Moeed Pirzada |
After Feb 13th attack on protesting chemists outside Punjab Assembly, the predominant view in Pakistan has been that India is responsible for this attack. And most commentators have described it as an attempt to derail the expected PSL (Pakistan Super League Matches) in Lahore. Can India’s strategic design to continuously box Pakistan inside the epithet of “Epicenter of Terrorism” be so easily defined?
Explosion in Lhr in front of Punjab assembly.While appeasement to India policy continues by NS,Doval sabotaged holding of PSL final in Lhr
— Ghazi (@BasitShuja) February 13, 2017
A faction of TTP – Al Ahrar – claimed responsibility – but most Pakistanis see TTP operating from sanctuaries inside Afghanistan as merely a front end for Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies.
Were protesting chemists the target?
Michael Kugelman, a well respected analyst in Washington, has asked a very relevant question.
— Michael Kugelman (@MichaelKugelman) February 13, 2017
But the problem is that even Kugelman and all western experts will find it difficult to explain, convincingly, why would TTP or Al-Ahrar, decide to attack poor chemists of Lahore?
Problem is that even Kugelman and all western experts will find it difficult to explain, convincingly, why would TTP or Al-Ahrar, decide to attack poor chemists of Lahore?
The apparent explanation given by Al-Ahrar on a website, available in Urdu, that it is its determination to attack and kill the infidels (“murtads”; who have reneged on Islam) is as feigned and phoney as it could get. One has to have feet on the ground to understand that these bogus explanations are hastily crafted to provide a narrative to feed on, and sustain, an international narrative on Islamist terrorism.
What is the international narrative?
No denying that Pakistani intelligence agencies supported groups like LeT/JuD, and other Kashmiri Jihadi outfits, albeit more openly in the past than now, that attacked targets inside the Indian controlled Kashmir.
International narrative – that principally originated from India – is that Pakistan is both the epicenter of terror export in the region; and its also a victim of the blow back effect from the terror outfits that operate freely within its boundaries. This narrative, promoted by all sides – including Musharraf Govt – in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 may have had some element of truth then. But this narrative has outlived its utility – unfortunately its western proponents have never examined its obvious weaknesses.
No denying that Pakistani intelligence agencies supported groups like LeT/JuD, and other Kashmiri Jihadi outfits, albeit more openly in the past than now, that attacked targets inside the Indian controlled Kashmir. But the groups – like TTP and its ever new offshoots under different names – attacking Pakistani public, institutions, commercial interests and strategic assets are not the same. From the choice of their targets, their pattern of operating and their sanctuaries – first in border areas and now inside Afghanistan- it is obvious that their “masters” are elsewhere.
The latest attack occurred as around 400-500 chemists were protesting nearby against a new regulatory law. However, all circumstantial history points out that chemists were just the guinea pigs in a larger scheme of things. They became targets because they provided an easy target for the elements who needed to create impact in Lahore. It could have been anyone anywhere in Lahore; attackers needed “impact”.
Suicide Attacker: Does it matter?
After the blast the usual official practice of claiming that it was a suicide attacker which is often a clumsy way of saying, by police and political authorities in Pakistan, that: “it was not possible to defend against it”. For many liberal commentators and most in the west this is a proof that attackers were ideological; who else will blow himself up to kill others?
This, however, negates all the research in Pakistan that proves that “suicide bombers” are mere zombies; isolated, brainwashed and trained to die over a period of months and are sometimes sold or exchanged in a market like any other “product”.
Tragedy of Pakistani Police?
Police that looks strong and tyrannical to village farmers, poor in Pakistan and all those raising voices against a sitting regime is the most hapless and helpless victim of such terrorist attacks as demonstrated again today. Apart from three senior officers, it also lost two commandos of Elite Force and many more are injured.
Conspiracy to derail PSL matches in Lahore?
Commentators on social media quickly suggested that the blast was meant to derail plans to hold the highly-anticipated final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Lahore.
Lahore blast and PSL final to be held in Lahore….
Can you connect the dots????
