The British colonial experience in Waziristan and its applicability to current operations(Chapter 4)CHAPTER 4 Current political realities in Pakistan
To understand how the British colonial experience relates to current realities in Waziristan, it is critical to understand the overall political system in Pakistan first. A complete examination of the complex political realities in Pakistan is outside the breadth of this monograph. It is possible, however, to gain an appreciation for the factors which shape the political landscape in Pakistan by briefly examining its structure and its primary actors. To best understand the current political realities in Pakistan, one must examine the overall structure of the government, the 1999 coup, the career and influences of the current President, the conflict in Kargil, and the other actors who shape politics in Pakistan.
Pakistan is the product of the division of India following independence from the British in 1947. Pakistan currently consists of four provinces, one territory, and one capital territory.
Baluchistan, Punjab, Sindh, and the North-Western Frontier Province are the four provinces while the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Islamabad represent the territory and capital territory respectively. Pakistan has a population of approximately 157 million persons and a per capita income of $460.
Pakistan has been governed poorly. Since its independence in 1947, the country has experienced internal strife, little rule of law, high crime, corrupt leadership, and poor governance at all levels. Pakistan is a semi-authoritarian state led by a powerful executive and has been governed by the military in thirty of its fifty-seven years of existence. It also has a bi-cameral Parliament and a constitution.
The current President, Pervez Musharraf, took power via a military take over in October 1999. He removed the Nawaz Sharif government in a bloodless coup. Musharraf assumed the role of Chief Executive and continued to serve as the Chief of Army Staff and Chairman of the Joint Staff Committee. He also suspended Parliament and the constitution. He ousted Nawaz because the Prime Minister planned to arrest and eventually exile him. The coup followed eleven years of chaotic rule by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz, both put in power by democratically elected political parties. The Supreme Court in Pakistan validated the coup in May 2000 but ordered Musharraf to hold general elections within three years.
Musharraf formally became President in June 2001 and dissolved the suspended Parliament. In a suspect referendum in April 2002, Musharraf’s Presidency was extended until 2007. Parliamentary elections took place in October 2002 and a month later convened for the first time since the coup. In January 2004, Musharraf won a vote of confidence in the Parliament and four provincial assemblies.
To best understand the political realities in Pakistan, it is critical to understand Musharraf and his rise to power. His professional associations and religious orientation have significantly influenced his career progression. These factors have not only shaped his career but have an
influence on the decisions he makes today. Those decisions directly affect U.S. policy in Pakistan in general and Waziristan specifically.
Musharraf is a Mohajir, a Muslim refugee from India. He was born on August 11, 1943 in New Dehli, India. After partition, Musharraf and his family moved to Pakistan. He spent his early years in Ankara, Turkey where his father served as a Pakistani diplomat. He is a devout Muslim and reputedly a follower of Deobandism, an intellectual school of Islam founded in India and heavily subsidized by Saudi Arabia. Despite his personal faith, he rules as a secular leader.
Musharraf’s assumption of power followed a steady rise in the ranks of the Pakistani Army. He was commissioned in the artillery in 1964 and was decorated for bravery during the 1965 war against India. Musharraf served in the Special Services Group from 1967-73, during which he fought against India again in 1971. From 1973-79, he commanded multiple artillery regiments after attending the Army Command and Staff College in Quetta and the National Defence College.
Musharraf’s career ascension continued after General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq overthrew the democratically elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in July 1977 and eventually imposed martial law. Zia accused Bhutto of murdering a political opponent and hanged him in 1979. Zia, also a devout Muslim, imposed a strict Islamic program throughout Pakistan to make its laws conform with the Koran. He helped the U.S. aid the mujahideen fighting the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. Zia helped turn the nationalistic resistence in Afghanistan into a religious jihad. “From 1981 until Zia ul-Haq died, Washington committed more than $7 billion
in military and economic aid to Pakistan, and at least $2 billion in covert assistance to the Afghan mujahideen, all of it channeled through Pakistan’s powerful ISI.”51
Of the many mujahideen groups fighting in Afghanistan, Zia and the ISI strongly supported Gulbadin Hekmatyar and his party the Hizb-i-Islami. Zia supported Hekmatyar and his radical Islamic ideology to secure a policy of “strategic depth” which, “…meant to secure a friendly northern and western border as a bulwark against India – in effect, to create a client state, which, if war broke out between Pakistan and India again, the generals in Islamabad could use as a military hinterland.”52 Hekmatyar has evolved into one of the biggest threats to the U.S. supported Hamid Karzai administration in post-9/11 Afghanistan. Zia’s dual-program to Islamicise Pakistan and co-opt Afghanistan permanently embedded conservative militant Islamic elements in the political fabric of the country.
