SHUJA NAWAZ: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Shuja Nawaz; I’m the director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council. On behalf of Fred Kempe, the president of the council, I’d like to welcome all of you to our very special ambassadorial discussion today on the challenge of militancy for the Pakistan army.
We are delighted that we have here General Jehangir Karamat, the former chief of army staff as well as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff of the Pakistan army – and, more interestingly, a former ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, a man who straddles the world of diplomacy and the military with ease and who is now, I’m glad to say, joined the rank of think tankers because he now has his own research institute called Spearhead Research in Lahore, Pakistan.
Just a few words about General Karamat: He is a graduate of the Pakistan military academy, but he also is a graduate of the Command and Staff College of Pakistan as well as the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. He has held many key posts in the Pakistan military apart from his operational commands at all levels he was director general of military operations and involved with a lot of very key issues dealing with India during his tenure.
Then he headed a corps and was then promoted and brought to army headquarters at the chief of general staff and then took over from General Abdul Waheed as the chief of army staff.
To his credit, he is the only army chief in Pakistan’s history who actually resigned on a matter of principle after having put forward his views on a number of issues which did not sit well with the prime minister of the time, Mr. Nawaz Sharif. And rather than doing what other army chiefs have done in the past, which was to effect a coup, he decided that it was in the interest of the army and Pakistan that he would resign and thereby General Musharraf was elected by Prime Minister Sharif and the rest, as you know, is history.
Today, because of General Karamat’s very special experience and because of knowledge of U.S.-Pakistan relations as well as the fact that he has been based in Pakistan and has been observing at close quarters exactly what is going on within the polity as well as within the Pakistan military as it faces a huge insurgency inside its borders.
We are very fortunate to have him talk to us about the kinds of changes that he sees within the polity as well as within the Pakistan army. So I’d like to welcome General Karamat.
GENERAL JEHANGIR KARAMAT: Thank you, Shuja, with that very generous introduction. I am very glad to be here; I’d like to start by thank Shuja Nawaz for inviting me and look forward to our interaction today. I really don’t have a script so I am just going to make a few opening remarks, speak for a few minutes, and then we can take this discussion wherever you want it to go because there are so many things you may be interested about Pakistan or the region in general.
I mean, with an audience like this which is so well-informed on our region and international affairs in general, I don’t have to go into the details of what has brought us to where we are. So what I’ll do is flag some events just to give perspective and to highlight the evolutionary process which has brought us to the situation we are in today.
You know, of course, about the Kashmir problem with India, Pakistan and India, which has been there for 60 years, and really its impact in the protracted nature of the situation that has gone on and the various phases this has passed through – conflict, a war, a freedom struggle inside Kashmir, support from outside Kashmir of that freedom struggle, organizations coming up specifically to support that struggle, then pressures to seal borders, end outside help and so on.
I just mentioned this because all this has an impact on what has come about now because of the Kashmir problem and the fact that it has not been resolved until today. On our other border it’s Afghanistan, which again has been through a protracted period of ups and downs and we need to just understand that Afghanistan, when it was a Soviet satellite, its close relationship with India, two or three intelligence agencies working together there, the problems with Pakistan with that time.
Then the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and what that set in motion and how it attracted a jihadi or an Islamic fighter element into the region, into the area and that whole process right up to the withdrawal of the Soviet Union and then the civil war after that, the Taliban emerging in that area, al-Qaida taking over and turning it from a domestic a regional and an international situation.
It’s irrelevant because that’s what led up to 9/11 and the post-9/11 action, which again, over a period of time, has gone through various phases and has had different types of impact on the situation leaving us where we are today.
Then there were other events like the revolution in Iran and I mention that only because the situation is still playing out in Iran. There’s the nuclear fear also there – but I mentioned the revolution in the context of its sort of – the religious surge that it started in the area but continued for a long time and which at one period in our history was given a push through a process of Islamization that Pakistan was put through.
I mention it only in that context. Now, all these events led to policies which basically either sought to secure Pakistan against a perceived threat or they led to policies which have really taken advantage of any opportunities that were being offered by the situation. And at that time of course there was an obsession with security; there was a security-centric situation in the Pakistan policy-making circles, so that’s how we ended up with various kinds of policies at various times in this whole evolving scenario.
This whole process, of course, had an effect on Pakistan’s domestic situation. It had an effect on the regional situation, South Asian, on the extra-regional situation around us in the Middle East, Central Asia and so on. And of course it had almost international implications particularly after 9/11 when the U.S. came into Afghanistan and then into Iraq.
I won’t say any more about this unless you want to discuss it later, but this is the sort of development or evolutionary trend that has brought us to where we are today. And now I’d like to just discuss that part where we are today and what is happening.
Now, what started off as a counterterrorism venture against terrorism by Pakistan after 9/11 is now basically an insurgency situation that Pakistan is faced with and it has to be seen from that point of view that Pakistan is actively responding to a full-blown insurgency within its own borders on the western border with Afghanistan.
The thing that we have to remember is how this insurgency came about. We can discuss that if you want, but the more important thing is that this process that I talk to has brought on the ground in Pakistan militant organizations, some of them oriented towards the eastern border with India, particularly Kashmir because that’s where they’ve been operating in the past until Pakistan as a policy brought that to an end.
They have at various times gone into welfare activities, charity; they’ve worked on earthquake situations and so on, but they are there. They are there. On the western side, again, it started with Afghan Taliban seeking sanctuaries on the Pakistan side because that is the only area southern Afghanistan situation could have expanded and there is no other place – ethnically, culturally, historically, geographically. It was the eastward expansion which could take place after the U.S. started thrusting south and attacking the Taliban.
