the Pakistani leadership to religious elements, especially during Zia ul Haq’s regime, has also given a fillip to such extremism where the clergy was allowed to participate in political activities. Such links nourished over time have emboldened these elements to make demands for Islamisation of the Pakistan state.

    The killings of Salman Taseer and Shahbaaz Bhatti for advocating amendments to blasphemy law are indicators of the extent of radicalistaion in the Pakistani Society and state today. The process of radicalisation has crept into the army as well although the extent of such penetration remains a matter of debate. Some of the officers supposedly have links with religious groups like Tabhlighi Jamat, even as its activities are banned in the garrisons. The author concluded that the political parties and civil society groups have failed to take on these radical elements because they are either sympathetic towards them or afraid of raising their voice, and thus militancy in the name of religion will have broader support base in the country in times to come.

    Another issue that impinges on internal situation in Pakistan is that of the rise of nationalist movements demanding autonomy or independence on the basis of their ethnic identities. Insurgency in Balochistan is the most important example here. Balochistan has been wrecked by insurgency for more than six decades. The grievances of Baloch population have been that they were made to forcibly accede to Pakistan and subjected to colonisation by the Pakistani state, which has exploited all their natural resources and treated them as second class citizens. The Baloch insurgents have routinely carried out attacks on gas pipelines, railway lines, other critical infrastructure and military establishments. The government in Islamabad has always used heavy force to quell the movement over the year leading to total alienation of the people there. However, the recent US congressional hearing on Balochistan has stirred up unease in Pakistan over the issue. That apart, dissent has been reported over renaming of the erstwhile North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by the non-Pashtuns of the region like the Hazaras who want a separate province for themselves. Similar instances of demand for separate province have been reported from Karachi, FATA, and Sindh etc. Also demand for creation of a separate Seraiki province within Punjab has made its way into parliamentary debates. Seraiki activists have been demanding creation of new province for themselves comprising 17distritcs in south western Punjab. However, these demands are proving a continuous challenge for the government and a major hindrance to development and resource distribution. All these unrests have the potential to turn into secessionist movements, unless they are addressed well.

    On the other hand, sectarian strife has also engulfed the country. There is a major strife between the Shias and the Sunnis. Pakistan being s Sunni majority country, minority sects have been at the receiving end for a long time. In the 1950s, there was a nationwide movement against the Ahmadiyas, by both the Sunnis and the Shias, which resulted in their being declared as non-Muslims in 1974. Since the Shi’ite revolution in Iran in 1979, the Sunnis of Pakistan have trained their guns on the Shias. Zia’s Islamisation drive also accentuated the divide between these groups during this period. The Talibanisation process has now resulted in violence between different Sunni groups like the Deobandis and the Barelvis. Suicide bombings in Barelvi places of worship are quite regular these days. The growing sectarian violence in Pakistan casts a dark shadow on the future of Pakistan.

    The last three of threats mentioned by the author centred on energy, water and economic downslide which have the potential to become bigger threats if they are not tackled with care. All of them are interlinked in many ways. Energy crisis for last few years has had its impact on Pakistani economy and triggered mass unrest throughout the country.

    Water has also become another source of concern in Pakistan. Pakistan, being a water stressed country, is going to face water scarcity due to high growth in population. Since large amount of water has been diverted upstream to Punjab, the rivers have dried up in downstream Sindh. This in turn has affected the agricultural sector. The thinning of Himalayan glaciers due to global warming has affected water flow in the Indus basin. Division of river water on an ad hoc basis to favour the requirements of Punjab has also resulted in smaller provinces of Pakistan accusing it of monopolizing a crucial resource. Water related issues, like floods and poor availability, are increasingly being discussed in Pakistan as instances of Indian insensitivity towards Pakistani needs. There is a conscious effort in Pakistan to brand India as a country determined to turn Pakistan into a desert. This is likely to have repercussions for India-Pakistan relations.

    Lastly economic downslide has hit Pakistan in a major way since the GDP has declined to 2.4 per cent. There has been significant growth in the service sector compared to the agricultural sector which proves the rural-urban divide in Pakistan. Insurgency and terrorism have also taken its toll on the economy with general investment climate in the country going down. Even recent floods have affected Pakistani economy massively.

    The scholar concluded the paper by stating implications of all the above for Pakistan and India, which were:

    Rate of radicalization amongst the youth will go up if not provided access to better and modern education system. Pakistan’s relations with India will acquire a new dimension with Pakistan accusing India of water scarcity in the country. Several sections in Pakistan hold that India has denied Pakistan its legitimate share of water under the Indus Water Treaty. This has become a fresh irritant in Indo-Pak relations. Presently, India and Pakistan are agreeing to better trade relations, however, this could be affected by the anti-India rhetoric being peddled by right wing elements in Pakistan who are raising the water bogey and arguing against any rapprochement with India. Also elements within the Pakistani establishment committed to destabilize India and take Kashmir away by force could ratchet up tensions with India.

    That author argued that despite pressures from the US to desist from Iran gas pipeline, Pakistan is likely to follow an independent policy on the issue and go ahead with the deal.

    The major points that emerged from the discussion were;

    1. Apart from the madrassa system of education, the secular system of education in Pakistan is equally to be blamed for the rising radicalization and this needs to be studied.
    2. The failure of the government in handling the extremist elements needs to be studied more.
    3. Role of Islam should have been in an entirely different section.
    4. Centrality of India as the primary enemy needs to be factored in the discussion along with relations with US and the endgame in Afghanistan.
    5. Implications needed more in-depth analysis and study.
    6. Issue of sectarian strife is an important issue which needs to be mentioned in more detail.

    Report prepared by Anwesha Ray Chaudhuri, Research Assistant.