During the 1980s, Musharraf served as a staff officer in one of Zia’s district martial law administration headquarters. He purportedly gained the attention of Zia due to his devout Islamic faith and a recommendation by Jamaat-e-Islami, a conservative Islamic party. Most of his career in the 1980s is unconfirmed, but Musharraf allegedly helped train foreign Islamic militants who came to Pakistan to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. He also allegedly commanded an infantry unit that attacked Indian positions at Bilafond Pass and led a SSG unit that helped suppress a Shiite revolt in Gilgit, Pakistan.
In the 1990s, Musharraf rose through the ranks. He attended the British Royal College of Defence Studies in 1990-1. He later commanded an infantry division and served as the Director of General Military Operations (DMO) from 1993-5. He assumed command of the prestigious Strike Corps in 1995 and became the Chief of Army Staff in 1998 two days after his predecessor
51 Mary Anne Weaver. Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan. (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Grioux, 2002), 59.
52 Weaver, 79.
called for the military to take a key role in the country’s decision making process. Musharraf continued in this role even after he removed Nawaz.
The clash between Musharraf and Nawaz became inevitable after the Kargil affair in May 1999. The incident occurred after Islamic militants and Army forces, under orders from Musharraf, infiltrated the Indian side of the line of control in Kashmir. Musharraf hoped this infiltration would force India to negotiate a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in Kashmir. Indian forces counterattacked after they discovered Pakistani forces in the Kargil sector. As fighting raged along the line of control, both countries hastily built up forces along their shared 1,800-mile border. The rapid escalation of hostilities prompted worldwide fears of another full-scale war between Pakistan and India, both armed with nuclear weapons.
Fearing that the conflict could go nuclear, U.S. President Clinton personally intervened and pressured Nawaz to withdraw militants behind the line of control. Nawaz relented and ordered the Army to remove all regular and irregular forces without consulting his Chief of Army Staff. The order humiliated Musharraf who reportedly had considerable difficulty in ensuring that the Islamic militants pulled back as ordered. Not surprisingly, this withdrawal caused Musharraf to lose significant credibility with the militant Islamic elements in Pakistan. This incident ensured that either Musharraf would be removed or the Army would launch a coup – it was only a matter of which would come first.
It came as little surprise when Musharraf used Islamic militants to force the issue in Kashmir. He fled to Pakistan among the blood and chaos of the partition in 1947 and fought two unsuccessful wars against India in 1965 and 1971. Considering the fact India had hundreds of thousands of troops posted in Kashmir, the militants served as a convenient proxy force to harass an Indian military Musharraf had been at odds with all his life. The jihad against the Soviets attracted over twenty-five thousand Islamic militants to Pakistan and thousands remained in 1996, seven years after the Soviets had withdrawn from Afghanistan. Many of these foreign militants
permanently settled in the tribal areas and intermarried in the Pashtun tribes. The jihad in Kashmir further served the dual purpose of ensuring that the otherwise unoccupied Islamic militants posed less of a threat to the Pakistani government.
Like Zia in Afghanistan, Musharraf turned a nationalistic-inspired campaign inside Kashmir into a full-scale jihad. The ISI led the jihad in Kashmir in the same way it had in Afghanistan. It set up 128 camps in Pakistani controlled Kashmir and the North-West Frontier Province, primarily to train fighters in Kashmir. It controlled the supplies and sanctuaries for these fighters as well. The ISI also funded and operated camps alongside Osama Bin Ladin in Afghanistan prior to 2001.
