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Inauguration of Bannu-Ghulam Khan –Kabul Road: Prospects for Pak-Afghan Trade Cooperation

Maryam Naseer

Strong trade and economic cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan hold multiple promises for both countries and their people particularly in political, economic and socio-cultural domains. The most important of them are establishment of friendly relations and economic interdependence between both countries, and economic and social security for the conflict-hit people across the Durand Line. Nonetheless, a durable solution to the common security threats of militancy and religious extremism lies in evolving a joint approach to counter these threats.

Despite being a landlocked country, Afghanistan’s geostrategic location as a doorway to energy rich Central Asian Republics (CRAs) gives it immense importance in relation to prospective regional economic integration of South and Central Asian regions. But nature of relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan – muffled by an environment of mistrust – large spread insecurity and violence in both countries, and strained relations between Pakistan and India are some of the many factors that hinder intra- and inter-South Asian regional economic integration. They have also impeded progress on implementation of some of the regional and mutual trade pacts and agreements such as South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), two gas pipelines to Pakistan and India from Iran and Turkmenistan, and recently signed Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).

South Asian countries have however started to understand the benefit of regional trade and transit agreements. Bangladesh’s pitch for becoming a transit hub for India, Nepal and Bhutan is a shining example in changing attitudes in others countries of the region. Pakistan and Afghanistan have also started to realize role of bilateral and regional trade in socioeconomic development. The soaring energy needs of Indian and Chinese economies as well as energy crisis in Pakistan can be easily overcome, if normalization of trade and economic ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan takes place.

Although the bilateral trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan in the formal sector has improved in recent years yet most of the trade takes place in the informal sector, where the volume of clandestine business (smuggling or re-routing of Afghan transit trade goods) between the two countries is estimated to be more than 10 billion dollars. With regard to formal trade, against three million dollars in 2002, it increased to 492 million dollars in 2003-04 and climbed up to 1.63 billion dollars in 2005-06, but it witnessed a decline of almost 400 million dollars in 2006-07 because the Pakistani manufacturers have been losing out to mainly Iranian and Indian competitors. However, Pakistan has targeted to increase its exports to Afghanistan to two billion dollars by 2010-11.

In order to give a further boost and to formalize these trade relation a significant development took place in April 2011 when Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani inaugurated the 80-kilometer long road project worth PKR 4 billion ($48 million)—being undertaken by Frontier Woks Organization (FWO), a subsidiary of Pakistan army—from the northwestern Pakistani town of Bannu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) to Khost province in Afghanistan via Ghulam Khan area of North Waziristan Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan (FATA). Bannu-Ghulam Khan highway will pass through Mir Ali, the headquarters of North Waziristan Agency, and Miranshah that will serve as central connecting points between Bannu in Pakistan to Kabul in Afghanistan where Ghulam Khan will link Khost, Gardez and Ghazni. The new road is considered as the third commercial and diplomatic road network after Torkhum highway in Khyber Agency in FATA and Chaman town in Balochistan. The construction of this road will provide central trade route between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Further it has been planned to link this route with Indus Highway to make it a major road communication network with Afghanistan.

The road is a part of quick impact projects (QIP), signed between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistani Army on November 11, 2010—to improve livelihood opportunities and to initiate  uplift schemes for development  of militancy stricken areas of Swat and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

After successful completion of road construction, if it performs to its potential, it will not only decrease the travelling distance between Bannu and Kabul but will also reduce the traffic load on both Torkhum and Chaman border crossings in KPK and Balochistan respectively. Moreover, since the road has been built on plains of the Ghazni and Maidan Wardag provinces, unlike the zigzag mountainous road trails with their tortuous twists and turns on Torkhum and Chaman highways, this road link will ensure smooth passage to trade convoys to and from Afghanistan. The new road will also enable industrialists and traders from Punjab to easily dispatch products to consumer markets in Afghanistan and Central Asian republics.The road project will not only create multiple opportunities of trade but it will provide employment for approximately 2,000 locals. The project is expected to be completed in 18 months time but due to prevailing hostility and sporadic terrorist activities serious security concerns remain about feasibility as well as the utility of such a project which has to pass through conflict-hit areas throughout. 

The construction of this road link brightens the potential prospects for the growth of close economic collaboration between Pakistan and Afghanistan. However some other steps are needed to speed up and strengthen the Pak-Afghan trade and economic ties.

