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Don’t expect a miracle to happen

The ignoble massacre of children and teachers in Peshawar has led to unprecedented anger and grief across the country. The state has responded by ending the moratorium on the death penalty and convicted terrorists are now being hanged. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced that the days of differentiating between the good and the bad Taliban are over. A parliamentarians’ committee is reviewing counterterrorism measures that need to be adopted. The military leadership has undertaken the diplomatic-security initiative to engage with Afghan authorities on potential action that can nab the Taliban leadership based in Afghanistan.
All these measures are important and noteworthy. The ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb is here to stay and perhaps, is likely to be extended to other areas. But the central question is, whether these tactical moves are sufficient to tackle the hydra-headed Frankenstein’s monsters that Pakistan’s flawed national security policy has created, sustained and nurtured, sometimes with outside support and on occasions totally on its own. There is a name for this Frankenstein’s monster and it is known as jihad — a narrow, self-seeking interpretation of an otherwise lofty and ethereal religious concept. The struggle embedded in jihad — according to most scholars and not semi-literate clerics — is self-improvement. Instead, this has turned into a spectator sport where private militias carry out state objectives in the region and within the land of the pure.
This trajectory is an old one. It did not happen overnight nor was it a ploy of the Unites States and other powers to get Pakistan into a royal mess. In 1948, ‘jihadis’ from the tribal regions started with the battle of Kashmir that continues to date. Conventional wars or private ‘jihad’ efforts have brought neither glory to Pakistan nor relief for the Kashmiris, most of whom are sick of India and Pakistan treating their land and rights as national fiefs. […]

Peshawar attack: Pakistan’s 9/11 moment?



Pakistan faces a challenge largely of its own creation and only political processes can correct it, argues Raza Rumi.

The attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School and the killing of more than 130 children creates a new watershed in Pakistan’s battle against terrorism.

Maligned globally as a ‘hub’ of terror, Pakistan has suffered immensely in the past decade. More than 50,000 of its civilians have been killed and over 15,000 security personnel have laid down their lives.

Pakistan’s policy choices of the past have been far from sagacious and its purported self confessed identity as an Islamic State has not helped matters. More than that it is the curse of geography that has haunted the nation.

For 30 years, it has been an active participant in Afghan wars directly and indirectly and the perceived threat from the larger neighbour India is almost an article of faith.

December 16 also marks the anniversary of the humiliation that Pakistan suffered when in 1971 East Pakistan with India’s support became independent.

In 1947 the country’s founder called the country he created s ‘moth eaten’ and ‘truncated’ and since 1971 the insecurity has only grown.

How far is that an imagined construct, how much of it is to continue to run it as a martial State has been subject of unresolved debate — yet to be resolved.

The Afghan policy of the 1980s and patronage to the Taliban movement in the 1990s is part of that insecure worldview. National security has been defined in limited terms and the reliance on non State actors to work as support system for the formal security apparatus remains a policy tenet. Yet there are signs of change.

One such shift was the decisive operation against the militants launched in June. Thus far the operation was cited as successful with the regaining of territory and eliminating militant hideouts. […]

December 18th, 2014|Extremism, Pakistan, Published in Rediff, terrorism|1 Comment

Pakistan’s Dueling Military Cultures

Ccristine fair

C. Christine Fair, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Aqil Shah, The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014).

Pakistan’s military has been in the global spotlight for several decades. Within the country, it has shaped both state and society, including arbitrating key decisions — from foreign policy to economic management. A large number of Pakistanis view it as a “guardian” of the state. Yet, scant scholarship exists on the institution itself and the roles it has played. Instead, hagiographical accounts from Pakistani authors (mostly retired military officers) and media commentary that often overlook the important questions dominate the discussion.

Two new books published in quick succession have expanded the debate and provide new insights into the workings of the Pakistani military. The first is a provocative assessment by Dr. C. Christine Fair entitled Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War and second is Aqil Shah’s in-depth study, The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan. Both books extend the scope of research by relying on the military’s own literature, and by bringing to light lesser-known dimensions of the internal norms and processes that determine its organizational culture and outlook. […]

In too deep: Afghanistan, Pakistan & the region

My piece for Himal published in March 2014..

Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan is caught in the muddled terrain of domestic political machinations and regional ambitions

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Afghanistan’s history is a turbulent one filled with civil wars, invading armies, foreign political meddling, and disputed successions. Sitting on trade routes between the Mediterranean and China, the Silk Road, and the entrance to India, it has been seen as a prize for many conquering empires. Sadly, Afghans have paid a heavy price for this curse of geography. The British Empire in the 19th century could not subjugate the territories, nor could the Soviets in the 20th. Now the US-led coalition forces, after a disastrous occupation of 12 years, plan to leave the country later this year. 2014 is not just significant for Afghanistan: it will result in regional shifts of power and a new security paradigm, with serious implications for Pakistan.

The Soviet invasion in 1979 unleashed a period of intense conflict as the US and the West responded by mobilising unprecedented resources and funnelling support to mujahideen fighters through regional proxies, most notably Pakistan. Driven by its regional ambitions and perennial fear of India, Pakistan entered the game and for a decade supported the development and oversight of a jihad industry that played on Islamist passions against the ‘infidel’ Soviets. Thus, a stream of jihadists crossed the Durand Line and found many allies to further the rise of Deobandi Islam on both sides of the border. This was a defining moment when jihad acquired a legitimacy of its own and engulfed not only Afghanistan but also Pakistan. […]

Pakistan, Taliban and Karzai

My piece for ANN (link) where I argue how Pakistan’s Prime Minister is struggling to taking charge of the country’s security policies, away from the security forces, and turning around its economy. Pakistan in real terms has no choice but to facilitate a peace process given the likelihood of more instability after 2014.


Afghan President Hamed Karzai’s visit to Pakistan has ended without concrete outcomes. However, in terms of building trust with Pakistan and negotiating the future of Afghanistan this was a significant development. The impending pullout of NATO/ISAF combat troops from Afghanistan and forthcoming presidential elections in April 2014 require the nebulous peace process to be accelerated. The Afghan government accuses Pakistan of letting the Taleban use its soil for attacks against the country and Pakistan denies this charge adding that its leverage with the Afghan Taleban is limited and exaggerated by all concerned parties.New allies? Hamed Karzai didn't visit Pakistan in one and a half years. During the trip on 26 and 27 August he met Pakistan's new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the first time. They spontaneously added another morning of talks to the agenda. This, at least, was a good sign. Photo: Borneobulletin

During the parleys between Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Karzai the issue of the Afghan Taleban’s former second-in-command Mulla Baradar and facilitating a direct contact between the Afghan Taleban and the Afghan High Peace Council must have been discussed. The press conference held by both leaders comprised statements of good intentions but avoided specific references to the issues discussed and agreements made.

Predictably, Nawaz Sharif mentioned trade and energy related matters and was upbeat about the completion of ongoing projects. The real issue – getting the Taleban on the negotiating table – was missing in the public statement. Historically, Pakistan’s regional security policy is an exclusive domain of its powerful military and premier intelligence outfit, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. While Karzai is close to completing his term and is concerned about his legacy and holding a peaceful transition, Sharif is gradually moving towards setting the institutional frameworks right. The national security committee is being revamped and Sharif is keen to take charge of the complex policy environment.


August 29th, 2013|Afghanistan, Pakistan, Politics, terrorism|3 Comments