A dozen or so private armies and militant groups in Pakistan supply the Kashmir jihad with fighters. The three main groups providing these fighters are the following: Harakat ul-Mujahideen (HUM), Jaish-e-Mohammed; and Lashkar-e-Taiba or the Army of the Pure. All these groups have direct or indirect links to Osama Bin Ladin and are on the U.S. State Department’s 2003 list of foreign terrorist organizations. The HUM is also active in Bosnia, Tajikistan, and India. It was linked to the hijacking of a commercial airliner in India in December 1999 and is also suspected of kidnapping or murdering Westerners in Pakistan during the mid-to-late 1990s.53 These groups were outlawed after September 2001, but have reemerged under different names.
Musharraf maintained close links with the ISI throughout his career in both the SSG and as the DMO. An ISI general, Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmed helped Musharraf secure his coup against Nawaz. Despite these links to the ISI, the military remains Musharraf’s most solid supporter. The Army and its generals backed Musharraf's removal of Nawaz and remain his most reliable power base. To ensure the continued support of the Army, Musharraf proposed the
53 Weaver, 271-2.
creation of a National Security Council in 2002. This entity would supersede any popularly elected civilian government and ensure that the Army remained Pakistan’s ultimate political authority.54
Despite Musharraf's overall support by the military, there is sympathy for the Islamic militants throughout the Pakistani armed forces. The Army supported the creation of the Taliban in Afghanistan and its active development by the ISI. The existence of the Taliban helped realize the Army’s goal of “strategic depth” in Afghanistan. The Army also facilitated the infiltration of Islamic militants across the line of control in 1999 in Kashmir. In May 2004, Musharraf even claimed several junior Army and Air Force officers (either motivated by religious extremism or money) had been arrested in connection with the attempts on his life in December 2003.55
In addition to the various elements within the military that have sympathies for Islamic extremism, Musharraf must contend with various separatist movements inside Pakistan. The most significant separatist movement is in Baluchistan. This province lies in western Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan and Iran. The Pakistanis have put down two major uprisings in this province, once immediately after partition and the other between 1973-7. Nearly six thousand Balochs died in the last conflict and anti-government violence persists today. In early December 2004, suspected separatist elements exploded a bomb in Quetta, the provincial capitol. The attack killed eleven, including one soldier.56 Musharraf also has to deal with separatist elements in both the Sindh province and the Pashtun tribal areas along the Afghanistan border.
Musharraf faces challenges from various political parties as well. There are many political parties in Pakistan but the Pakistan Muslim League – PML (with various factions),
54 Ibid., 215.
55 “Military Officers Were Involved in Assassination Attempt: Muaharraf.” Paktribune.com, 27 May 2004, http://www.paktribune.com/news/index.php?id=66129 (accessed 21 February 2005).
56 “Quetta bomb blast the handiwork of anti-state elements: Musharraf.” Paktribune.com, 10 December 2004, http://www.paktribune.com/news/index.php?id=86427 (accessed 21 February 2005).
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Pakistan (MMA) are the most influential parties. Although a faction of the PML supports Musharraf, another faction backs Nawaz, who is currently in exile in Saudi Arabia. Benazir Bhutto leads the PPP, although she lives in the UAE in a self-imposed exile to avoid corruption charges. The MQM is the third largest political party in Pakistan and the largest in the Sindh province while the MMA represents a coalition of Islamic religious parties. The Jamaat-e-Islami is part of the MMA.
Although the infiltration at Kargil and the assumption of power in 1999 represented significant events in Musharraf’s career, his decision to abandon the Taliban and back the U.S. in its global war on terror after September 11, 2001 is the seminal event of his life. Musharraf severed ties with the Mullah Omar-led Taliban regime, allowed the U.S. to use four Pakistani air bases to support its operation in Afghanistan, and authorized multiple U.S. governmental agencies to collect information against extremist elements inside Pakistan. Not only did this decision alienate the two major supporters of his regime (the ISI and Army) but it also put him at further odds with militant Islamic elements in Pakistan and the Middle East.