  • With a view to give a boost to the trade in the formal sector, the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan need to tackle their internal conflicts and security problems through joint and mutually agreed mechanisms, without which realization of these goals is impossible.
  • The best option, which also appears logical in the context of the on-going economic globalization process, is to establish a free trade zone between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This will greatly help the economies of KPK and Afghanistan while, at the same time, bring smuggling down to a negligible level.
  • The governments of both countries should facilitate and encourage the traders and business communities to hold cross-border displays and other marketing events by making the chambers of commerce active.
  • Security is the prime concern of traders and business class. The governments should evolve some mechanism for that by using their respective security apparatuses and also the local populations on both sides of the border.

Impact of Regional Ideology on Contemporary Warfare in FATA

Brian R. Kerr

(This research paper is an abridged version of author’s university dissertation titled “Regional Ideology, Local Populations and (Mis)Understandings in Contemporary Warfare: The Case of Pashtuns in Fata, Pakistan” for his Masters in International Relations at the University of Edinburgh. The author is thankful to his supervisors, Dr. Sara Dorman and Dr. Adham Saouli for their valuable insights and edits. He also feels grateful to Muhammad Amir Rana and the entire staff of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, who encouraged and facilitated the research presented here).

Introduction and Background
Warfare today is marked by complexity. A cursory examination of the condition of contemporary warfare reveals it to involve many different belligerent and non-belligerent groups which are as complex as the ends towards which they aim. Beyond state versus state wars, in the contemporary era, warfare involves state and non-state actors motivated by religion, ethnic association, economic goals, as well as social, moral or geostrategic objectives. This blend of actors and their distinct aims tends to layer over a single region of warfare, making their unentanglement essential to fully understanding the ground realities of the conflict. The war in Iraq, the conflict in the Transcaucasus and the ongoing conflicts in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region each highlight the myriad actors and organisations that abound in contemporary warfare. One integral characteristic of the condition of contemporary warfare is the influence of sub-state population groups residing in the conflict region. This aspect of warfare is not unique to the contemporary era; past wars also exemplify the importance of the resident population. Notable examples include the local population as intelligence collectors in the classic insurgencies of the 20th century and the complex conflicts of the 21st century where the local population is a target of terrorist attacks as a means to coerce the state to submit to militant demands. Among belligerents in contemporary warfare there is a logical necessity to understand the local population’s cohesive and controlling factors due to its potentially decisive strategic importance. As discussed below, ideology can be one of the most potent factors controlling the social and political, and thus strategic, behaviour of population groups residing in regions of warfare today.

This paper explores ideology in sub-state population groups residing in contemporary regions of conflict, specifically addressing the role and significance of regional ideology in complex conflicts. (‘Region’ or ‘regional’ pertains to a localised geographic area coinciding with the residence of the population group analysed here). The role of a population group residing in a region of contemporary warfare can and does take many forms. Through active participation in combat alongside regular belligerents, provision of logistical or ideological support to belligerent actors or organisations, or tacit acceptance of belligerent ideology and demands, the local population can be decisive in the success or failure of the belligerents’ strategies. With this background in mind, this paper addresses the following central research question:

How and why does regional ideology affect contemporary warfare?
The research question is analysed and the findings exemplified by thecase of Pashtuns (Pukhtun, Pakhtun and Pathan all denote the same population group) in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. By incorporating both ‘how’ and ‘why’ into the research question this study utilises multiple levels of analysis allowing for a more comprehensive, as well as empirically useful, study. The first level of analysis is addressed by asking ‘how’ regional ideology is exemplified vis-à-vis the local population in contemporary warfare and what role it does and, crucially, does not play. This paper then endeavours to answer the question why the regional ideology affects contemporary warfare, which reflects an aim to explore the complex drivers and underlying causes of the role of regional ideology in contemporary warfare, specifically exemplified by the case of Pashtuns in FATA. It is plausible that ideology affects contemporary warfare by means of other involved belligerents, for instance consider ideology and terrorism (Hassan 2005; Borum 2003). Nonetheless, this paper specifically looks into the intricacies of ideology as it affects contemporary warfare with regard to the local population resident in a region of conflict. Previously adopted frameworks for analysing the role of regional ideology lead to an understanding of the local population within the conflict that does not wholly align with the ground realities. Thus, this paper begins to answer the question, “How does rethinking the analysis of a local population resident in a conflict region affect an understanding of contemporary warfare?”