So that came about and from sanctuaries when the U.S. started a policy of doing away with those sanctuaries, drone attacks and so on, the retaliation came on Pakistan. That retaliation led to Pakistan’s advent into the tribal FATA areas where the sanctuaries were and that then led to this insurgent movement within Pakistan which is loosely operating on what it calls the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.
And there is a leader there, and there are 26-odd groupings of small and big organizations which have informally or formally come under his influence and banner. The danger here is – in the present environment – that this insurgency along the western border has established linkages with the earlier organizations deeper in the country. And we’ve seen that ever since we’ve been making a response to this insurgency in the West, there have been suicide bombings, attacks, gunfights taking place in our urban areas.
So they have developed a retaliatory capability, a linkage of sorts which is dangerous for Pakistan. And I think I might also mention that from the Taliban point of view a great success would be if they could distract the army to its rear by internally destabilizing the situation or creating a situation on the India-Pakistan border or between Indian and Pakistan. And it is in that context that we should see the non-state actors’ role especially in incidents like Mumbai which can take things back and create a situation which they can then exploit.
So this linkage then is a dangerous situation for Pakistan. In recent months it has played out with the attacks in our urban areas, on the Sri Lankan theme; on the police academy; on an intelligence headquarters in Lahore and so on – I won’t go into the details. But we have seen this retaliation taking place and it’s an ongoing thing.
Now, as far as our response to the insurgency is concerned, this came about after a lot of backtracking and forward movement and so on. And I think the Swat operation which went in was the 15th military operation that Pakistan undertook. And the earlier 14 had all ended in some kind of peace agreement or decision to end hostilities. And every time there was a peace agreement, all 14 of them, on the government side it was pushed as a – on the Pakistan side it was pushed as a great event, an end to the problem and the beginning of a new era in the area in the South.
Unfortunately, on the other side, on the Taliban side, on the insurgent side, these agreements weren’t seen quite in that light. And they used each opportunity to expand, spread terror, widen their sphere of control and generally consolidate themselves.
So when this peace agreement in Swat was being negotiated, I think – I don’t speak for the government or the military – but I think the idea was that for once we should see whether they stick to this agreement, do what they are saying, and then we can take it from there. And it didn’t take long for them to throw off any cloak and come out with their intentions, which were very clear.
They refused to lay down their arms which was part of the agreement. They declared the rest of Pakistan infidels; they denounced the constitution of Pakistan; they started committing unspeakable atrocities, which videos are very difficult to stomach and generally created a situation where there was no option but to go in.
Fortunately, this time, because of the exposure that they got and what they came out with themselves, there was a change in public opinion. There was a change in the media. The political resolution came out very strongly. So the military operation which went into Swat and which is ongoing in other areas had the full backing of the media, the political institution across the board, the public opinion firmly behind it, and except for one or two odd people on the fringe, everybody is pushing for an end to this situation.
I think the political and military aim of the operation is to sideline the Taliban as a force which can ever challenge the merit of the government. And Swat was chosen because that’s where the agreement was violated and that’s where the expansion had taken place; also because it had started to threaten some vital Pakistani communications in that area.
And it’s not restricted to Swat; in fact, Swat was tackled last, in the periphery, the Malakand division, Bajaur, Mohmand division – those were the areas which were tackled first to create a situation of strangulation. And then finally Swat had to be cleared physically, resulting in a large number of displaced persons who we hope will go back eventually.
After this sort of northern extremity of the tribal areas has been tackled, the other area which was creating a threat and which again was not a central area from the insurgent point of view, again on the periphery, this was the southern extremity of the federally administered tribal areas where the Taliban had created a really potent threat by bombings and attacks in the area of towns like Bannu, Kohat, Dera Ismail Khan – Dera Ismail Khan particularly because there had been a number of attacks there.
So that is the second phase which the army went through and this time they got the support of one of the major tribes in the area and were successful in establishing themselves in the southern extremity of FATA. That left the central area and the main area – sort of Waziristan: South Waziristan, North Waziristan, which over the years has become a stronghold, a major center for training activities of all sorts by the Taliban of rigging vehicles and suicide bombers and so on.
A lot of trade in weapons and vehicles takes place there. It has commercial importance for the Taliban. It’s their headquarters of the TTP, the umbrella organization I mentioned. So this is the area that is now being tackled. And here again the military has the support of the Wazir tribe, which is the major tribe in the area and the one tribe which is really isolated is the Mehsud tribe.
It is the largest area, it’s a difficult area terrain wise, historically it’s never been under anybody’s control. But this is a situation which the military has to go through because there’s no option and I think they are doing it well. So this is the sort of strategic plan that the military had and has in the way it’s operating.
There is infrastructure there in the form of cantonments, bases, airfields. Some disused airfields from the British days and other facilities have been activated so it’s not as if they’re sitting on mountaintops and operating from there. They’ve got bases; they’ve got lines of communication.
There have been reverses – because this has been a learning process for the military. There have been reverses; they have suffered casualties. In Swat alone I think over 600 were killed and Pakistani public for the first time is seeing in their homes on television, daily funerals and coffins coming back in their own area in a fight who are basically their own people.
But since they’ve chosen the insurgent part, it is being accepted that the sacrifice will have to be made and as far as I could see, there has been no wavering of resolve in either the media, public opinion, the political support for the military operation and so on. It’s just going.
The other fallout has been the internally displaced people who’ve come out of Swat. Sometimes you get exaggerated figures, but the actual figure is also quite large – it’s 2 million-plus, definitely. And almost 70 to 80 percent of looking after of those people is being done by the military. And enormous quantities of the militaries resources and rations are being diverted – about 60, 70 tons a day to the displaced people in that area.