The decision to back the U.S. put Musharraf in conflict with various elements in the Army because they are resentful of U.S. policies toward Pakistan in the 1990s. The U.S. had alienated the Army because of its imposition of sanctions in 1990 due to Pakistan’s suspected development of nuclear weapons. “This meant not only the loss of $564 million of economic and military aid, but prevented the delivery of 71 F-16 fighters and spare parts for the Pakistani Air Force.”57 These sanctions especially embittered the Army after Pakistan took the great risk of
57 Ian Talbot. “Does the Army Shape Paksitan’s Foreign Policy” Jafferlot, ed. Pakistan: Nationalism without a Nation. (New Dehli: Manohar Publishers, 2002), 326.
supporting the U.S. backed mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Many Army officers felt the U.S. had abandoned Pakistan once it had served its purpose in Afghanistan.
In addition, he angered the Army and the ISI in August 1998 when it gave only a last minute notification of its Tomahawk cruise missile attacks against training camps run by Osama bin Ladin in Afghanistan. Not only were the Pakistanis insulted that they were not taken into Washington’s confidence about the attack but the missiles flew across Pakistani airspace and ended up killing five ISI officers assigned to the targeted camps. 58 The Army also resented U.S. sanctions placed after its nuclear weapons testing in 1998 and following Musharraf’s seizure of power in 1999. Although the U.S. lifted the 1998 sanctions shortly after September 11, 2001 and the remaining sanctions in 2003, distrust of the U.S. resonates among Army and ISI personnel.59 Many Army and ISI officers also resent the U.S.-led campaign, which removed the Taliban from power, consequently eliminating Pakistan’s hard earned “strategic depth” option.
Musharraf’s decision to abandon the Taliban, therefore, caused a predictable reaction by Islamic militants. Pro-Pakistani militants assaulted the Indian parliament in December 2001, prompting a New Delhi ultimatum to Musharraf to turn over militants and stop militant infiltration into Kashmir. Musharraf initially did not comply and both sides mobilized a combined million troops along their shared border in early 2002. Islamic militants also attacked an Indian Army base in Kashmir in May 2002, resulting in the deaths of thirty-four people – mostly women and children. Al-Qaeda affiliated militants unleashed attacks inside Pakistan during 2002 as well: extremists murdered journalist Daniel Pearl in January and killed five Westerners in a Islamabad church in March; and in May, a suicide car bomb killed sixteen workers, nearly all French, at a submarine construction area in Karachi. Musharraf further
58 Weaver, 33.
59 Weaver, 35. 39
enraged Islamic militants by pledging to India in May 2002 to cease infiltration across the line of control in Kashmir. This militant rage - aggrieved by the abandonment of the Taliban, the active support of the U.S. after September 11, 2001, and the pull back from Kashmir - culminated in two attempted assassination attempts against Musharraf in December 2003.
Musharraf and the Army developed the militant Islamic movement in Pakistan to serve their purposes in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Musharraf, consequently, did not easily turn his back on the movement he spent a career developing and exploiting. At great risk to his hold on power and his life, Musharraf has supported the U.S. and its war on terror. Not only has his assistance to the U.S. cost him the support of Islamic militants, but it has also alienated members of the ISI and Army, his most critical supporters.
The militant Islamic threat highlights the danger Musharraf faces. He leads a country with a disparate polity; a corrupt political system; a military and intelligence service deeply involved in politics, numerous; well-armed Islamic militants with their own agenda; multiple separatist movements; and an unfriendly nuclear-armed neighbor. All of these factors have the potential to unleash events that could remove Musharraf. Considering the fragile stability in Pakistan, the removal of Musharraf could possibly place nuclear weapons in the hands of Islamic militants or military hardliners. These two possibilities pose considerable danger to the U.S. and its allies in the South Asia.
Accordingly, with the important political foundation of Pakistan established, it is possible to put current events in Waziristan in its proper context. Following partition in 1947, the nascent Pakistani government agreed not to base troops in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. This agreement was critical to secure the loyalty of these tribes to the new Pakistan government and to discourage the creation of Pashtunistan, a movement to establish a Pashtun homeland independent of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This arrangement was tantamount to a “Modified Close Border” policy carried out by the British from 1901-23. The tribes maintained
militias to guard Pakistan’s western border but regular government troops stayed out of the tribal areas. In contrast to the British version of this policy, however, Pakistani officers did not lead tribal forces.