The Pashtun tribal areas of Pakistan's north-west are an apt case to explore the significance of ideology in contemporary warfare because of the structurally archetypal conflict in the region as well as the intricate and influential interplay of the local population within the conflict. Known officially as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the region has a long history as an epicentre of violent conflict. Conquerors including Gengis Khan and Alexander the Great each passed through what is now the Pakistani tribal areas (Shinwari 2008: 1; Shinwari 2010). In the 21st century this regional predisposition to violence shows no sign of abating. The majority of the ethnically Pashtun population occupies what is commonly referred to as the “Pashtun belt”, a region straddling the British-delineated Pakistan-Afghanistan border, otherwise known as the Durand Line (Omrani 2009). Pashtuns are organised as a multi-tribal society with a population estimated to total 40 million in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and are reputed to be the largest tribally structured society in the world (Johnson 2007: 119). An estimated 3.17 million Pashtuns reside in the mountainous terrain of FATA, all of whom are interwoven in the ongoing conflict (Shinwari 2008: 1). FATA is divided into seven tribal agencies and six administratively distinct frontier regions, occupying 27,224 sq km (Shinwari 2008: 1). Analysis of the region specifically, rather than discussion of conflict in Pakistan, is justifiable because FATA is in many ways an autonomous region. Constitutionally, FATA is not fully Pakistani and state law has no jurisdiction in the region, save along a few main roads (Pakistani Constitution Article 247). This autonomy and the legacy of minimal state interference in the region justify analysis of FATA on a regional level. Furthermore, since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, FATA is cited as the current ‘nerve centre’ of international and domestic terrorism (Behuria 2002). The 7/7 bombings in London, the attempted Times Square bombing of May 2010 in addition to the hundreds of terror attacks across Pakistan in recent years each lend credence to this characterisation of FATA as ‘the nerve centre’ of terrorism as these attacks were principally planned and orchestrated from the region. Consequently, FATA is geographically and strategically centre stage for combating terrorism and militancy both within Pakistan and abroad (Rashid 2009)...

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A Tricky Balance

Muhammad Amir Rana

THE Jamaatud Dawa (JD) is so far the only pro-militant organisation in Pakistan that has offered funeral prayers for Osama Bin Laden. None of the other militant organisations that had close links with the Al Qaeda chief have done so. Pakistan`s religious-political parties have also been very guarded in their initial reaction to Bin Laden`s killing by US forces in an Abbottabad compound.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman — who launched a countrywide anti-US campaign in July 1999 to mount pressure against a possible strike in Afghanistan to target Osama Bin Laden and who the media referred to as Bin Laden`s `second` consequently — refused to comment on Bin Laden`s death. He was in Brussels at the time of Bin Laden`s death, where he was to address the European Parliament as head of the Pakistani parliament`s Kashmir committee.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, head of the banned militant group Harkatul Mujahideen (HM), who had first declared jihad against the US in Pakistan after US cruise missiles targeted his militant training camps in Afghanistan in August 1998, was also silent. HM camps were targeted in 1998 because the US suspected that the Al Qaeda chief was hiding in one of them.

Besides the HM, some other militant groups, including Harkatul Jihad-i-Islami, Jaish-i-Muhammad and Al Badar Mujahideen also had close ties with Bin Laden who had reportedly played a role in settling their internal disputes on more than one occasion. None of these organisations have publicly commented on the killing.

It may be argued that the absence of a public reaction might be due to the fact that these organisations are banned and their leadership is underground. However, most of these organisations retain a public face and continue to operate in the garb of charities. They have organised public events on issues closer to their heart on several occasions and the fact that they are banned has not been a hurdle in those instances. It is entirely conceivable that they do not want to attract attention towards themselves by making their views on Bin Laden`s death public.

The JD, which is on the US list of terrorist organisations on account of links with the Lashkar-i-Taiba, has developed political credentials in recent years and is active in the politics of agitation in Pakistan, mainly on religious issues. It has tried to keep its distance from Al Qaeda since 9/11 and has apparently joined the opposing Saudi camp.

JD publications now sing praises of the Saudi kingdom, which had revoked Bin Laden`s citizenship and has hoped that the Al Qaeda leader`s death would boost efforts to counter terrorism. Amid Iran`s criticism of Riyadh`s role following the recent unrest in Bahrain, the JD came forward to defuse the anti-Saudi campaign by pro-Shia elements in Pakistan and launched rallies and demonstrations across the country in support of Saudi Arabia.

It seems confusing that, on the one hand, a state welcomes the killing of Bin Laden and on the other, a pro-militant group, which brands itself as an ally of the same state declares him a martyr. But then nothing is ever simple in Pakistan.