But still, it’s a problem, and it’s a problem which will have to be resolved by sending them back. And very briefly, on the post situation in this area, if we do achieve the political and military objective that the army’s been given or has set for itself, then I don’t foresee a complete transformation of the area into a peaceful environment.
There are going to be sporadic attacks or events taking place, but I think those can be taken in our stride. The more important thing is that the military may have to stay for a considerable period as a transitional sort of administrative force in that area. And it will have to articulate itself accordingly because the old methodology of clearing an area or carrying out a punitive strike and then handing over to the frontier corps and coming back is not going to work anymore because the situation has gone far beyond the capabilities of the frontier corps to handle.
So the frontier corps is going to be part of the military eventual articulation which comes about for a more permanent stay in the area to secure and hold that area till rehabilitation has taken place and the area has been fully secured and a civil administration has come in with capacity to take care of the situation – which means police forces, judicial element, health care and all that which actually has been missing in the past, almost very weak, and actually led to this insurgent – of course, one of the factors for this insurgent situation.
Now, with this kind of point at which we are, the other areas where we might have or do have simmering situations – one is Baluchistan. And there is a lot of talk of Baluchistan being a sort of logistic area for Afghan Taliban and so on. And action has been taken in that area to curve that activity but from our point of view the more troublesome aspect of the situation is the sort of nascent; they are calling themselves the liberation movement in the Baluchistan area, which may be getting external support and existing on that.
The leaders are definitely outside Baluchistan who are operating this. But so far it’s low key and I think in my opinion it’s a matter which needs to be handled politically. And we have a political government there – federal, provincial – and the provincial government is entirely Baloch themselves; so they should be able to bring that satisfactorily to an end and some of the grievances which those people have actually do need to be addressed. They’ve been festering for a long time.
Southern Punjab, which I mentioned in the context of Kashmir and the past activities there, has come up on the Bahawalpur, that area, as a sort of stronghold of these militant organizations who were formerly operating in Kashmir or supporting the freedom struggle in various ways in Kashmir.
For the time being it’s quiet and again with the political government and with enough capacity it can be tackled and there are – it’s not necessarily a military operation that would clear that but there are other ways of doing which we could discuss. But I think it’s a political solution that they have to find to that problem.
Karachi has had ups and downs. Its history is sectarian, ethnic. There is a large Pashtun population there who really control the labor on the dock. They control the transport, the mass transit in Karachi, and then there’s the other ethnic group which is the government, the MQM. I think, again, there is political capacity to handle that situation. The MQM has demonstrated that a number of times that they are capable of handling it, and to be fair to them I think a lot of work has been done in Karachi by the MQM and the person responsible for Karachi, he has put in a lot of effort there to improve the situation.
The only other point I’d like to touch is that while fighting this insurgency and while hoping for a political and law-and-order end to the other problems in Pakistan, its political stability becomes extremely important and we are going through a painful process of bringing about political stability. This time around the president is in a strong constitutional position; he is elected.
The government is elected; it made a national showing in the last elections, the largest body with maximum votes (it’s in par ?). He’s put together a good coalition with the government in the frontier – Baluchistan and Sindh which are functioning. Unfortunately, street power led to the restoration of the judiciary, but since that has happened that is another positive development and the judiciary is in the process of now reforming itself.
The only thing I think which perhaps needs attention now in terms of political stability is the discussion between the opposition and the ruling party on division of powers between the president and parliament and some other issues which are unresolved. I think they are moving towards discussion and at some point they will have to (get us all ?) if they really want political consensus and a political stability in the country.
The economic situation has been very critical – it’s improved marginally. Not just because of the worldwide economic recession because I don’t think that had such a big – it had an impact but not a critical impact on Pakistan. It’s more to do with the power sector in Pakistan and with business activity, inflation and so on.
So that is something else that the government is trying to tackle and to be fair to them, soon after elections they did inherit a massive set of problems which they are trying to cope with and develop capacity. The drawback is that while all this is happening with fighting insurgency and political stability, economy, governance is suffering and it’s badly needed. And I think as we move to a more stable civil-military relationship and we get more and more of the militant militaries’ institutional strength behind the democratically elected government we should see governance improve. It needs to improve – let me put it like that.
The media and public opinion have talked about so far they are very supportive, very positive and I hope it stays that way. But whichever way you look at it – with the insurgency going to stretch out for some time, with the military remaining involved there, with India-Pakistan relations so far on a hold and not moving forward – we are in for a long haul as far as stability and the environment as a concern in Pakistan.
But I think we are well on the way. There is enormous support from the United States, in fact not only the United States but I think this is a – even though it’s a crisis situation, it’s still a great opportunity for Pakistan because the whole world is ready to help Pakistan if it can get its own act together and come up with a proposal and structures of how it’s going to use the world’s help.
I’ll stop there. Thank you.
MR. NAWAZ: Maybe if you could come down here and I can see if we can get some questions going.
I just want to make a request – when you’re recognized if you wouldn’t mind please waiting for the microphone and then identifying yourself before launching your question. So we’ll start here.
Q: Al Milliken, AM Media. Do you have familiarity with the role chaplains play in the United States Army and military and how would you compare them with spiritual support that is given to those in the Pakistan army and military? Are there any restrictions or controls on how spiritual and religious matters are dealt with in Pakistan’s army and military?
GEN. KARAMAT: Yes, I am familiar with the excellent work the chaplains do in terms of guidance and support. In the Pakistan military we have – battalion upwards, a religious leader who leads the prayers, who advises them, supports them; they go to him with their problems. It’s an adjunct to the command channel because a lot of things they can tell that person are maybe they don’t talk about that to their commanding officers and their other officers.
