Pakistan: The turmoil within The government counter-insurgency policy lacks cohesion

SINCE his re-election in May 2013, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has struggled to cope with the rising tide of internal instability in Pakistan. Pakistan's half-hearted fight against the remnants of al-Qaida and the home-grown Taliban like the TTP and the TNSM, fissiparous tendencies in Baluchistan, continuing radical extremism in the urban areas like Karachi, creeping Talibanisation in the heartland and the floundering economy are symptomatic of the nation's gradual slide towards becoming a 'failed state'. 
Despite facing the grave danger of a possible collapse of the state, the Pakistan government's counter-insurgency policy lacks cohesion. The latest manifestation of the lack of will is the commencement of a peace dialogue with the Taliban, even though the Taliban are willing to talk only on the assumption that the introduction of Sharia will replace democracy in Pakistan. The latest attempt at peace-making is contrary to the wishes of the Pakistan army.
Hurt by a series of Taliban successes in “liberating” tribal areas and under pressure from the Americans to deliver in the “war on terror”, in the initial stages the Pakistan army had employed massive firepower to stem the rot. Fighter aircraft, helicopter gunships and heavy artillery were liberally employed to destroy suspected terrorist hideouts. This heavy-handed firepower-based approach without simultaneous infantry operations failed to dislodge the militants but caused large-scale collateral damage and served to alienate the tribal population. Major reverses had led to panic reactions, including the hurried negotiation of “peace accords” that were invariably broken by the militants. 
On September 5, 2006, the government of Pakistan had signed a "peace accord" with the tribal leaders in the North Waziristan town of Miranshah. The salient points of this rather surprising agreement included the following: the government agrees to stop air and ground attacks against militants in Waziristan; militants are to cease cross-border movement into and out of Afghanistan; foreigners (understood to mean foreign jihadists) in North Waziristan will have to leave Pakistan but "those who cannot leave will be allowed to live peacefully, respecting the law of the land and the agreement"; area check-points and border patrols will be manned by a tribal force and the Pakistan army will withdraw from control points; no parallel administration will be established in the area; the government agrees to follow local customs and traditions in resolving issues; the tribal leaders will ensure that no one attacks law-enforcement personnel or damages state property; tribesmen will not carry heavy weapons, but small arms will be allowed; militants will not enter agencies adjacent to North Waziristan; both sides will return any captured weapons, vehicles, and communication devices; the government will release captured militants and will not arrest them again; and, the government will pay compensation for property damaged and deaths of innocent civilians in the area. 
The terms of the Miranshah peace accord were humiliating for a proud professional force to swallow. The accord is reported to have led to the payment of large amounts of money for “damaged property” — sums that went indirectly to the militants. The US and its NATO allies were taken completely by surprise by the accord that allowed the militants to make peace with the Pakistan army and gave them the freedom to use the NWFP and FATA areas close to the Afghan border as safe havens to attack the US and NATO forces. The militants soon broke the cease-fire as well as the peace accord. In October 2007, the Pakistan Government entered into a peace agreement with the terrorists in the Swat Valley as militancy there was spinning out of control. This accord too did not last long. All these accords clearly showed that the Pakistan army and the Musharraf-led government of the day had no clear strategy to counter the growing menace of Taliban-al Qaida insurgency in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa (NWFP) and FATA.
Soon after he became Prime Minister again, Nawaz Sharif adopted a new counter-terrorism policy. Titled National Counter-Terrorism and Extremism Policy 2013, it focuses on eliminating terrorist networks through counter-insurgency operations based on accurate intelligence, in coordination with the police and the prosecution of captured terrorists. According to the Express Tribune, “the five-layered counter-terror policy seeks to dismantle, contain, prevent, educate and re-integrate.” “The policy “calls for building the police capacity and following up on the military action in an extremist bastion with a broad strategy focused on development work and economic revival.”
The new policy calls for periodic re-assessment of the terror threat by the National Counter-Terrorism Authority, measures to plug sources of funding and better management of the western border to prevent the ingress of militants. The policy proposes to review education in Pakistan, including the madrassa system. Re-integration and the rehabilitation of captured and surrendered militants is also part of the new policy. All of this is unexceptionable, but the policy appears to have been discarded in favour of appeasement and attempts are once again under way to broker peace.
It has now been reported that the Taliban Shura has finalised a 15-point agenda for talks with the government. The major demands of the Taliban include the imposition of Sharia law in courts, the withdrawal of the army from the tribal areas and handing over control over them to the local forces, the withdrawal of criminal charges and the release of Taliban and foreign fighters from jails, suspension of Pakistan's relations with the US, halting of US drone attacks, compensation for the loss of life and damage to property in drone attacks, job offers for the families of drone attack victims and the introduction of an Islamic system of education in schools.
It is now well understood that governance, development and security are three ends of the counter-insurgency triangle and all must proceed in close synchronisation for a counter-insurgency campaign to be waged effectively. Unless the Pakistan Government adopts a comprehensive national-level approach on fighting the Taliban and allied groups that are threatening the cohesion of the state, the eventual break-up of Pakistan may become inevitable — with disastrous consequences for the region.
The writer is a Delhi-based strategic analyst.