— Saadia Afzaal (@SaadiaAfzaal) February 13, 2017
Research in Pakistan proves that “suicide bombers” are mere zombies; isolated, brainwashed and trained to die over a period of months and are sometimes sold or exchanged in a market like any other “product”
But there is no dearth of others – official mainstream commentators – who will call these speculations as “conspiracy theories”. What is a conspiracy theory and what is not itself is a huge debate. Before the end of Iraq war, in April 2003, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were mainstream truth. Even today western commentators call all those ‘conspiracy theorists’ who believe that Bush and Blair and their administrations had will fully planned a war that destroyed middle east; official version is still that London and Washington were lead towards war by faulty intelligence.
The second edition of the annual T20 tournament – like the first – is ongoing in the United Arab Emirates due to security concerns, but apparently, after the recent military crackdown on extremism, officials were confident enough to pick Gaddafi Stadium to host the final – but let’s hold on this theory for a while.
Pakistan’s Orwellian Tragedy: Animal Farm?
Blasts and tragic deaths were followed – like an Orwellian routine from George Orwell’s Animal Farm – with meaningless empty statements of condemnation from those in the highest offices who are actually responsible for decision making to make people safe.
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has very strongly condemned the blast that occurred at Charing Cross Lahore.
— PML(N) (@pmln_org) February 13, 2017
Statements of Condemnation & Bravado?
Condemnations are then followed by equally pathetic statements of bravado from those who feel completely secure and out of reach of the terrorists. Because several layers of most expensive security apparatus, paid by taxes of poor people, protects them.
Pakistan is a classic dark comedy of a nation of countless cerebral pygmies where politicians earn browny points for issuing statements of condemnation and sometimes blame others for not doing that – as if condemning an event makes a difference. Condemnations are then followed by equally pathetic statements of bravado from those who feel completely secure and out of reach of the terrorists. Because several layers of most expensive security apparatus, paid by taxes of poor people, protects them.
Such cowardly acts cannot deter the resolve of the Nation to stand against terrorism and our govt is committed to root out this menace: PM
— PML(N) (@pmln_org) February 13, 2017
Intelligence Agencies: We had warned?
And then there were usual claims from some quarters – intelligence agencies – that they had already alerted the concerned government departments that an attack is imminent. Later we will find out that such intelligence was vague, generalized and certainly not “actionable”. These kinds of intelligence claims are little better than my analytical warnings through television programs and twitter that Indian intelligence agencies and their proxies will plan series of events to focus attention on Pakistan both as a terror sponsoring nation and as an epicenter of terror while a new Trump Administration is settling down in Washington and developing its world view and priorities.
Intelligence Agencies: Story of continuous Failure?
The 24/7 surveillance, and state backed hackings through proxies, of cell phones, land lines, emails, social media chat sites, is used purely for political purposes for and against a ruling set up.
Have Pakistani intelligence agencies ever averted major terrorist attacks? While claims are there, but overall historical data does not support those claims. Since 9/11, Pakistani people, institutions and strategic assets have suffered hundreds of attacks and the intensity only reduced when Pakistani troops physically penetrated, cleared and held the border areas – commonly called sanctuaries – from where such attacks were planned. There is scant evidence, if any, that Pakistani civil and military intelligence agencies were able to penetrate, disable, unearth or dismantle terror networks through data collection, surveillance and intelligent dot connecting.
No wonder, despite being under attack continuously for more than 10 years, Pakistani agencies have not been able to offer and sell a broad interconnected picture to the world.
Pakistani Intelligence: Misdirected priorities & targets
Intelligence set up consuming expensive state resources against such soft stationary targets – political opposition & media – gradually loses its abilities against hard mobile targets that exhibit smart counter-strategies.
Ironically, a signifiant proportion of human (HUMINT) & technical resources (TECHINT) of both civilian and military intelligence agencies are spent on monitoring opposition politicians, media, (journalists like myself) business executives, untrustworthy politicians in the government, top civil servants and so on. The 24/7 surveillance, and state backed hackings through proxies, of cell phones, land lines, emails, social media chat sites, is used purely for political purposes for and against a ruling set up. Intelligence set up consuming expensive state resources against such soft stationary targets – political opposition & media – gradually loses its abilities against hard mobile targets that exhibit smart counter-strategies.
Intelligence Agencies: Chasing Blasphemy vs terrorists?