So it’s been an extremely useful institution and is a very useful institution in the military. The only other thing I’ll say is we have a very strong regimental system, and in my regiment for example the religious leader or the more religious imam as we call him is fourth generation. His father, grandfather, and great grandfather were all with the same regiment. And it’s true of many of the regiments.
So one, they enjoy enormous respect. The troops have confidence in them and they play a great role in terms of helping people. It’s an established institution for years and years.
Q: General Karamat, you have a wonderful delivery and thank you so much for your painstakingly crafted general overview which is so reassuring. Unfortunately, many of us don’t feel really so reassured. You remind me of General Jones who has – our national security advisor – a very good delivery.
If I might ask a question about something that I think troubles a lot of us, or at least I should probably just say myself: Is the degree to which the courts are basically letting extremists go free – and you know the most recent examples of this have to do with Sufi Muhammad, Red Mosque, and also Hafiz Saeed of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah.
After what appears from an awful lot of internationally available information, a rather clear connection between him personally and the organization and the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the events in Mumbai last year. In terms of dealing with extremism, can you talk to us about how the courts, how the legal system, how the laws themselves may need to be adjusted and what would be the ways forward with that? Or if that’s not possible, why?
GEN. KARAMAT: Thank you, Rodney.
Q: Sorry, I should’ve introduced myself.
GEN. KARAMAT: Yeah, I know.
Q: You know me. United States Institute of Peace, sorry, Rodney Jones.
GEN. KARAMAT: I’m very flattered that you’re sitting through the second talk of mine. (Chuckles.) But you’re right, there has been a problem. Let me put it this way – first, there is a problem with the whole prosecution system in Pakistan and the way that prosecution can put a case before the judge to get a conviction. That is a weakness that is being taken care of, but it involves a lot of other capacities to be built up – forensic, ballistics and a lot of law and order stuff which they show in that film.
So all that has to come in before prosecution can build up a case on which the judge can take a judgment. So that is one aspect of not only this cases but many other cases. The other is that in both these cases the Sufi Muhammad I think is out on bail – he hasn’t been acquitted as is the other person. And they haven’t been acquitted, the cases still stand.
It is for lack of evidence and particularly the evidence which is being going to and fro between India and Pakistan on the Mumbai event. Pakistan, I think from initial hard position has moved to a very cooperative position with India. There has been a lot of exchange of information and I think these cases will go forward as more evidence comes in and they can proceed.
Actually everybody’s learning a big lesson. We’ve had laws in the past which eventually turned out to be draconian: special terrorist codes and so on. And they didn’t help. India has a lot of very harsh laws, TADA and so on, which they invoke. We haven’t gone into those, but I this weakness persists, you might have to have special arraignments for special offences.
MR. NAWAZ: I’m going to move around the audience, so if I don’t take you in the order in which you raised your hands I hope you will excuse me. So if we could have a question from there this would allow us to spread it a little bit.
Q: General, thank you very much. My name is Alex Gliksman, I’m with a consulting firm AGI Consulting. The United States, when it recognized it had a problem in how it was prosecuting the war in Afghanistan switched to one general officer, McKiernan, to another, McChrystal.
Fortunately for the United States, we also had not only a change of generals but also an alternative capability in which we fought, meaning we had this special operations capability which is fairly extensive. My question too, in terms of Pakistan’s prosecution of the war – one is the current Pakistani army capable of switching tactics from its conventional focus to account for insurgency focus and secondly does it have the capacity, even if it wanted to, to change given its focus on conventional means and conventional training?
GEN. KARAMAT: You know there’s been a lot of talk on the army’s training and its capability and its orientation towards India and not being able to switch forces from the eastern border with India to the western border and difficulties and so on. I’d just like to tell you that the chief of army staff backed by his operational staff can move forces anywhere inside Pakistan.
He doesn’t have to ask the government, he doesn’t have to do anything. It has to do with his perception of the threat, where the threat is at the moment and amount of force he needs to combat that threat and if any other area needs to be taken care of before he takes away forces. And that’s a pretty established practice in Pakistan. This capacity to move – move rapidly when required.
Pakistan has also been using extensively aviation forces in that area, heli-born operations and so on. It has a very sizable capability in terms of special forces, which were originally raised by the U.S. in the 1950s. And over a long period of time, they’ve trained here and in other places and in various environments. They have been used and, I guess, are being used in the operations in those areas. So – and wherever there was a gap, which we learned the hard way, that has been taken care of, in terms of training.
We have training support from the U.S. – we’ve always had that – and many of us have trained here and gone to schools here. So that’s – I don’t think there’s a problem of capacity within the army. In fact, I don’t think there’s a problem of capacity in Pakistan. I think it’s capable of tackling everything if it puts its mind to it and orchestrates the capacity that it has to combat these threats.
MR. NAWAZ: I’m going to ask for the microphone over there, to Harlan, please.
Q: I’m Harlan Ullman. General, thank you for comments that were both comprehensive and had refreshing clarity to them. My question really relates to outside support and assistance. As you well know, Pakistan requires many billions of dollars more in aid, and especially economic assistance, that’s likely to flow from the outside world. There’s a school, as you also know, on Pakistan, and a school that’s readily developing here, that argues that perhaps it’s better that U.S. aid be very, very limited.
Pakistan has to do this on its own, and more involvement and engagement by the United States is negative. And there’s obviously another school here that says we have to do more. How do you come out on that debate between providing Pakistan the tools that it really needs or allowing Pakistan to do it on its own?