Stating his organisation`s stance, a JD spokesperson has said that they had performed a religious duty by offering Bin Laden`s funeral prayers as he was a fellow Muslim and that such prayers should not be interpreted as JD`s affiliation with Al Qaeda. JD chief Hafiz Saeed has stated in several interviews that he had only met Bin Laden a few times, and that too during the Soviet-Afghan war. takfiris takfiris

The JD`s equation with Saudi Arabia comes naturally as members of the banned group are of the same sect as the majority Saudi population. Secondly, Saudi Arabia`s biggest terrorist challenge comes from (those who accuse other Muslims of apostasy) and Pakistan is also facing the wrath of the terrorist groups who have absorbed similar tendencies and developed a close association with Al Qaeda`s led by Ayman Al-Zawahiri. These groups include the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and the so-called Punjabi Taliban militant. takfir takfiri takfiri takfiri

Evidence suggests that was the issue that brought the JD closer to the Saudis. When the Saudi government launched a programme in 2003 to engage religious scholars to build a response against tendencies and terrorism, the impact on the Salafi clergy in Pakistan was immediately discernible. The JD took it upon itself to condemn the thought among militant groups and its affiliate Lashkar-i-Taiba distanced itself from the groups that had tendencies and even spurned any cooperation with the Pakistani Taliban. takfiris haram takfiri

In 2007, clashes were reported between the Lashkar-i-Taiba and Taliban militants in Mohmand Agency of Pakistani tribal areas. Opposition to the was believed to be one of the reasons behind the confrontation. The clash led to the Taliban killing the local Lashkar commander, Shah Sahib, and destroying the group`s infrastructure in Mohmand. Many analysts were surprised when Hafiz Saeed declared that suicide attacks inside Pakistan were or forbidden. The statement was apparently aimed at condemning the militants in Pakistan.

However, this line on suicide attacks does not mean that the JD or the Lashkar-i-Taiba have abandoned their jihad ideology. They still strictly follow their prime objective of pursuing defensive jihad against oppressive infidel forces who have occupied Muslim lands. The JD does not support armed action in Muslim states, notwithstanding corrupt rulers and lack of enforcement of Islamic laws in those countries.

The JD believes that Bin Laden`s prime objective was waging jihad against the US and that, unlike Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama had not announced jihad against Pakistan. But then Bin Laden had waged jihad against his own state, Saudi Arabia, over the US troops` presence there.

The JD`s paradoxical views over Bin Laden`s death do not seem all that strange in the context of the prevailing anti-US sentiments in Pakistan. Bin Laden was killed by US forces on Pakistani soil, which has provided an invaluable opportunity to incite anti-US feelings and anti-government demonstrations to anyone who fancies doing so. The JD considers itself the custodian of the jihad ideology and the protector of Saudi interests in the country, and is intent on pursuing both tasks. But keeping the balance is bound to be increasingly tricky.

Courtesy Dawn, May 09, 2011

Evolving Urban Counter-Terrorism Policy in Pakistan

Abdul Basit

In recent years, Pakistan’s main cities have increasingly faced militancy-induced cycles of violence. The prevailing wave of suicide attacks, targeting of Sufi shrines, and this week’s attacks on Pakistan Navy buses in Karachi serve as a stark reminder to those in charge of the country’s security affairs that the security situation in the urban centers can spiral out of control with little warning, and could lead to a major security breakdown. The murder of Salmaan Taseer, Governor of the Punjab, on January 04, 2011 by his own Elite Force police guard has thrown Pakistan into another, more dangerous quandary concerning urban security. Extremist militants have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to launch attacks across the country literally at will.

Pakistan’s record in counter-terrorism, after the collapse of a peace deal with extremist militants in Malakand Division in 2009 as well as in the militancy-infested Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), has been impressive. The two main military operation—Rah-e-Rast in May 2009 (Straight Path) and Rah-e-Nijat (Path of Deliverance) in October 2009 not only dislodged the militants from Swat and South Waziristan, respectively, but restored the eroded writ of the state there as well. However, despite this impressive track record of counter-terrorism in border and tribal regions, Pakistan lacks a smart urban counter-terrorism policy and has failed to match the efficiently operating militant outfits that have shown innovation and adaptability in their strategies. A recent semi-annual report of the White House has also noted with concern that despite rendering tremendous sacrifices in the war on terror, Pakistan lacks a clear direction and policy to deal with the scourge of terrorism as militants are now increasingly turning towards soft civilian targets.

Militant attacks in the urban centers of the country a few years earlier were quite predictable in terms of tactics, potential targets and trends of violence. However, in the last few months militant networks have changed their modus operandi. They have started attacking a wide array of targets including places of worship, shrines, crowded markets and offices of intelligence agencies, besides resorting to targeted killings of senior security and civilian government officials and politicians as well as abductions for ransom. Previously, the militants struck their targets with a single suicide bomber. Now they either use a combination of gun-and-bomb attacks or multiple suicide bombers. The attack on the shrine of Hazrat Fariduddin Gunj Shakar is a case in point where militants used improvised explosive devices (IEDs) instead of suicide bombers.

