Security analyst Saad Muhammad, who recently retired as a Brigadier from the Pakistan Army, served as Pakistan’s defence attache to Kabul between 2003 and 2006. He is a staunch advocate of peace between the Pukhtuns and non-Pukhtuns living in Afghanistan and an informed observer of the security situation in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
On May 19, 2012, Herald asked him to hold a live blog where people could pose their questions about clashes in North Waziristan. The blog has been edited for space, clarity and grammar.
5:10 Comment from Raza Wazir. It is now an established fact that NW is home to the deadly Haqqani Network and Al Qaeda fighters who have conducted several attacks in Afghanistan. Given that why do the Pakistani media and authorities only deal with the threat of militancy when its own personnel are attacked?
5:13 Brigadier Saad Muhammad. The other militant groups that operate out of North Waziristan serve the foreign policy objectives of Pakistan. Therefore these groups are given protection by the state of Pakistan. The media is either disinterested or simply do not have access to the lawless areas
5:14 Comment from Jehanzib. Are the Pakistani security agencies implicitly for or against the tribal militants on the whole? On one hand they seem to supporting and using the Haqqanis as a tool and at the same time they are under threat from a related string of militants. Is this an intentional policy or are they just confused?
5:19 Brigadier Saad Muhammad. The army looks at the militants as good or bad Taliban. Those who focus on Afghanistan are the good ones and those who carry out attacks on Pakistani security forces or installations are the bad ones. Now particularly in the case of North Waziristan a full fledged military operation would not be able to distinguish between the good and the bad Taliban therefore it has been put on the hold till such time the Afghan end game becomes clearer
5:20 Comment from Nasi. Actually I think that our rulers do not understand what their nation is like. Why do some people support this militancy and some are against?
5:24 Brigadier Saad Muhammad. The right wing political parties have a pan Islamist agenda. The same as being professed by the Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The slogans of America being against Islam are meant for the ignorant people of the country.
5:24 Comment From Sikandar Orakzai. There are better ways to take care of the purported “infiltration” like patrolling, mining, and fencing instead of drone terror and military operations which could only create more that would fight intruders on to their homeland. Do you agree?
5:30 Brigadier Saad Muhammad. The solution to the Afghan problem is through negotiations. While Pakistan’s problems are internal and have to be dealt with by paradigm shift in policy that means no more proxy wars. Become a welfare state than a security state. On the Afghan border there is no way you can stop movement. And also you would be violating the Durand line agreement which gives easement rights to people living within five miles of the border.
5:30 Comment From MO. Can any military operation in NW or any other part of the country be successful without the full support of the Pakistani people? Instead of it being ridiculed as something to “appease the US” by the Pakistani people? Would you say the Pakistani population is in denial and not in touch with the gravity and reality of the current situation?
5:36 Brigadier Saad Muhammad. Per se no military operation especially counter insurgency cannot succeed without popular support. Having said that it is the duty of the government to explain the reasons for any military operation and win over the hearts and minds of the people also the other facets of counter insurgency operation must also be take care of e.g. political, economic, social and spy operations. I would agree that most of our people are in a state of denial.
5:36 Comment From GTM. Is the Pakistan Army again not engaged in becoming the “spoiler” in Afghanistan, because it is obsessed by India, and by its own delusions of its place in the universe?
5:41 Brigadier Saad Muhammad. I would agree that the foreign policy objectives that we have set for ourselves are beyond the capability of our national power. Our policy is therefore flawed as we look at every issue through the Indian prism policies are based on SWOT factors i.e. strengths weaknesses opportunities and threats.
5:41 Comment From SHM. How prepared is the Afghan police to handle the security situation once the US and ISAF troops pull out from Afghanistan?
5:47 Brigadier Saad Muhammad. The afghan national security forces lack the capacity to defeat the insurgency on their own. If a foreign military force which is highly trained and backed up by force multipliers cannot cope with the objective environment, I wonder how the Afghan forces which lack air cover would be able to handle the situation on their own. Even the cost effect of maintaining these forces i.e. four billion dollars are as yet to be available. The current Afghan GDP is 10 billion dollars
5:47 Comment from Mikal. Is the area that constitutes North Waziristan and South Waziristan an area that can be controlled permanently? Is it viable for a local police presence to be established and eventually handed control of the area? And is it an area that can be governed without military involvement?
5:52 Brigadier Saad Muhammad. We have failed to evolve a policy for integration of FATA into the mainstream Pakistan. The FATA reforms committee recommendations have not been implemented because of objections by the security establishment. The integration of FATA has to be an evolutionary process keeping in view the local customs and traditions of the people.
5:52 Comment from Iftekhar. How is Karachi going to be affected by NW?
5:57 Brigadier Saad Muhammad. Karachi is a different ball game. Having said that it is affected by the lawlessness in FATA becauseKarachi has a large Pushtun population and also the displaced persons tend to migrate to Karachi for obvious reasons.Karachi is also an area from where the terrorists can obtain funding through criminal activities.
5:58 Comment From Iftekhar. Was it a mistake to recognize / keep the status of FATA as we got it in 1947?
6:01 Brigadier Saad Muhammad. It was certainly a huge error of judgement to ignore FATA for 64 years. The successive governments lacked the will, wisdom and vision to foresee the problem that we were creating for ourselves. Someone falters and posterity suffers.
6:02 Comment From Raza Wazir. Why are we so obsessed with Indian presence in Afghanistan? Why is Pakistan not allowing Indians to fund development projects in Afghanistan?
6:13 Brigadier Saad Muhammad.India is upto mischief inAfghanistan. However we need not be worried. We should have confidence in ourselves. If we only stop dictating foreign policy to Afghanistan they cannot ignore us or be unfriendly. They trade through Pakistan, get educated here get medical treatment here and enjoy living here too. So what’s the problem?
6:14 Comment From Iftekhar. But urban politics in Karachi is reactionary, how has it has prepared itself to keep that NW factor in check?
6:16 Brigadier Saad Muhammad. I have already replied to this.Karachi is far more complex than being affected by Waziristan alone. I have served in Karachi for 7 long years (1993-1999). It will require another sitting to discuss Karachi.
6:17 Comment From SHM. How influential is the Haqqani network in Pakistan and Afghanistan?
6:20 Brigadier Saad Muhammad. The Haqqani network has no interest in Pakistan. It uses it as a sanctuary and training area. InAfghanistan it operates in the provinces of Paktia, Paktika, Logar, Khowst and has the ability to hit Kabul city every now and then.
6:20 Comment From Awais Lodhi. What concrete steps is the US taking to remove the genuine threats that emanate from Afghanistan towards Pakistan i.e. the Indian presence in Afghanistan, the Pakhtunistan issue, drug smuggling, northern alliance and much more?
6:25 Brigadier Saad Muhammad. The Americans have over-militarized the counter insurgency efforts with no emphasis on the other facets. The Americans are of the view that if Pakistan is not making efforts to control the movement of insurgents into Afghanistan why should they do vice-versa. Regarding the Pakhtunistan issue it is more of a mythPakistan needs to ignore it, it simply does not exists.
6:25 Comment From Aqin Ansari. Why can’t Pakistan army with its huge force and sophisticated weaponry control the insurgency?
6:30 Brigadier Saad Muhammad. It is very difficult to control such a huge insurgency. The Pakistan Army is already stretched to the limit, also, the military instrument is one facet of counter insurgency. Our political government lacks the capacity and intellect to understand this. To eradicate this menace requires a comprehensive and integrated counter terrorism/insurgency policy. At the moment we have none.
6:32 Brigadier Saad Muhammad. The time for the live session is now over. Thank you for joining in.