GEN. KARAMAT: We’ve had this discussion with the United States for a long time, and Christina is sitting here – (chuckles) – so what I’m saying is that I think there’s a strong lobby here – stronger lobby here for support to Pakistan than the other lobby of not supporting Pakistan or limiting support to Pakistan. And right from what it says in the 9/11 Commission onwards, there’s been this drive to build capacity in Pakistan, because it was seen as the key to – and is being seen as the key to the problem in Afghanistan.
Now, in Afghanistan, of course, the U.S. and NATO and everybody is tackling the most difficult situation is Afghanistan, which is Southern Afghanistan. It’s the heart of the problem. And the Taliban, of course, obviously, possibly after the surge or election, may start exploiting areas where they sense a softness or a weakness. So that’s why, this surge taking place and with what Pakistan is doing in the tribal areas becomes extremely important at this point in time. And I think, at this point, holding back capacity-building or any other kind of support that would flow to Pakistan would be counterproductive.
And the U.S. and Pakistan are, I think, quite capable of sitting down across the table and discussing the worries about money not going where it should be and what kind of monetary monitoring should take place, or the U.S. asking for specific requirements on the basis of special programs that Pakistan needs to put in place. So there are a lot of ways of working around the U.S. concerns over giving aid to Pakistan. But the basic point that Pakistan’s capacity should be built up, I think, should not be in doubt. And I’m glad the Kerry-Lugar bill is in the process of going through. I hope it goes through; it will be a beginning.
Of course, there’s no end to the demands and Pakistan is saying that it has suffered far more than this aid can do for it, and it needs much more. But then, the U.S. has also been very supportive in international institutions like the IMF and the World Bank and in the donor conferences. So a lot of things are in the pipeline; I just hope they come through. And you should write more and push them.
Q: Of course.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Karamat and Mr. Shuja Nawaz – excellent panel. My question was more –
MR. NAWAZ: Could you please identify yourself?
Q: Oh, Bilad Baluch, from the Transnational Crisis Project. My question has more to do with something you touched upon earlier, about Baluchistan and other areas of Pakistan, which could be dealt politically. Certain reports suggest – certain research that we’ve done at the Crisis Project – shows that there are infiltrators within the IDP from the Taliban that are shaving their beards off and going into Pakistan.
How far that’s true requires more research. But granted that if that is the case, is it viable to suggest that only a political solution can address the problems in the rest of Pakistan, particularly Baluchistan, which has been quite volatile for some years, and perhaps poses a larger threat?
GEN. KARAMAT: Yes, well, that could be happening. In fact, they don’t have to shave their beards. They can even enter Pakistan with beards; there are plenty of beards – (chuckles) – and they will merge into those beards. So yes, they may be doing that. They would use every vulnerability offered – every opportunity offered. But they have instituted a process of checks in those areas, registration. There were some double registrations, which are being taken care of. So a whole process is in place to prevent, to the extent possible, this happening. But I don’t discount the possibility of people sneaking in and doing things, because they are our own people and they don’t need passports or anything to move around. That is the danger – that is one.
And you can’t tell just by looking at somebody that he’s a Taliban or he’s not a Taliban. So that’s another problem. But as far as Baluchistan is concerned, you know, some time back we came very close to resolving this issue with the political, parliamentary committee drawing up 29 points which needed to be addressed in Baluchistan to resolve it politically. That got sidelined in the tumultuous events which took place after that, with the judiciary and the change of government and the election and so on.
So when – I didn’t say it’s only the political solution, but I said the political solution is the preferable part, because using the military repeatedly in your own areas is not a good idea. And in fact, the best counterinsurgency operation – and I’m not sure if General Petraeus has said that – (chuckles) – but the best counterinsurgency operation starts when you anticipate that there’s going to be an insurgency in this area, and not get in the middle of a full-blown insurgency when it’s already in your face. So that is the situation we have in Baluchistan, and if we can take care of it politically, it would be a great thing.
MR. NAWAZ: We have a question here and then one at the back.
Q: Thank you. Paulo von Shiraq, Shiraq Report. General, thank you very much for this very broad picture that you’ve given us. If I could bring you back a little bit again to your general presentation, and you talked somewhat optimistically about the fact that, you know, now, you have a legitimate government – elections, everything according to the rule of law – that indeed, there is public opinion and public support behind the counterinsurgency operations that you have described.
Now, the question is – this is going to be a complicated and long-drawn affair, and you know, going back to something that has already been asked, in terms of both the capabilities of the Pakistani military to conduct, effectively, counterinsurgency operations, you expressed, a moment ago, optimism, saying the capabilities exist, they had been created a while ago, et cetera. A year ago, people here in Washington would have said no way; the Pakistan army has no such capabilities. If called upon to fight, they won’t fight, and if they will fight, they will be, you know, defeated on the ground simply because counterinsurgency is too complicated and they really don’t know how to handle it.
Now, lo and behold, it’s turned out to be quite different. But the questions still remains as to the staying power. That is, given the enormous costs and displaced population, which you yourself mentioned is – you know, we’re talking about 2 million-plus people, the cost of administering, delivering aid – all those things. Long term, in consideration, it is very difficult to predict an insurgency. You are, I assume, based on what you said, you are confident that there is the staying power to go forward and to do it for as long as it takes to defeat the various areas of insurgency. So I don’t know if you can elaborate – and it’s difficult to predict, of course – but on the political will and the stamina to go on, given all the political cost and the human cost involved.