The recent abductions of few activists referred to as “bloggers” for want of a better definition is a classic example of what intelligence agencies can do or are capable off. That sordid episode – whose actual reasons and details are not understood – was commonly blamed on military linked agencies but civilian agencies are busy in similar antics on other fronts.
Fighting hard core terrorists: Skill deficits
Fighting a genuine intelligence lead war against the hard, well planned, equipped and financed anti-sate elements, supported by regional agencies and their proxies does not appear to figure highly on the priorities of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and their political masters in Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi. (Three main centers of power in Pakistan) – all patriotic claims and nationalistic jingoism not withstanding.
Huge resources are spent on developing “low quality propaganda assets” that occupy large space on print, electronic and cyber media and are used from time to time for witch hunt – like in case of blaming blasphemy on activists. Mental death has reached a level that no one asked: Since when is defending against blasphemy the responsibility of prized intelligence agencies?
PMLN Social Media Team: Another waste of resources
PMLN Social Media team, rabidly controlled from high offices, is yet another example of such waste of national resources. Bottom line is that Pakistan’s intelligence set up – be it MI, ISI or IB etc – is totally misdirected and thus incapable of fighting the multi-dimensional proxy war which other regional powers – mainly India in the East and Afghan agency, NDS, in the west – have imposed upon it. Regional agencies don’t have to directly sign, approve and control every act of terrorism; this is another confusion of Pakistani mind that every act of violence has to be individually sanctioned – so another meaningless debate follows. But whereas common people can be forgiven for their ignorance; failure of Pakistan’s intelligence and government agencies is grotesque.
What is terrorism?
What is terrorism? Terrorism is only a new name for strategic communication through violent means. Every bomb blast or volley of shots – suicide bomber that dies or the fedayeen that escape – is a message from some quarter. This is how the world of conflict has been for the past several thousand years, even when there was no TNT. However there are several elements in Pakistani media and civil society that, after every act of terrorism, discuss it as a local affair, an act of religious hatred or result of sectarian feelings etc, followed by condemnation of madrassas and obscurantism of mullahs and so on.
Mullahs, sectarians & terrorism?
No denying that such ugly issues do exist; but the kind of terrorism which Pakistan has faced since 9/11 exhibited clear strategic goals. Master minds have definitely employed everything – raid mullahs, TTP, Baluch grievances, Shia Sunni, Pashtun vs Mohajir, hurt feelings of Lal Masjid and so on – but the diversity of their methods and tools or assets should not confuse any rational mind from seeing the larger pattern – the bigger picture.
Failure of Liberal Intelligentsia?
Failure of the intelligence agencies is matched equally by those who are considered “Pakistani Intelligentsia” Whereas the intelligence agencies have been incompetent and politicized and have failed in developing the required precise nuts and bolts of counter-intelligence for counter-terrorsm (or CT), the mainstream intelligentsia (with traditional hold on narrative shaping) has not been able to develop a bigger picture of what’s happening.
Their class arrogance, power grab, desire to align themselves with the global narrative on Islamist violence and historical reactions towards religion – as a result of earlier bad experiences of 1980’s – precluded their thinking abilities and they have kept the debate on narrow ideological issues. They have also protected their turf by declaring anyone who disagrees with their ideas or analyses as “conspiracy theorist”. Result is that few prominent commentators in Islamabad are totally disconnected from the mass of Pakistani thinking. But no denying: there certainly are serious ideological issues in a country where a court finds it fit to ban celebrations of Valentine’s Day.
— Moeed Pirzada (@MoeedNj) February 13, 2017
However while Pakistan’s ideological issues, mental backwardness of conservative elite and anti-modernistic mind set of majority of the population are all huge impediments in terms of moving forward and becoming a part of the world; these issues are not responsible for terrorism.
All libtard thug who propagate this #ValentinesDay vulgarity in pak shud buy their daughters some Condoms fst 2 help them avoid miscarriage!
— Mehreen Sibtain (@Mehreen_Sibtain) February 12, 2017
Lahore Terrorism: Pakistan, epicenter of terrorism
What happened in Lahore on Mon, Feb 13, is part of the same broader strategic conflict that state of Pakistan finds itself embroiled with India and Afghanistan – since 9/11.