This policy endured until late 2001. Musharraf’s decision to abandon the Taliban and support U.S. efforts in Afghanistan after September 11, 2001, also translated into a change of policy toward the tribal areas. The Pakistan Army entered the Khyber, Kurram and North Waziristan agencies in December 2001 and May 2002. This deployment in the tribal areas represented the first time the Pakistani government had ever conducted a “Forward” policy since partition in 1947. According to press reports, the Army moved into these areas at the request of the U.S. government to check the flow of Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements fleeing from Afghanistan.60
Still, the Pakistani government did not move troops in Waziristan without first negotiating with tribal elders. In early May 2002, the Army Corps Commander in Peshawar, Lieutenant General Ali Mohammad Jan Orakzai, met with tribal leaders from North and South Waziristan. The tribal elders, “…assured the government that they would allow access to Pakistan Army and local scouts to the hitherto administratively inaccessible tribal areas and seize and hand over any suspects.”61 In exchange for their cooperation, Orakzai promised to carry out infrastructure and other development programs worth at least twenty million USD.62 Thus, to achieve its goals in Waziristan, the Pakistani Army conducted a dual program of counter-terrorism operations and civil affairs.
60 Yusufzai, Rahimullah. “Analysis: Pakistan’s army in the tribal areas.”BBC News, 25 June 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/3020552.stm (accessed 18 December 2004).
61 Khan, M. Ismail. “Army commandos deployed in Fata.”DAWN.com. 11 May 2002. http://www.dawn.com/2002/05/11/top7.htm (accessed 19 December 2004).
62 Amir, Intikhab. “Army to start patrolling in Waziristan shortly.” DAWN.com, 14 May 2002, http://www.dawn.com/2002/05/14/nat2.htm (accessed 19 December 2004). 41
The Pakistani Army, therefore, deployed approximately eight-thousand troops consisting of the following forces: three-thousand Regular Army soldiers, three-thousand Frontier Corps (paramilitary) personnel, two-thousand Army Engineers, and one hundred SSG commandos. Along with the entry of Pakistani forces, small numbers of U.S. Special Forces also conducted operations out of Miranshah, North Waziristan. The presence of U.S. forces inside tribal areas enraged Islamic militants, who controlled the provincial assembly in the North-Western Frontier Province. Protests against the presence of U.S. troops culminated after a mid-May 2002 raid against a mosque in Miranshah run by Mullah Jalaluddin Haqqani, an ISI protégé and ally of Osama bin Ladin and the Taliban. Hundreds of Pakistani Army troops assisted by dozen or so U.S. Special Forces personnel conducted the raid. After the troops withdrew, students, mullahs, and tribal chiefs congregated in Miranshah’s main square and the mullahs “…announced to everyone assembled that, from that day, they should kill Americans on sight.”63
Subsequently, reports of U.S. uniformed personnel operating in Waziristan ended after summer 2002. U.S. efforts in the tribal areas, meanwhile, transitioned primarily to interagency operations. U.S. civilian government agencies assisted the Pakistani government efforts in intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, communications, and law enforcement operations.64 The interagency not only provided the Pakistan government critical capabilities but also added
63 Weaver, 265.
64 Few specifics of U.S. government activities in Waziristan are publicly available. The author culled details of U.S. government support of the Pakistani government from open news sources. The following articles have discussed the subject:
Khan, Mohammed. "Stalled Pursuit: A Manhunt with an Escort; A Hostile Land Foils the Quest for bin Laden." NYTimes.com. 13 December 2004, http://query.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F70911F834550C708DDDAB0994DC404482 (accessed 17 April 05);
“Musharraf thrives on US support. “ BBC News. 8 December 2004,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4079559.stm (accessed 17 April 05);
“US renews commitment to Pakistan.” BBC News. 9 November 2004,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/3996479.stm (accessed 17 April 05);
“Musharraf's Bin Laden headache.” BBC News, 17 March 2004,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/3545985.stm (accessed 17 April 05).
the advantage of receiving U.S. government assistance in more discrete means than overt military operations. This subtlety provides Musharraf with some political cover from his many internal critics who claim he is forfeiting Pakistan’s sovereignty by allowing the U.S. to operate inside the tribal areas.