The last point is about the transporter drone attacks led by the U.S., which were extremely politically contentious point until not too long ago. Now we don’t – although these things still go on – we don’t hear much about them as a political, contentious point. Is there now a degree of coordination? I mean, are these things plotted together by the U.S. and Pakistani forces? I mean, how is it evolving, or do you predict there will be more of these? And how are they politically received, regardless of the military impact and successes that these drone attacks may cause? Thank you.
GEN. KARAMAT: Those are good questions. And the first one, on whether we can go on and sustain this initiative and this momentum, which has developed over a period of time, I’m glad you said that the previous fears and concerns have gone. And the army is not only fighting; it’s fighting a very determined battle and delivering in terms of results. But as I said and you said also, it’s a long haul and we have to sustain political resolve, we’ve got to sustain public opinion; we’ve got to sustain media support – all those things. Yes, it is going to be difficult.
But then, from Pakistanis’ point of view, they were up against two options: either to give in and let this thing take its course or combat it and finish it. Now, nobody wants a long, drawn-out struggle in your own area because of the resources and all those things that you mentioned. So I guess that they will try and conclude it as soon as possible, but that’s not really in their hands; a lot of other factors come in. But they will try, definitely.
Once they’ve overcome the main strength of the Taliban or push them out or sideline them, then it’s more a question of articulating commands and positioning troops in those areas for maximum effectiveness and staying there. And I said that there is – basic infrastructure exists in the form of cantonments and logistic bases and everything. It’s not as if we are out of everything. So with that, they should be able to stay.
Now, we’re not looking at – of course, if it goes on for years and years, it’s going to become a massive problem. But a transitional period – one year, two years – and then a civil administration coming in for effective governance – and here, I don’t know what the thinking is on the government side because I’m not privy to that.
But I think there should be thought also of the future of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas, the frontier regions, the frontier crimes regulation and that whole structure, which the British created, we inherited, we worked it for a long time, and now, it has been overtaken by events and somebody needs to think about an alternative to that, which I hope will be done, because that’s the only way you will extricate out of this, or else, otherwise it’s going to be a problem.
Your other question on the drone attacks, I don’t know – the U.S. is very sensitive to criticism. And very sensitive to – I know that public opinion is against Pakistan and there is hostility to Pakistan and hostility to the U.S. and so on. Yes, there is public opinion of all kinds in Pakistan. There have been things happening against the drone attacks. People have voiced their thoughts.
But there hasn’t been any real major upheaval against the U.S. Nobody has jumped around on the streets or done things which you could say is a public outpouring of anger against the U.S. That hasn’t happened. And I think that hasn’t happened because there is a basic understanding of the problem that we face at the moment – that threat that we face – and our orientation towards that threat.
Sometimes the orientation on the ground, and in terms of responses, takes place quickly and mindsets take a little longer to change. And that may be the case in our relationship with India; it may be the case with our relationship with the U.S., and so on. But I think that there is a realization that what needs to be done has to be done one way or the other.
Q: General, I’m Paul Hughes from the U.S. Institute of Peace. And thank you for your talk. It was a wonderful overview of the strategic situation in Pakistan. As you have indicated – and truth has been seen through the history of counterinsurgencies – when they’re successful, these tend to fundamentally reshape societies.
And in the case of Pakistan, there will be a need to re-jigger, if you will, national priorities, to the things that you have mentioned here, and proved to governance, rule of law, economic situations and whatnot.
Yet Pakistan has a rather robust nuclear arsenal and a nuclear program. Reports are suggesting that there are two new nuclear reactors being built by Chinese contractors that have no electrical grid connected to them, which suggests, then, proliferation activities.
In your view – your personal view – do you think that Pakistan will reassess its role vis-à-vis the nuclear world, and whether it will continue to pursue new nuclear weapons? Or is it satisfied with what it has right now? Would it take new steps to, perhaps, join the comprehensive test ban treaty family? Your thoughts, please.
GEN. KARAMAT: I’m here with this Global Zero group. We’re working to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2030. Go to zero. And I’ve been supporting that strongly. (Chuckles.) Everybody else in Pakistan should be supporting that. And everywhere else, too.
But, your question, I mean, South Asia is a region, perhaps, the only one – or one of the very few – where fissile material production, delivery system improvement, is an ongoing process. Pakistan, on its part, starting from its early proposal for a nuclear weapon-free zone, which nobody even looked at, has lately pushed for a strategic restraint regime. It did so earlier; it has done so again on a bilateral basis with India to bring about the cessation of fissile material production and for the testing and so on.
India links that to its broader threat perception – China, and so on. So it becomes a tri-lateral process. Even the tri-lateral process is being discussed on a track-two channel, I think.
So there is work going on on changing the situation from such an active ongoing thing to a more restrained thing. But as far as Pakistan is concerned, its advent into the nuclear field was in response to the earlier 1974 test by India. Then Pakistan didn’t want to test. 1998, our hand was forced; we tested – it’s an India-centric thing; or a threat-centric thing – let me put it like that.
And Pakistan is working on a threat-reduction strategy with India. Admittedly, it’s on pause right now because of the Mumbai incident. And there’s enormous momentum for a resumption of dialogue. And nuclear things should figure in it at some point in time in terms of restraint and so on.
As far as FMCT, CTBT and other things that concern, I think if, regionally, this starts getting negotiated, Pakistan would have no objection to coming. And it’s already very strongly conforming to the global regime. I don’t know about those two reactors – maybe they’re connecting them to the grid later.
Q: Sir, thank you for your time. My name is Ravi with the Department of Defense, but my comments are my own. You actually pre-empted one of my questions when you spoke about the future of the FATA and the conversation that needs to be had regarding that.
