Col. Imam’s Murder a Time of Reckoning for Pakistani Strategic Thinkers
January 28, 2011
Time and again it is argued, albeit erroneously, that the current lot of Pakistani militant groups especially the Pakistani Taliban are erstwhile allies of Pakistani security establishment. These erstwhile proxies of the state have turned their backs to their former masters when Pakistani government led by the former military ruler General (R) Pervez Musharraf turned tide and joined hands with America in its war against terror. It has also been argued repeatedly that the old friends became foes since Pakistani security establishment brought America’s war in its remote tribal lands. However, the kidnappings and subsequent killings of former Inter Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) officials Khalid Khawaja and Col. (R) Imam have falsified this philosophy. It has proved all those activists whose favorite hobby is US bashing and blaming it for every evil, does not hold ground any more.
This has been established now that a new crop of Pakistani militants has emerged, which is more violent and less conducive to political solutions than their predecessors. This new generation of post 9/11 Pakistani terrorists is not the proxy of Pakistani state. Moreover what started, quintessentially as America’s war has now metamorphosed as a war of Pakistan’s own survival?
Col (R) Imam was reportedly killed by his kidnappers over non-payment of the demanded ransom, of Rs, 4-5 million in North Waziristan Agency. He was known as the ‘godfather of the Taliban.’ It is pertinent to mention that former ISI operative who was abducted along with a British journalist of Pakistani origin Asad Qureshi and Khalid Khawaja. Usman Punjabi who was killed, in an internal dispute had been accused of masterminding the kidnapping the three travelers. Several attempts made by many influential figures in Afghan Taliban failed to convince the captors to release Col (R) Imam. Their requests of mediation were not acknolidged and no body took responsibility of having them in their custody. The endless circular dialogues and broadcast of several of his video messages, in which he had requested assistance for his release, fell in vain.
Such events compellingly depict that agenda of these groups is separate from the movement of Afghan Taliban. Afghan Taliban has kept their movement restricted to Afghanistan and they portray themselves as local resistant struggle against the US occupation forces in Afghanistan. On the other hand, recent videos and messages of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) depict that now they increasingly talk about issues of Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Bosnia and Chechnya. These transnational ambitions are closer to Al-Qaeda espoused global agenda. Interestingly these video tapes and messages have been broadcasted by Al-Sahab, the official media wing of Al-Qaeda.
It is more than clear that 2011 is going to be deciding time for the future of war on terror both in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas. The momentum has fully shifted to Pakistan’s tribal areas which is visible in close operational as well as ideological affinity of TTP and Al-Qaeda. So the future of anti-terror campaign is directly linked with the future strategy of Pakistani security forces against militants networks based in its tribal areas. The repeated pressure from U.S. to launch a military operation in North Waziristan agency is an extension of the new strategic calculus which is gradually being unfolded by Pentagon in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal area.
Without reining into these militant networks the threat of militancy will further grow in Pakistan during 2011 and subsequently the levels of violence can substantially increase. The ongoing counter-militancy campaign, unlike Operation Rah-e-Rast conducted in Malakand Division, has failed to accomplish the required results. Though operation Rah-e-Nijat has dislodged the militants from their strong bastions in tribal areas but it has not succeeded in fully dismantling these outfits. In fact this operation has dispersed and not eliminated the militants who keep coming to areas declared clear from militants’ presence by the security forces. Counter-military strategy in the tribal area needs a revisit and reorientation in line with emerging new regional security dynamics. Col Imam’s murder should bring home a point to security managers of the country that days of concepts like strategic depth are over. The sooner this realization dawns upon us the better it is for the peace and security of the country.