By Asif Haroon Raja .
Of late newspapers of the world are splashing stories about the possibility of Mumbai-style group attacks in major cites of Europe. A week has passed, but this threat is still in the news. This undue hype is giving rise to several queries. It is being asked, why don’t the world intelligence agencies get alerted when every now and then such alarm bells are sounded in Pakistan, many of which proved correct? Why no concern was expressed when several Mumbai-style attacks were launched in Pakistan in 2009?
They say that what is so new and startling about hazy news of possible Mumbai-type attacks in Europe when the US and its western partners have deliberately spread flames of terrorism all over the world because of barbaric acts against Afghanistan and Iraq on unproven and fake charges? They ask that having massacred over 1.6 million mostly innocent Muslims, destroyed their homes rendered them homeless and stateless and provocatively mocked and undermined Islam, why should the west still expect that they should be respected and obeyed by the aggrieved? Many view illegal occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and killing its people as the biggest form of terrorism. They inquire as to why to pretend innocent when hands of the US-NATO military are drenched in blood; why fear retaliation when they have incessantly stoked flames of terrorism for the last nine years despite advises and admonishments by many from all quarters of the world to put an end to this madness?
It is argued that the victims of aggression hounded day and night, and none prepared to address their genuine grievances are in a way justified to hit back at their oppressors whenever and wherever opportunity comes their way rather then getting quietly slaughtered like lambs. Why shouldn’t the militants have the right to strike back in defence? In this battle between terrorists and counter terrorists both view the other guilty and are drawing blood. Both are acting savagely. So the big question posed is that what is the difference between the two when both are merciless and unforgiving? The situation becomes all the more complex when no plausible definition of terrorism has so far been given. A so-called terrorist may be a hero for the other. All terrorists of today were heroes of yester-years. This complexity has been compounded when thin line between a freedom fighter and a terrorist was obliterated and former declared as a terrorist. Is it very wrong to say that two terrorist outfits are battling with each other?
The security forces and intelligence agencies of the world are operating in unison to defeat terrorism and are enjoying huge advantage over the terrorists. So why the crib if terrorist outfits do the same act of marrying up? In a fair contest, each side has the right to chalk out its own strategy and make changes in fighting tactics to gain an edge over the other. So what is so new and innovative about group attacks in urban centres? In Mumbai, ten terrorists had taken the cosmopolitan city hostage for 72 hours and had paralyzed the whole state machinery. In contrast, several group attacks of similar nature were tackled within no time by Pakistan security forces.
Judging from response actions of India and Pakistan, it can be concluded that there is nothing spectacular or fearsome about group attacks by a bunch of terrorists, but it was the pathetic response of Indian security forces which made Mumbai-style attacks so dreadful. Western patrons of India admit that latter’s response was painfully slow. Pakistan having effectively dealt with series of Mumbai-style group attacks in Lahore and Rawalpindi including an attack on GHQ has forgotten them and is fully poised to take on future threats with fortitude without bawling. Pakistan knows that all attacks were masterminded by RAW but it has not made any hue and cry nor has asked the world to help save Pakistan from future RAW sponsored attacks.
If India has not got out of fear psychosis after lapse of two years, it doesn’t mean that Mumbai-style attacks should be sensationalized and quoted out of context that something extraordinary had happened. Indian leaders are imagining frightful scenarios based on illusions and in their bid to suppress their fear they are warning Pakistan that any repeat action of Mumbai attacks in future will evoke very strong retaliatory action against Pakistan. Similar threat was hurled by US leaders in the wake of Times Square failed attempt. Both seem to have exchanged notes and are on the same page in this regard. The scare story is now being spread to Europe.
While Al-Qaeda is actively operating from several bases against US imperialism and has its main base in Arabian Peninsula as reported by US-western media, Al-Qaeda allegedly stationed in North Waziristan (NW) is being accused of planning to conduct Mumbai-style attacks in major cities of France, Britain and Germany. One is tempted to ask as to why Al-Qaeda based in Arabian Peninsula being next door not planning to attack European targets rather than traversing such a long distance from remote NW? Obviously, the real target is Pakistan and not Al-Qaeda. All these concoctions are being cooked up to maximize pressure on Pakistan and force it to launch a full-fledged operation in NW.
Gen David Petraeus is not picking up courage to mount an offensive in Kandahar since he doesn’t want to face another failure after Helmand fiasco. Now that the whole responsibility has come on his shoulders, he doesn’t want to be booted out unceremoniously as in the case of Gen McChrystal. As a cover up, he has convinced higher military and civilian leadership in Washington that neutralization of NW in a preliminary operation is vital for the success of Kandahar operation. In the face of Gen Kayani’s defiance, he threatened that in case Pak troops failed to take action, his troops will be constrained to step into FATA. When an ally starts threatening an ally, it implies things have gone real bad. Frederick Kagan, one of the architects of surge in Iraq in 2007 is now concentrating on Pakistan for dismantlement of al-Qaeda network. Hersh Symov alerted Pakistan about US designs.
The US is caught up in a catch-22 situation. Its pressure is not working on Pakistan to open another front in NW. Low state of morale of coalition troops and ANA is not conducive for colliding with Taliban in their heartland in Kandahar. Without wresting the initiative from Taliban in southern and eastern Afghanistan, there is no way that the Taliban would agree to come to the negotiating table on US terms. In sheer frustration, the US military has intensified drone attacks on NW. Since start of September, hardly a day has passed without a drone strike on suspected targets, hoping that it would trigger people’s revolt and thus force Pak Army to use excessive force recklessly against all militant groups including pro-Pakistan groups’ like Gul Bahadar and Haqqani networks.
The US has once again restarted playing its old tunes that Pak Army is unable or unwilling to confront Al-Qaeda. The US may have been justified in passing this judgment had the performance of its military in Afghanistan been above average. Making an objective comparative assessment of the two sides, all fingers are pointing at USA and not at Pakistan. The US must first put its own house in order before commenting upon others.
The writer is a defence and security analyst.