But I wanted to go back to questions that were asked by this gentleman earlier about the Southern Punjab, Baluchistan and Karachi, and really, would you be willing to theorize what a political situation – since there is an emphasis on the political situation – what a political situation in these areas would actually look. And so now we look at the, you know, DAWM newspaper and there’s talk about a new province in the Southern Punjab. Is that what we’re leading towards or are you seeing other solutions to these problems?
GEN. KARAMAT: I haven’t seen the DAWN thing, but that’s been on the table and people have talked about increasing the number of provinces for a long time. It hasn’t really gone anywhere as far as the political institution is concerned.
But I was hopeful, optimistic, on the political thing because we have an elected government now and we have a government in Baluchistan which is that there is a Baloch governor, a Baloch chief minister – the ministers are all Baloch.
Also we’ve had similar arrangements in the past, but this time, it looks more durable, more sustainable. And you also have a good fix on the grievances which the other side has in terms of job opportunities that go report; in terms of education and facilities, in terms of royalties for the gas which is being pumped from the Baluchistan province; infrastructure development – all those are on the table. And – as the question was here – that you have to do a major orientation after facing this kind of insurgency.
I think it’s the biggest wakeup call a country can get – going through a prolonged insurgency situation – which, if left, unchecked, can assume some kind of class struggle situation or a major social upheaval in the country.
So that’s why I said it’s very important for the political institution to start thinking long-term about how they’re going to ward off this threat in the future. And take care of many of the weaknesses and problems which exist, which may give rise to those situations. And Karachi is a big city. Something could happen there. Baluchistan – there are other areas which just need to be looked at.
And the political institution is the best prepare to do that. If the local government system is not working, you have to improve it to deliver. If there’s a problem between the local government system and the political provincial governments you have to take care of that problem, not live with it.
Maybe you could live with a lot of things in the past and sort of pen them – that we’ll do it later. But now, you are in a situation where you cannot pen things. You cannot put off things. And you’ve got to start tackling them.
Q: Thank you, General Karamat. My name is Haseeb Humayoon and I work for the Institute for the Study of War. My question relates to Swat. You have the 2005 earthquake. After that, there’s documented evidence that militants, or semi-militant organizations used the situation to either fundraise or to build sympathies in the IDP population. And now you have the current IDP situation with 2 million people.
Is the relief effort better fitted or is the army, the political institutions – are they aware of that, and what is being done? Is there any better mechanism in place to control against militant organizations or even other problematic organizations doing the relief work?
GEN. KARAMAT: I’ve heard that. I’ve had this question before. And I know this is a concern. After the earthquake, we now need to go there and see what has been the result. Who’s done the rehabilitation? Who’s helping the people out? Because the emergency aid which came in and all these organizations rushed to set up centers were actually a basic humanitarian effort. And a sense of, in those organizations, to establish themselves as other than militant organizations – capable of humanitarian work – and many of them have done that. And they have done some good work because of the accessibility they had in those areas, the funds they had at their disposal and so on.
But the bulk of the effort was undertaken by the civil/military combination – U.S. helicopters and those heavy-lift helicopters which operated in those areas almost around the clock. So those were marginal efforts which they were making, but within their little capabilities.
Now, with the IDPs, again, I don’t know if they are active or not, but as I said that the army – I think left an (Indian ?) general in charge, is handling 80 percent of what needs to be done there.
An enormous tonnage of food is being provided by the military and we, of course, are acting the civil to take over. And they’re doing their best. But that’s where we are, so I think that’s a marginal issue. We should not get hung up on these things.
Q: Thank you, General. My name is Damien Tomkins and I’m an intern here at the Atlantic Council. My focus is China. I’m just wondering if you could just comment on the status of Pakistan and Chinese relations. Is there a difference between the military relationship with China and civilian government? Any thoughts, thank you.
GEN. KARAMAT: We’ve had a long relationship with China. It’s been a military relationship in the sense that we have procured equipment from China in the past and we have joint production of fighter aircraft and our main battle tank underway with Chinese collaboration in Pakistan.
I think on the civilian side, China has been offered incentives and encouraged to come in on the economic side in Pakistan. Right now, they’ve come in not strongly, but they have come in in the telecommunications sector. They have a big telecommunications outfit operating there – Zong, or something.
And they’ve come in on the Gwadar port development, which has been a joint massive project. There’s some infrastructure project and there’s some mining and other projects on which they are – actually the civil government and the military both have been pushing for greater collaboration with China. And the effort on the civil side has been to bring China more and more into the economic field.
We haven’t really had a problem with China. And minor issues like the ETIM operating somewhere in the (moderate ?) areas was taken very seriously and settled bilaterally between China and Pakistan. In fact, I saw, later, a subsequent report that China is coming in to build capacity on the counterterrorism front in Pakistan. So it’s a good relationship that we have with China.
MR. NAWAZ: If I may ask a question, General, you talked about the fact that Pakistan has the capacity – you said that the government and the military has the capacity to deal with insurgency. But there are obviously gaps in the equipment. And could you talk a bit about what Pakistan needs and what is the prospect of getting the tools that it needs from the United States? And if not from the United States, from some other sources? What are the possibilities?
GEN. KARAMAT: Yes, the operations have been very hard on aviation – particularly helicopters. We did not and do not have a large fleet of helicopters which can operate in those areas. And we’ve had to divert aviation from other areas where the support is needed, like the operations at high altitude in the Siachin areas and so forth.
Also, with some of the helicopters – I won’t mention the name or make – we had a problem of the operation at certain terrain, conditions, in that particular area. So that’s one field where we need support from the U.S. And I think there’s agreement between the U.S. and Pakistan that the MI-17 has performed particularly well. And that we should, perhaps, be in the market for that helicopter. We have them already; we are operating them.
