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Changing militant strategies
Publication Date : 21-09-2012
While militant organisations, especially those associated with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), might have suffered some pounding at the hands of the military in the Bajaur, Kurram, Khyber and Mohmand Agencies, it is far from the truth to even conjecture that active militancy has been defeated in Fata and other parts of Pakistan.
Five events, measures and steps adopted in succession over the past six weeks by militant organisations across Pakistan, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata, indicate strategic patterns and operational tactics for broadening their resource-base, intensifying recruitment and strengthening the militant network.
Mediapersons received a seven-page letter addressed to the ulema (Muslim legan scholars) of Pakistan, ostensibly sent by the TTP spokesperson. It presents an extended argument to convince clerics of various hues to accept the TTP’s tactics as valid "jihad". Eyewitnesses from Hangu, Kurram Agency, Peshawar, Swabi and Charsadda report campaigns in mosques by militant organisations exhorting the faithful to contribute to the "jihad" in terms of their selves and in terms of cash.
Stories in the press say that the TTP put up posters in Matani town in the suburbs of Peshawar ordering the local shopkeepers to refrain from confrontation or else face the TTP’s wrath. The posters remained up for almost three days and no one, not even the police, dared to remove them.
First-hand information received from Khyber Agency divulges that a batch of almost 120 young men was taken to an unknown location for "jihadi" training. Some of the parents and guardians who were searching for their sons and wards were threatened and told to keep quiet and wait for the news of either "martyrdom" or that their sons and wards had become "ghazis" (people who return from war for religion alive with dignity).
According to news reports, the TTP spokesperson has exhorted the youth of Pakistan to join hands with the organisation and teach a lesson to the infidels and their cohorts. This came after the situation in some Muslim countries, including Pakistan, became volatile as a result of an anti-Islam movie.
The research wings of various security agencies need to analyse the above events through, on the one hand, the framework of discourse construction, the social contagion of the discourse and social control of the discourse.
On the other, they should look at the sociocultural, politico-economic and strategic levels of active militancy in Pakistan. It should not need more emphasis that militant organisations keep modifying their strategies and tactics in response to various local, provincial, national, regional and international realities as they emerge.
Keeping in view the measures, steps and processes initiated by militant organisations recently, one reaches certain conclusions.
Firstly, militant organisations have started identifying areas and geographical units where they can achieve their targets with relatively more ease. In this way, they can easily broaden their resource-base without incurring any or much loss vis-a-vis their network and personnel. They continue to keep the populations fearful while targeting only those that might be a threat to them.
Hence, there seems to be a decrease in the number of suicide attacks and bomb blasts but there is a concomitant increase in targeted killings, kidnapping and the intimidation of target populations. This provides militant organisations with the leverage to recruit from areas which are not under their territorial control.
Secondly, by adopting the specific target strategy, these organisations also get the space to present their views to the public at large in order to spread their discourse. The media and mosques they can penetrate easily. By using these spaces, they are able to emotionally stir the common population, especially the youth.
Militant organisations have also refined the use of communication strategies in recent times which again provide them with the leverage to interact with the common people and enlarge their recruitment opportunities, as well as collect donations.
Thirdly, by combining the strategies of fear and emotional exhortation, militant organisations have been able to broaden their resource-base, increase their recruitment and keep their network intact. They have been able to defeat the security agencies on the sociocultural and politico-economic fronts.
Over the past several months, militant organisations have been able to diversify the generation of funds. They have been able to engage several groups and populations by successfully putting in place an economy of war.
They have also been able to strengthen their organisational structures and modernise their training strategies. They are now able to use the sectarian, ethnic, cultural and geographical fissures that are present in society to their own advantage, whenever it suits them. In this way, they have considerably reduced space for a pluralist discourse and the economy of peace.
To stem the tide of active militancy, the government, security establishment, civil society and academia must work in tandem on the sociocultural, politico-economic and strategic levels.
Civil society and academia need to take the responsibility of constructing and disseminating the discourse of pluralism and the acceptance of diversity.
There is substantial lack of coordination among various civil society organisations working in different parts of Pakistan. Most of the programmes initiated by such organisations in various parts of the country, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata, work in isolation. This needs to end.
The security agencies must share their information and understanding of militant strategies and tactics with other agencies and amongst themselves on a regular basis. They also need to coordinate with the government and agencies working under the civilian administration to locate and curb strategies developed by militant organisations.
The writer is a socio-political analyst.