Pakistan uses militants as strategic assets

Pakistan has cultivated militant and terrorist groups, making them ‘strategic assets’ in hopes of using them to maintain stability in the region and balance relations with India, Iran, Afghanistan and now the United States. Photo: Associated Press/India High Court

ISLAMABAD, January 12, 2012 - Pakistan has cultivated militant and terrorist groups, making them ‘strategic assets’ in hopes of using them to maintain stability in the region and balance relations with India, Iran, Afghanistan and now the United States. 

Pakistan’s relations with India have been strained since the country was founded in 1947. One major issue of contention between India and Pakistan is the Kashmir state, with both countries claiming ownership over the Kashmir region. Although both countries have nuclear weapons and have engaged in numerous conflicts over the region, India currently appears to have the upper hand militarily, with a greater ability to develop and acquire weapons. 

To counter the traditional military strength of India, Pakistan uses its militant and terrorist groups. Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan-backed militant group, conducted attacks on Mumbai on 26 November 2008, killing more than a hundred people and injuring hundred others. The group is also operational in its Jehadi activities in Indian occupied Kashmir. One of its main goals is to eradicate Indian occupation of Kashmir.

Since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, Pakistan and Iran have had tense relations.  With the Revolution, Iran instituted a Shiite Islam State. Pakistan’s population is primarily Sunni Muslim, and the clash between the two interpretations of Islam is the primary reason for the conflict between the countries. Pakistan fears that the revolution in Iran could spread to Pakistan, threatening its government. 

In order to limit the effects of revolution in Iran and to stop it from reaching Pakistan, many militant and terrorist groups of the Sunni Muslim sect operate to contain Shiite encroachment into the country. With the help of these groups, Pakistan hopes to stop Shiite Islam from gaining power in Pakistan. Sipah-e-Sihaba is the main Sunni organization involved in anti-Shiite activities. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is another militant organization which seeks to curb Shiites influence in Pakistan. Both these organizations are believed to be veritable arms of Pakistani Spy agencies, which controls and directs the organizations to counter the Shiite muslim activities and sever ties between Pakistani Shiites and Iran.   

Afghanistan is fighting a war against the Taliban militants with the help of the United States and NATO.  Pakistan is supporting the Taliban covertly in an attempt to extend its influence over the Afghani government. Pakistan has actively conducted operations in Afghanistan since 1979, when the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan. Pakistan, with the help of the United States and Saudi Arabia, assisted the Afghan Mujahedeen in its fight against the Communist U.S.S.R for a decade, until Russia left Afghanistan in 1989.

After the expulsion of Russia, Pakistan wanted a pro-Pakistan government in Kabul. However, a civil war broke in Afghanistan and Pakistan decided to support the pro-Islamabad Taliban. The Taliban eventually gained control of Kabul and imposed a very radical version of Islam in Afghanistan, and allowed terrorist groups – including Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden – to operate in the country. After the 9/11, 2001 New York attacks, the United States launched a military operation in Afghanistan, in an effort to eradicate terrorists, eliminate the Taliban from power and establish a stable democratic government in Kabul. In this conflict, Pakistan supports the Taliban. If the U.S. leaves Afghanistan in 2014 as advertised, Pakistan hopes the Taliban will take over the country and push Pakistan’s interests. Pakistan is hosting the leadership of Taliban in its tribal regions bordering Afghanistan and has been accused by Afghanistan’s Karzai government in the past of harboring terrorist in its territory. Many of the Al-Qaeda terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden have been captured in Pakistan.

Pakistan believes that the United States wants to divide Pakistan into several small states, as happened with Yugoslavia. The Pakistan leadership worries that the U.S. will blame Pakistan for any attack on U.S. soil, regardless of the true culprits, and use it as an excuse to launch an attack against Pakistan. Islamabad also believes that the precedent of U.S. actions in Iraq and Libya suggest Washington will not hesitate to invade the country if its interests are threatened.

America, on the other hand, believes that Al-Qaeda terrorists live in far flung areas of Pakistan and can use those safe-havens to plan attacks against U.S. interests. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has threatened Pakistan several times that if any new attack by terrorists occurs on American soil, the U.S. will deal harshly with those who harbor terrorists.   

The shrewd military leadership of Pakistan  created Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to protect itself from U.S. actions. The main function of TTP was to destroy western interests in Pakistan, to eliminate unwanted politician who had connections with the West, and to give an impression to the west that Pakistan itself is suffering from terrorist attacks and cannot be blamed for terrorism abroad. If Pakistan can make West believe in the TTP conspiracy, it will help Pakistan not only gaining Western sympathies but also to gain impunity from responsibility to any future attacks on European and American soils.

By creating militant and terrorist groups, Pakistan is undercutting its own stability.  While it hoped these groups would unsettle potential threats to the country, in reality, it works against stability in Pakistan. The militant terrorist groups are not reliable partners, and using them as a military force could backfire. Additionally, these groups hurt Pakistan’s credibility internationally, and its ability to negotiate to gain its preferred outcome.


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Qaisar Farooq Gondal

Qaisar Farooq Gondal is an ordinary moderate muslim living in Pakistan. He is facing the challenge of living in a country which is rapidly loosing its friends in the global community because of its policies. He is trying to bring close people of Pakistan and America in an attempt to avoid any catastrophe. He is a physician by profession but enjoys writing and feels more in control of the things through his literary efforts.


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