I was watching Talat Hussain’s show from Dec 4 and I found this brief clip interesting:
The interesting part was that all four individuals on the show acknowledged that the militant groups responsible for the attack are homegrown and long-established. But Gen. Amjad Shoaib (the first speaker) and Brig. Samson Simon Sharaf focus on the idea that these homegrown and long-established groups have been infiltrated by foreign agencies. Gen. Shoaib talks about the expansion of the CIA budget and how this indicates the “real war is being fought between intelligence agencies” using these terrorist groups as proxies. By contrast AVM Shahzad Chaudhry tries to talk a bit about the difference between extremism and terrorism and makes the point that extremism has become a fact of life in Pakistani culture and results in terrorism in our cities. So the fight against terrorism will take much longer (on the scale of 10+ years) than the current insurgency in FATA which may be defeated in a few weeks. Talat Hussain is quite dismissive of this – he says “this is long term” and then immediately goes on to his pet hobbyhorse, the claim that Pakistan and the people of Pakistan are all in a state of war but questions whether the government is in a state of war or even realizes there is a war going on.
After the break there is a clip of Rehman Malik saying that TTP has taken responsibility for most attacks in NWFP and so have Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba. According to Talat, it’s not that we have to discover the groups which are carrying out the attacks since we already know the groups that are carrying out. This is where Brig. Samson Sharaf enters with a theory that is quite fascinating. His idea is that we have to trace these groups “in reverse order” and we will arrive at the “root” of the problem. It’s really interesting because it’s not like he has any trouble openly acknowledging that the terrorist groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba were “prepared” by Pakistan to counter the Iranian threat and that they attacked Shias in Imambargahs and carried out various attacks mainly in cities. But this is where it gets really weird. He claims that it is only in the Pashtun areas where there is a “resistance to foreign powers” (I take that to mean that it’s only in the Pashtun areas where he feels the insurgency has any kind of legitimacy) In the rest of the country, however, we have these banned groups (originally “prepared” to counter the Iranian threat) that have now been somehow flipped against the Pakistani state via “international linkages”. He gives the example of the Indian Airlines plane hijacking in 1999 after which several militants including Maulana Masood Azhar and Omar Saeed Sheikh was released. According to him he made a lot of noise at the time of their release because he was concerned that people like Omar Saeed Sheikh (who was at one point an Mi6 agent) would potentially have been turned during their time in India and would double cross Pakistan. (By the way I remember that Gen. Musharraf has also described his suspicions regarding Omar Saeed Shaikh being a CIA agent in his book _In the Line of Fire_. )
The fascinating thing is that at the time of their release I am sure that it would have been very difficult to imagine that Maulana Masood Azhar and Omar Saeed Shaikh were working against the Pakistani interests. I am sure Brig. Sharaf would have described Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Muhammad as having also been “prepared” for the purposes of countering the Indian threat. It was only when the individuals turned on the state that analysts like Sharaf and Shoaib and Talat Hussain immediately went from the idea of them being “prepared” assets (which they are quite comfortable with) to being double agents with nefarious international agendas.
I just don’t know what to make of this. First of all, all of them are completely comfortable ignoring the ideological basis of the terrorism against Pakistan. They are not interested in discussing the fact that the groups have any ideological grievances with the Pakistani state’s involvement in the war on terror. They basically talk about the terrorists like they are robots – “prepared” for a particular job and which have now been reprogrammed. Talat Hussain dismisses Shahzad Chaudhry’s talk about having to deal with extremism in society as too “long term” for his immediate interest since we are at war. Basically, none of the three seem to consider extremism in society as a threat at all except for the fact that their “assets” have somehow fallen into the wrong hands. Since they see the entire situation as a complex chess game between various international agencies there is no time to even consider why these groups are attacking Pakistan. This makes one understand that some of the source of Talat Hussain’s frustration with the current government regarding its non-seriousness in acknowledging that “we are at war” is not simply related to its inefficiency in handling the domestic security situation but it’s inadequate acknowledgement of the “reality” of the war (i.e. that it’s a proxy war being fought with the CIA, RAW and Afghan Intelligence).