Pakistan’s security issues require imaginative approach
Last week, Pakistan lost ten soldiers, including an officer, when non-state actors operating from Afghanistan launched two separate cross-border attacks to target security personnel. The attacks were among the most ferocious ones in the last few months, resulting in significant loss of life within a span of a few hours.
In one incident that occurred in North Waziristan’s border area of Shawal, terrorists attacked Pakistan’s security personnel patrolling the area, killing six of them. In another attack that happened in Balochistan’s Mekran region, three soldiers and an officer of the Frontier Corps were martyred.
The twin attacks may not necessarily be linked, but one coming hard on the heels of another caused deep concern among Pakistani authorities.
The attack in the tribal district of North Waziristan may have been provoked by two factors. First, the peaceful election recently held in the tribal areas irked some people on both sides of the border. To show their anger, a brutal attack was launched, resulting in the death of soldiers guarding the frontier. Second, the border fencing has caused deep resentment among the tribes since it has led to an almost complete severance of relations between relatives living on both sides of the border. In their anger at being cut off from friends and relatives, desperate hooligans may be tempted to target both Pakistani installations and security forces whenever they are able to muster support for such incursions.
The attack that was launched in Mekran area may have been instigated and sponsored by elements of the Baloch Liberation Army who have risen in rebellion against the state. The militant outfit has been demanding more autonomy in the restive Balochistan province for several years and is allegedly being helped clandestinely by Indian and Afghan intelligence networks.
The Baloch insurgency is a reality. It has ominous implications not only for border security but also for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the flagship project of Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” program
Rustom Shah Mohammad
Regardless of the which group or faction is involved in the bloody attacks that target innocent soldiers and citizens along the border, however, there are some indisputable facts which deserve close attention.
The Afghan government bears responsibility for such groups operating in their territory that cause loss of life and property every now and then. The argument that the Afghan government does not have control over most of the border areas would not be acceptable, though it may have substantial authenticity. Secondly, the US and NATO forces bear definite responsibility because they are in control of the Afghan airspace and have deployments on the ground.
The assailants also wanted to convey an impression to the world that the situation on the border remained precarious and was far from stable.
The grim situation calls for renewed efforts to pursue the peace negotiations that are currently underway in Doha, Qatar. The hand of Daesh in the attacks cannot be ruled out. But only an inclusive government that has Taliban as a component can deal decisively with the menace of Daesh and with other issues threatening security, such as drugs, terror outfits and non-state actors who roam about freely in a country where government control has vanished particularly in the rural areas.
While it is imperative to take adequate security measures on the Pakistani side of the border, there is also a need to establish institutionalized contact with Afghan and NATO forces. Such contacts can result in periodic flag meeting for exchanging information, discussing joint operations, reporting movement of terrorists and analyzing reports of informers etc.
The Baloch insurgency is also a reality. It has ominous prospects not only in the terms of border security but also in relation to the viability of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the flagship project of Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” program. CPEC is Pakistan’s lifeline that must be protected.
Along with taking wider steps to prevent and counter such attacks, Islamabad must begin earnest endeavors to address the deep grievances of Baloch nationalists. There has to be a long term and permanent settlement of the issue before it gets out of control. Mere use of force against these elements will not yield results since it is not going to annihilate the movement or its sponsors. Any movement that has roots in the masses, for whatever reasons, has to be dealt with politically. That is the only approach that can deliver a lasting solution to the decades-old problem.