Counter-Terrorism: How To Motivate Voters

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March 14, 2012:  Pakistan’s all-powerful army Generals have come up with a plan to use terrorists and terror groups they control to influence key elections. The leaders of this effort are two terrorists (Hafiz Saeed and Malik Ishaq) that have thrived on the patronage of the Pakistan Army and its intelligence agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Saeed, accused of masterminding the Mumbai 2008 attack (160 dead), is not only free but is also organizing and running political campaigns across Pakistan. Saeed does not operate in some remote hideout but in the heart of Pakistan's major cities, where he and his minions have managed to gather enough followers to be of some consequence in the scheme of things planned by ISI.

In the three years since the Mumbai attack, Saeed and his group have managed to expand and deepen their hold over Pakistan’s society. Although Saeed’s main terrorist training camp in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir was taken over by the military, he was able to quickly relocate to a nearby location where the ISI got him a big plot of land and enough money to create a new training camp linked to the outside world with a road carved out of a mountain using ISI cash. Such generosity also enabled Saeed to open new training camps in the tribal territories and strengthen his network in Punjab and Sindh (where most Pakistanis live). Saeed, in short, could not have survived, let alone prospered, after the global pressure on Pakistan to clamp down on the terrorist group following the Mumbai attack without support from the Pakistan Army.

In any other country, Saeed would have faced the gallows by now but in Pakistan the army has other uses for him and his group. Today Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Saeed are the only loyal and reliable proxies for the army’s dubious games within and outside Pakistan. As Afghanistan is coming to some kind of climax, the ISI’s only firm terrorist ally is LeT. The Haqqanis and Hekmatyrs are allies of convenience and have shown a propensity to have a mind of their own when the army wanted them to do its bidding. In any case, both are Afghans and Pushtuns and will always be skeptical of Pakistanis. The best bet for the army therefore is to have Punjabi groups whom they can rely on in times of need. Saeed and his group, LeT, have always been loyal and are also a key link to Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi masters. Now LeT is being brought to the political scene to create confusion and leverage the outcome of the political turmoil currently raging in Pakistan, which incidentally has been created by the army by floating the fake memo.

The game is simple and devious. LeT with its own network of schools, teachers, charities, relief workers, fund raisers, affiliates, associates, and sympathizers, most of them in Punjab, can play a useful role for the army during the elections. Punjab holds the key to Pakistani politics and LeT with its wide network and support base can be an ally for any political movement. The LeT will be able not only to cut down on the support base of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) but also make the work of the opposition party Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PMLN) difficult, thereby giving the Army’s allies a better chance of gaining control of the government.

Similarly, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) can also be used to terrorize voters to stay away on election day in areas where the army is not popular.

The army supports these terrorist groups to gain more control in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Whether such terrorist activities will destroy Pakistan itself is not a factor which the army and its Generals are particularly worried about. For them, the interests of the army have always mattered more than that of the country or its people. – Rajeev Sharma

 


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