Players, agents, proxies, intermediaries, messengers, claimants, faces, events and victims keep changing but from attacks on Faisal and Mehran Bases, Kamra air base, ISI headquarters, police academies in Lahore or Quetta, parks and schools to Army Pubic School on 16th December, to assassinations in Karachi this master mind has been looking for an impact, an accumulated effect to destabilize Pakistan, to demoralize its citizens, to impose business and sporting isolation on it and to remind the world outside that Pakistan is both the epicenter of terror and unstable, ungovernable because of inner violent conflict. Add to this: goal to shape Pakistani politics in a desired direction.
Proxies follow a broad script, a general direction; and that is why no court, jury or government can ever conclusively link them with their masters
Regional agencies, as mentioned above, don’t have to directly sign, approve and control every act of terrorism; this is another confusion of Pakistani mind – and many in media – that every act of violence by a proxy has to be individually authored, scrutinized and sanctioned by its master. Proxies follow a broad script, a general direction; and that is why no court, jury or government can ever conclusively link them with their masters. When governments – like in India – offer irrefutable proofs to media; they are often creating and fabricating evidences to shape a narrative for the public and the world. Pakistani agencies have miserably failed in this area as well.
Indians have intelligently played various elements of Pakistani system against each other – for instance Dawn Leaks. This is a new ability developed in the past few years.
And despite all counter moves by Pakistani institutions – mainly Pakistan Army – and governments the narrative – of Pakistan being epicenter of terror & ungovernable – remains unaltered. Whatever dents Zarb-e-Azb made in this narrative are a loss to the strategic mind set. And as I have pointed out repeatedly in my programs on Dunya News, taking over of Trump administration, with a radically different world view, in Washington is a moment of great transition – this was an opportunity for Pakistan, which it has almost lost by now.
Pakistan: Lost the Trump moment?
Trump emergence had suddenly broken the inertia of past eight years. And its vitally important for the Indian strategic community and agencies to keep the narrative of “terror sponsoring & internally unstable Pakistan” alive. And thanks to Pakistani incompetence, civil military divide, political insecurities of Nawaz government and its reliance upon Indian factor to counterbalance and politically control Pakistan Army have all helped Indian strategic mind set.
Indian Penetration into Pakistani System?
Indians have intelligently played various elements of Pakistani system against each other – for instance Dawn Leaks. This is a new ability developed in the past few years. Pakistani failures are multiplied due to weak educational system, collapsing national institutions and therefore an inability to grasp the importance of “narrative shaping”. Indian intelligence setup, its foreign policy community, its think tanks and media are far more tuned to the world than their Pakistani counter-parts.
Pakistan: Not Innocent either?
Insiders will argue that this strategic conflict is older and 9/11 merely heightened the faultiness. When recently conservative TV Anchor, Bill O Reilly, called Putin a killer in front of Trump, he retorted by arguing that America has not been innocent either. That was politically most incorrect but factually true. An analyst, like myself, has more freedom than a president; Pakistan too has not been innocent and Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies are doing what we have been doing ourselves inside their territories.
Is India taking revenge?
But this is not merely vengeance. This strategic communication is not tit for tat; its not settling scores; it has futuristic goals. Its not merely a reaction; anyone considering it a reaction will inevitably conclude that if Pakistanis stop doing something for instance political meddling in Kashmir then India will respond in kind and things will stabilize. This seem to be the view created by PMLN top leaders and quiet possibly Nawaz Sharif may actually be believing in it. However this is not going to happen; Nawaz government has no idea how to deal with all this. India’s strategic calculus is simply beyond them.
Not War, Not Peace?
A recent book by two US scholars – Not War, Not Peace? by George Perkovich and Toby Dalton- though written from an Indian prism; as to what India needs to do to rein in Pakistani terrorism and interventions becomes a must read for all Pakistani decision makers.
My take: Pakistan needs real negotiations, behind the scene talks with India and other powers and help from United States, China and Russia and its own strategic communication. Will it be able to do it? Recent history does not offer much promise. I am sorry for being an “analyst” and not a “lobbyist”.
Moeed Pirzada is prominent TV Anchor & commentator; he studied international relations at Columbia Univ, New York and law at London School of Economics. Twitter: MoeedNj. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.