Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan is fast forwarding to a successful conclusion. After annihilating the safe havens and operational bases of Hafiz Gul Bahadur Group, Punjabi Taliban and the Haqqani Network in Mirali, Miranshah, Datta Khel and Hassu Khel areas, Pakistan Army is busy in wiping out terrorist elements through a valiant and vigorous military campaign in mountainous terrain of Shawal valley. Pak Army is making supreme sacrifices in this operation and ranks and files of our security forces are marching toward the accomplishment of their mission to safeguard the life and property of their compatriots and to make the country’s defence impregnable. Words fall short to praise the zeal and zest as well as the professional capabilities that Pakistan Army has exhibited in this campaign. The credit of this phenomenal success goes, besides the airmen of Pakistan Air Force, to the planners who left no stone unturned in formulating pragmatic strategies to implement the thinking of the visionary and the farsighted General Raheel Sharif.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb, on the one hand, highlights the obliteration of targets through ground operations and air force/ army aviation campaigns, it brings to light also the importance of intelligence planning based on information gathered through ground, technical and human sources through the analyses of reports about the preparation of weapons, their use and other technical aspects, on the other. In all parts of the world, better, and timely, availability of intelligence information is required not only by the militaries but the governments, too, as they cannot draw up defence and economic policies unless they have before them the reports on the factors that may affect those.
In war against terrorism, the first and foremost requirement is to collect the beforehand information of enemy’s plans through a consolidated, effective intelligence system. It is an undeniable fact that war against terrorism cannot be decidedly won unless the government, security forces and law-enforcement agencies are well aware of the organizational structure of terrorist groups, their methods of attacks, financial sources and foreign funding and also of their facilitators in the civil populace of the country. A cursory glance at history reveals that in any war, the self-created regional, religious and linguistic beliefs of miscreant elements and organizations within a country do have some sort of support or backing, in men and money, by some external groups or foreign intelligence agencies. In such a war, the enemy sponsors the elements which it can later use to cause chaos and upheaval in order to destabilize the state.
RAND Corporation, an American think tank, conducted studies and comparative analyses of 41 rebellious movements between 1978 and 2008. The report thereupon concluded that no two rebel movements can be the same and that the revolts without any foreign patronage can last for a period of only ten years and only a little more if such support is available to them. And, in order to decidedly defeat such menacing elements, choking the funding that terrorists receive from foreign sources, countries or organizations, is absolutely essential. Moreover, to combat this threat having a visionary, resolute and farsighted leadership at the top is inevitable.
Terrorist attacks at the start of the year 2016 highlighted the flaws and shortcomings in our intelligence-gathering system that is responsible for our failure in penetrating into the groups behind these attacks. At present, the task of intelligence-gathering is being performed under the umbrella of Pakistan army by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI), and to some extent, Pakistan Rangers. On the civilian side, the provincial governments have assigned this task to Counter Terrorism Departments (CTDs), Special Investigation Units (SIUs) and to some sections of the Intelligence Bureau (IB).
In this regard, it is pertinent to say that the country’s premier spying agency, ISI, is overly burdened. Nevertheless, in spite of having only a limited financial and human resources, it is doing its best to efficiently do its duties. Military Intelligence (MI) is assigned the task of eliminating the enemy agencies’ networks in Pakistan as well as identifying and removing thereupon the factors that may, in any way, be a threat to the internal stability of Pakistan Army and the country’s defence policies. Besides performing their original tasks, both establishments have created separate wings for counterterrorism that are working with full zeal but their efforts get impeded by the paucity of human resource. Moreover, they lack the requisite intelligence paraphernalia that could make up for this dearth. Under the umbrella of provincial police, the offices of Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) have been established in all important cities of Pakistan. The CTD personnel comprise only those retired army officers and other staff who have worked on such assignments in country’s spying agencies. In addition to own human sources, the Department is also assisted by the local police and such a system can be a boost to the country’s intelligence-gathering system. Notwithstanding this, the presence of terrorists’ facilitators among the masses points toward the fact that we still need to put in strenuous efforts in order to reinvigorate the intelligence-collection system within the precincts of various police stations.
