Brazenly Open: Pakistan Army-Islamists Nexus

December 4, 2017 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army


With concerted efforts by the Pakistani military to radicalize the population at large, their handling of the recent protests is hardly surprising. 10 persons were killed and more than 250 injured in clashes in Pakistan as the army and security forces cracked down on Islamist protestors blocking the highway between Islamabad and Rawalpindi for more than three weeks demanding the resignation of Zahid Hamid, Law Minister. Some 2000 protestors from Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan (ST) had been successfully blocking the Islamabad Expressway and Murree Road that connects Islamabad with its only airport and the garrison city of Rawalpindi demanding resignation of law minister Zahid Hamid for changes made in Khatm-i-Nabuwwat or finality of Prophet Muhammad in the Elections Act 2017 passed in September. The protests later spread from Islamabad to Karachi, Lahore, Hyderabad, Gujrat, Faislabad and Peshawar.

Pakistani Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa talked to PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi urging peaceful solution to the problem. Then came the visuals of Pakistani Major General Azhar Navid Hayat, Director General of Punjab Rangers distributing 1000 each to every protester, and endearing them by saying, "Hum Aapke Saath Hain"; implying Pakistani Army is with the Islamists". Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah chief, later revealed that it was the army which ensured the government met the protesters' terms; saying, "They (Pakistani army) told us they will get all of our demands accepted." Zahid Hamid, law minister has resigned but the Pakistani public is appalled by the manner in which the country, particularly the army caved in. The sight of a major general in uniform pleading with the Islamists would have been particularly galling especially after all the hype that the ISPR has been building up to prop up the Army's image.

Now, the daughter of a prominent Pakistani politician slammed her country's army, using strong words, in a video talk she uploaded on Twitter, which soon mysteriously disappeared along with her Twitter account, reported Pakistani media. Imaan Mazari, daughter of Shirren Mazari, member of national assembly of Pakistan and chief whip for Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf. In her video, Imaan said, "Shame on the army. Because Pakistan Army only understands language used by terrorists like Khadim Hussain Rizvi, we should also use the same language and send message to army. Such force should be condemned for funding people who have always tried to promote terrorism in Islamabad and the rest of Pakistan. I condemn the army who disrespects our martyrs (who laid their lives for fighting against terrorism)". Imaan also alleged that the Pakistani "army funds terrorists" in the country, saying, "The army funds terrorists for making people's lives a hell. I again condemn the army as they still don't understand that supporting terrorism is destroying this country. Pakistan community has now become effigy on the hands of terrorists. They discuss, accept terrorists demand. Is this our country, our community? This force has destroyed this country." Her mother, Shireen Mazari as Director General of Pakistan's Institute of Strategic Studies, Shireen Mazari along with Lt Gen Javed Hassan, Commandant, National Defence College, Pakistan attended the Regional Conference on Security held in Bangladesh in 2001, where both propagated low intensity conflict, guerilla warfare and indirect intervention as more viable options of modern day - including using psychological warfare, terror and subversion. Just two years back, Shireen was propagating that the Taliban should build the capability to strike beyond the borders of Afghanistan; to interdict the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) linking Iran-Central-Asia and beyond. General John Nicholson, heading US and NATO Forces in Afghanistan stated last month on November 28 that he has not seen a change in Pakistan's support for militants so far. Earlier this year, he had pointedly stated that the Taliban and Haqqani Network leaders enjoyed "freedom of actions" in safe havens in Pakistan. Handling of the recent protests in Pakistan was clearly capitulation by the civilian authorities under pressure from the military. There were lukewarm comments by the Trump administration in saying, "We have seen unhelpful relationships between the military and some of the hardline Islamist parties. We are observing what happened and what role was played by the military? There is concern that the way these protests ended in a way has emboldened extremism and extremists in Pakistan." The fact remains that the military rules Pakistan (whether directly or indirectly) and is inexorably linked with the Islamists.

As far back as 2007, the SAS had killed a Taliban commander in Helmand province of Afghanistan - identified Pakistani military officer by the identity card found on his body.. In 2016, Afghan security forces killed Pakistan General Nida Mohammad, head of Taliban's military branch for the Provinces of Faryab, Badghis, Sar-e-Pul and Ghor in northern Afghanistan. With Pakistan having trained three Mujahid battalions in 2012-2013 to operate covertly in conjunction Taliban, Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan is perhaps at par, if not more, of the weak division supporting Taliban during the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan. The Pakistani military is presently engaged in propping up the likes of Hafiz Saeed on the political stage. With Hafiz Saeed announcing he intends to contest the next general elections in Pakistan, China will be thrilled if Saeed gets elected as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. With radicalized Pakistani military already in its pocket, China can then threaten the US and its allies through rogue Pakistan far more dangerously than through North Korea. How all this will affect Pakistan and what will be the western response to these developments is ambiguous at present.

The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author.