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Can China learn from Pakistan’s counterinsurgency operations?

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Syed Ali Hadi |

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an international organization (IO) which is the initiative of China’s foreign policy in the 21st century. SCO came into existence in 1996 initially with five member states, which accounts for China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Russia. Back then, it was known as Shanghai Five which subsequently became a complete independent organization in 2001 with the addition of Uzbekistan. Its charter was adopted in 2002 and started executing its function in 2003 officially. Its main focused areas are political, economic and military cooperation.

http://eng.sectsco.org/about_sco/

Having said that, SCO established one of its Secretariats called Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) in 2004. The Secretariat is premised on the basic principle of SCO charter that talks about three evils to fight; terrorism, extremism and separatism. 

The backbone of terrorism in terms of their funds and infrastructure has been destroyed to a greater extent. Around 4000 terrorists have been killed since 2014 and around 20,000 have been arrested so far.

Lately, Pakistan and India have become full members of the organization in 2017. Prior to that, both had an observer status. Since 9/11 Pakistan has been in the limelight of War against Terrorism (WoT) and since then Pakistan is considered as a non-NATO ally in this war. Being a frontline partner and giving most of the sacrifices provides numerous lessons to SCO and it’s RATS structure to combat three evils of terrorism, extremism, and separatism.

Read more: Map of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Projects

The security forces of Pakistan have conducted minor as well as major operations to fight militant groups in its tribal areas as part of its counter-terrorism strategy. Since 9/11 till 2012, Pakistan army has conducted 735 minor and 251 major operations in the war against terrorism.

This equips Pakistan with comprehensive battle-field experience in fighting against terrorism and extremism. The nature of counter-insurgency operations was quite different during the first and second decade of the 21st century. The first decade saw many sporadic operations followed by numerous peace accords that did not last long.   

Operation Al-Mizan (Justice) in 2002 comprise of several small operations, which took place in South Waziristan by 70,000 to 80,000 troops in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). A 13-day cordon and search operation to clear 36 km of the west of WANA which came under the direct control of terrorists. The leader of the terrorists got killed in the operation.

The Secretariat is premised on the basic principle of SCO charter that talks about three evils to fight; terrorism, extremism and separatism. 

Operation Silence in 2007 was conducted in response to increasing extremist activities inside the mosque in Islamabad. The writ of government challenged but radicals were flushed out of the mosque and writ of the state was once again established. Operation of Rah-e-Haq (Path of Truth) was also known as the first battle of Swat, a city of KPK province in 2007. It was followed by the second phase (Rah-e-Rast) and third phase. More than 52,000 regular troops were deployed including fighter jets, helicopters, and artillery as well as infantry to fight 1200 or more militants in total in all the phases.

Read more: China stands with Pakistan amid rising pressure from the US

The Radio transmission for imparting extremist ideology was destroyed and army captured all major strategic locations including hilltops and Swat River. 4000 square mile got cleared which was also a symbol of pride and international tourism.

The militant leader Fazlullah along with his 45 militants died while engaging in heavy combat against 4 Pakistani soldiers. International help also came when the migration issued was faced due to the said operation. UNICEF came to help the migrants for establishing refugee camps in addition to Chinese Luo Zhaohui assistance of $1 million, which eventually rose to $5.4 million for the IDPs.

http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/history/PDF-FILES/17-Paper_53_2_16.pdf

http://www.issi.org.pk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/1339999992_58398784.pdf

Finally came the decisive operation in 2014, Operation Zarb-e-Azb along with ongoing Rad-ul-Fasad and the conclusion of Operation Khyber IV. The backbone of terrorism in terms of their funds and infrastructure has been destroyed to a greater extent. Around 4000 terrorists have been killed since 2014 and around 20,000 have been arrested so far.

Operation Silence in 2007 was conducted in response to increasing extremist activities inside the mosque in Islamabad.

To curb the extremism as terrorism together a National Action Plan (NAP) was crafted which deals with the comprehensive strategy to overcome extremism, which causes the terrorist to take weapons against the writ of the state. As of yet, almost 90 percent of the terrorist activities and their infrastructure have been destroyed.

http://pakobserver.net/pakistans-counter-terrorism-efforts/

All the aforementioned operation conducted by the Pakistan Army and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) are a clear manifestation of the fact that Pakistan is one of the only countries in the world to have successfully waged the counterinsurgency operations against terrorism and extremism. So it is the high time when there are terror-related issues in Central Asia and the issues of separateness in Xinjiang in China, the experience of Pakistan’s armed forces in counter-terrorism can greatly help this organization.

Read more: Is Pakistan China’s darling?

More and more joint military exercises can be conducted under the auspicious of RATS in order to improve the efficiency of the forces of member states. They can also learn the strategies and tactics on how to overcome the threat of terrorism.

The author is a research scholar at National Defense University. He is done with his Master’s degree program in Strategic Studies. Formerly, he has done his summer internship program in Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media branch of Pakistan Army. He is an avid reader of international politics. His prime interest lies in the Cyber Warfare. For multilateral frameworks, he focuses on international organization of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). In addition, the author has a keen eye for the Asia-Pacific politics. Besides this, the writer is interested in the movie industry of Pakistan.


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