The Pakistani Army, along with paramilitary forces, remained in Waziristan to patrol the western border with Afghanistan. Little substantive information was reported about operations from summer 2002 to summer 2003. In October 2003, the Pakistani Army fought a fourteen-hour firefight with extremist elements in the vicinity of Angoor Adda, a small town located near the Afghanistan border in South Waziristan. Army Cobra attack helicopters bombarded enemy compounds and killed eight militants. The Army captured another eighteen militants.65 Although the Pakistani Army maintained a steady tempo of operations in Waziristan from spring 2002 to late 2003, it did not launch a major offensive until militants unsuccessfully tried to kill Musharraf twice in December 2003.
The Pakistani Army launched Operation Kaloosha II in South Waziristan in mid-March 2004 after the assassination attempts were traced back to the tribal areas.66 Over 10,000 Pakistani Army troops, accompanied by over 3,500 paramilitary personnel and supported by fighter aircraft and Cobras, swept through the western border of South Waziristan. This operation represented the largest military operation in the tribal area since partition in 1947. The major objectives of the operations were to destroy pockets of foreign militants and their tribal protectors in Azam Warsak, Kaloosha, and Shin Warsak. The targeted tribal elements were sub-sections of the Ahmedzai group of the Wazir tribe. The operation officially ended in late March and the Army stated that they had killed sixty militants, captured 163, and destroyed eighty-three militant
65 Abbas, Zaffar. “Pakistan gets tough with al-Qaeda.”BBC News, 3 October 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/3020552.stm (accessed 18 December 04).
66 Khan, Mohammad.
homes. Uzbeks, Chinese Uighur Muslims, Tajiks, Chechens, and Arab nationals were part of the foreign militants involved in the fighting.
Despite the declared success of the operation, the conflict demonstrated the limitations of the Army in the difficult terrain of the border area and the tenacity of the foreign militants and their tribal counterparts. Militants captured two political tehsildars and twelve paramilitary personnel in a convoy ambush on March 16, 2004. They released the paramilitary personnel after a tribal jirga intervened but murdered the civilian tehsildars. The Army also lost thirteen trucks, three armored personnel carriers, and four light artillery pieces in the ambush. Militants, furthermore, captured and killed eight Army soldiers after an ambush on an army convoy in Serwakai on March 22, 2004.67 Additionally, despite substantial personnel and firepower advantages, the Pakistan government lost thirty soldiers and fifteen paramilitary personnel during the operation. Nevertheless, the Army maintains its presence in Waziristan and continues to periodically clash with militants, sometimes resulting in heavy casualties.
In summary, Musharraf changed Pakistan’s long-standing policy of non-interference in tribal areas after September 11, 2001. He made this decision after U.S. officials requested his assistance to cut off the escape of militants from Afghanistan. From late 2001-fall 2004, the Paksitani government used the same carrots and sticks that the British government used in the tribal areas from 1849-1947. The Pakistanis offered incentives to cooperate by promising to develop infrastructure and offering other economic benefits. They used negative inducements as well. The Pakistani government threatened to fine, detain, dismiss from government jobs, close businesses, and destroy the homes of those individual tribesmen who sheltered foreign militants. In addition, they threatened to fine and impose reverse blockades against tribes or their sub-
67 Ali, Zulfiqar. “Operation ends in Kaloosha: Militants release 11 hostages.” DAWN.com, 29 May 2004, http://www.dawn.com/2004/03/29/top4.htm (accessed 19 December 2004).
groups as a collective punishment if they could not control the actions of their individual tribesmen. When these positive and negative measures did not produce the desired the result, the Pakistani government resorted to punitive expeditions in the form of joint paramilitary/Army operations.
Mr. Matthew W. Williams,