In war against terrorism, there is a greater reliance on technical intelligence rather than that gathered through human sources. But, if we analyze deeply, we find that such resources are too sufficient to meet the needs of the country in the present state of affairs. There is a dire need that intelligence agencies incorporate modern sophisticated tools used in intelligence–gathering into their respective systems.
Terrorists have no specific identities; they look like us and they mix into people like us to reach their targets as incidents of Army Public School (APS) Peshawar and more recently Bacha Khan University Charsadda depict. With an aim to developing their intelligence-gathering mechanism, NATO forces are currently involved in experimental studies on the use of new sensors, software, computer models and other analysis tools in order to find ways to locate terrorist among the general public and thwart their activities to the maximum possible extent. It’s no less than a dilemma for Pakistan’s intelligence agencies that the orchestrators of terrorist attacks within the country are patronized by India and Afghanistan. They also have complete backing of Israeli agency Mossad besides spy establishments of both these neighbours of Pakistan. These enemy agencies harbour the terrorists and after selecting the targets provide them with all the requisite information. They, then, carry out their nefarious plans with the help of RAW agents, whose number, according to a report published in a British newspaper ‘Daily Mail’ in 2006, is nearly 8000 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 5880 in Balochistan, 1000 in Punjab and 12000 in Sindh.
Although interception of telecommunications forms a major part of intelligence-gathering through technical sources, which is necessary for effective action against terrorists and state enemies, yet a brief analysis would prove that the technical sources our agencies have currently at their disposal are too meagre. Satellite images play a key role in locating the hideouts and movements of the terrorists, but even for this, we have to rely on CIA’s satellite system. It’s a great hindrance to timely availability of information; and the pieces of information we get from this source also often doesn’t come within the ambit of our requirements. For example, we need to permanently have a keen eye on terrorists’ hideouts in Afghanistan as well as their activities. But, we are facing numerous problems in this regard as well. Given all these obstacles, we need to incorporate the latest sophisticated technology in our intelligence infrastructure in order to develop a highly secretive system wherein, besides military and civilian intelligence agencies, representatives and resources of FIA’s highly-equipped cybercrime wing, customs intelligence, Ministry of Science and Technology and Suparco are consolidated at one platform to strive for a unified purpose.
In order to convert all the pieces of information into an intelligence report and draw up practicable strategies thereupon, the importance and consolidation of leads gathered through technical resources cannot be underestimated. Given all the looming threats to our country, it is high time that we reinvigorated our intelligence system on modern lines and removed flaws therein for making available the timely intelligence and its transmission from the federal to the provincial governments and then to departments like police, Frontier Constabulary’s wings that are operational in this war and, finally, at the local police station level.
In war against terrorism, cooperation and coordination among agencies and law-enforcement institutions is indispensable. But, at present, unfortunately, there exists no mechanism whereby intelligence agencies and the enforcement institutions could exchange their information for timely identification of threats and neutralising those thereupon. Currently, every agency is making a solo flight in order to prove its worth and effectiveness. Although, coordination meetings are arranged every now and then; they prove merely a damp squib as the proceedings of the meetings remain limited to the own personal gossip of the attendees.
There is no denying the fact that in a war against terrorism, the most fundamental – and perhaps the most crucial – role is played by the police. So, recruiting capable personnel for police, and equipping the force with more resources, better training and modern, sophisticated firearms, is the most pressing need of the present time. If we have to be watchful against future threats and if the protection of life and property of the masses does really matter for the government, then trying to resolve the issues only through the provision of traditional budget won’t serve the purpose; we will have to cut development expenditures and divert them to this realm instead. But, quite frankly, it doesn’t seem to be happening in the near future which quintessentially means that the people of Pakistan will remain vulnerable to terrorist attacks as no solution to this monstrous problem seems to be in the offing.
An empowered institution at federal and/or at provincial level where all the concerned departments would gather information and convert it into intelligence to be provided to the country’s security agencies is the need of the day. Keeping in view the looming threats, it is high time that our government reviewed and reset its priorities and, by rising above its myopic view and parochial interests, established institutions on modern lines like other such establishments around the world. We can only hope that the government would work sincerely toward carving out some practical policies rather than just issuing routine statements to pull the nation out of this unrelenting torment.