The others are minor items like night vision capabilities, which are not enough. There’s body armor which is not enough to go around and troops have been exposed, from their point of view. There is communication equipment on the other side because of the drug money available, though the weapons which they are using are the highest. There’s a rocket-propelled grenade – nothing heavier than that.
And on our side, of course, we have the full range of weapons available – artillery, aircraft jets, F-16 – whatever you want is available. But there are little gaps which Shuja mentioned, which need to be filled up and we are in constant communication with the United States to fill in those gaps. But there are bureaucratic procedures you have to fight through and then other procurement difficulties and so on, but everybody’s working through that. And some requirements have been met – some, perhaps, still need to be met.
Q: Thank you for the presentation. My name is Kashyap Husney; I’m here from the RAND Corporation. Since you have given a very comprehensive snapshot of Pakistan, giving insights into the economic situation and military affairs and everything. One thing which constantly come in the news, and I just wanted your feedback, was about the water issues between India and Pakistan, and, in general, South Asia. If you can comment on that a little bit.
GEN. KARAMAT: It’s a big issue, and it’s an issue which is going to come up more and more. We’ve tried very hard to harness water resources within the country. There’ve been political difficulties in doing that because provinces have not always agreed to what the federation has proposed in terms of major dam construction.
And one particular dam which has gone through feasibility which seems the best thing to do is not being approved across the board politically. So there is a problem which, if not tackled now – in fact, it should have been tackled yesterday – but if not tackled now, can create a problem for the country.
The other is the water problem with India. There is a treaty – a World Bank pact – which exists, which we’ve invoked from time to time whenever there’s been a violation – in our perception – a violation by India. And the methodology has worked well in the sense that the World Bank appoints a neutral technical expert intermediary who goes and inspects the site, tells everybody yes, you’re right or you’re wrong, and either corrective action is taken, or so on.
The last such thing was, I think, this year or last year when India had the Baglihar Dam project in Kashmir. And our objection was that the – (inaudible) – edge is too much and needs to be reduced. And I think the World Bank agreed and the design has been modified to accommodate that.
But that’s just one issue which has been resolved. There are going to be other issues with India. That’s why I said that every time running to the World Bank and going through this whole process of experts coming and examining and – there needs to be bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan, which has been a difficult process – not only a bilateral dialogue – the composite dialogue that we had – but maybe a backchannel dialogue also has sometimes helped very much in resolving these issues. So you’re right, it’s going to be an issue in the future.
MR. NAWAZ: We have experience from across the border in India that counterinsurgency operations tend to last a long time, particularly when they are internal to a country and you have 10 to 15 years – up to 25 years. We just spoke about bilateral relationships. Is there a possibility that the Indian and Pakistani armies could begin talking to each other, to learn from each others’ experience?
GEN. KARAMAT: (Chuckles.) We’re a long way from that, yet I think it’s going to take a very long time in the resolution of issues before we get started on that kind of progression. But you’re right, India has insurgency problems in its northeast, which have been there for years, and are particularly bad right now in two or three states. And it’s living with those problems and constantly fighting the situation there with resources – military, police and so on.
That’s why I said that the political and the military aim of the operations here should not be to end the Taliban or finish it. That would be very ambitious – nobody’s been able to do that in insurgent situations for a very long time. We still have to see what happens in Sri Lanka later, what happens in Iraq – already you have long blasts coming up – what happens in Afghanistan post-settlement; where it goes from there, reverts to civil war or what because there is an alienated Pashtun population in Afghanistan. And the major thrust has always been southern Afghanistan, so you’ll have to see what the impact is.
But Shuja is right in the sense that these things take a long time to resolve, even after the military operations are over. And you have examples of the Malayan insurgency, I think, going for 15 years. And others which have gone for 10 or 12 years. But we are already in the sixth year – (chuckles) – so let’s hope it finishes.
MR. NAWAZ: Any other questions from the group? There’s a follow-up from Mr. Husney.
Q: Since Shuja has asked three, I can ask at least two. Can you just pinpoint or list us, like, three main CBMS – like, confidence-building measures – between India and Pakistan which we can take up to improve the relationship. The mistrust which we have, as you just mentioned, what we can learn from each other militarily or economic-wise between the governments, what we can do – only three major CBMs.
GEN. KARAMAT: I think one good one would be to de-militarize the Siachin and the Kashmir area. They are the two areas where the militaries are actually deployed and in a state of readiness for actual conflict on the line of control and the line of contact in Siachin. Not only would that ease the situation there, but bring in the factor of longer response times in getting to a conflict situation. I think that’s one that should happen.
The second one, again, could be a restraint regime which starts building trust and reassurance between the two. And, perhaps, in the sphere of creating non-deployment zones closer to the border. Other things like that which could be worked out, and, perhaps, extending into the nuclear field whenever feasible.
And the third, I think, a good thing would be political interaction between the two counties, which has not been there to the extent that it should be there. I know you have all the parliamentarians visiting and so on, but proper political interaction between the two countries – we could learn from India. They have more experience of coalition politics. We are just entering – (chuckles) – that phase. And it would build up trust.
MR. NAWAZ: I think that would be a good and a hopeful point at which for me to thank General Karamat. And as I promised you at the beginning of today’s gathering, with a guest like him, who easily moves between military and political and economic and social commentary and now, of course, as part of the think-tank community, I didn’t think we expected anything less than what we got today.
So on behalf of the Atlantic Council, I’d like to thank all of you for coming, and especially thank General Karamat for a really exciting and stimulating discussion today. Thank you, General.
Transcript by Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.