In the recent past, the attacks on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team and on Ahmedis’ worship places in Lahore, Pakistan’s second most populous city, has greatly dented the country’s image. Despite considerable gains made in the efforts against militancy by Pakistani security forces and a large number of casualties among the security personnel, Islamabad’s sincerity to tackle militancy and extremism has repeatedly been called into question by its allies and partners in the war on terror. There is enough evidence available now to suggest that there is no lack of willingness to act but of capabilities and proper planning. There is no denying the fact that the drivers and contributing factors of urban terrorism in Pakistan are the same as in the tribal areas along the Pak-Afghan border. Urban terrorism in Pakistan is a spillover effect of the ongoing militancy in those tribal areas and the long-term solution to this menace also lies in pacification of the militancy in FATA and Afghanistan. However, counter-measures for tacking terrorism in the cities have to be qualitatively different from those adopted in the tribal regions. The one-size-fits-all counter-terrorism approach has been counter-productive and has engendered confusions. Launch of full-fledged military operations, targeted surgical strikes or airstrikes are obviously not possible in thickly populated urban centers, even if appropriate intelligence is available. Moreover, unlike military or paramilitary contingents deployed in the tribal regions; civilian law enforcement agencies, mainly police, who have little experience in counter-terrorism, have to look after matters of security in the cities.

Challenges to evolution of urban counter-terrorism policy

•    Lack of political consensus
Lack of political consensus among various stakeholders is a major stumbling block in efforts to evolve an effective urban counter-terrorism policy. The delusional and denial-driven approach of the Punjab government about militant infrastructure in the province’s southern districts, ambivalence of the Balochistan government about the presence of banned militant outfits, and political point-scoring between the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party (ANP) over the alleged presence of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakista (TTP) militants in Karachi has been detrimental to counter-terrorism efforts in Pakistani cities. Unfortunately, the ruling political elite has used this phenomenon for their petty politicking. Such a policy cannot be espoused without a bipartisan approach to evolve across-the-board consensus and take on board all major stakeholders, including political and military leadership.

•    Nexus of political madrassas and religious charity organizations
Another factor that hinders countering-militancy efforts in major cities is the nexus of unregulated political madrsssa and religious charity organizations, which have been exploited by the militants for various purposes. While political madrassas play a dominant role in sectarian-related militancy, various religious charity organizations, which are affiliated with banned militant outfits, have exploited these madrassas to further their own agendas. The militant landscape of urban areas cannot be swept clean until the political role of madrassas is not neutralized. These religious networks have not only functioned as conduits of militancy by churning out potential recruits to militant outfits, but have also through their one-dimensional syllabi contributed to radical tendencies and stoked sectarian fervor in society. Countering militancy and terrorism would remain a struggle so long as a robust monitoring system under an powerful regulatory body is not evolved, which makes it mandatory for all madrassas to furnish their annual audit reports and sources of funding, ensures that madrassas do not have any political affiliation, that they impart education of modern subjects to students along with religious education, and that the pulpit is used to expose the militants’ discourse.

•    Doing away with conventional methods of policing
Conventional methods of policing such as erecting barricades at a city’s entry-points, frisking, and installation of scanners may be of tactical use but the policing effort in general cannot afford to ignore strategic responses to the challenges a militancy poses. The police, even its elite commando units, are poorly trained, equipped and paid. Reorganizing, and reequipping the police with a special emphasis on counter-terrorism is direly needed. Militants have been involved in various crimes and to date very little attention has been paid to this facet of counter-terrorism. The majority of the police machinery in the country has been engaged in providing security to the so-called VIPs and VVIPs. Judicious deployment of police contingents entrusted with night patrolling, stationing at strategic city points with a reorientation of threat perceptions and ensuring politically neutral policing and law enforcement are some of the first measures needed to challenge urban terrorism and militancy.

•    Judicial trials and execution of arrested militants
No real progress has taken place on this front either. The state has failed to bring to justice known terrorists. Hundreds of arrested terrorists have been released by courts because of poor investigation and lack of evidence against them. Moreover, there have been extensive delays in initiating trials against militant leaders such as Sufi Muhammad—chief of the banned Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhamamdi (TNSM)—and former spokesperson for Swat Taliban Muslim Khan. Although prolonged detention also raises fundamental issues of human rights violations, expeditious trial and effective prosecution of arrested militants are crucial components of a successful counter-terrorism strategy. The dynamics of militant violence in urban centers of the country have all the makings of metamorphosing into a major conflict. As long as political players and stakeholders do not sort out their differences, the militancy and the threats to law and order are unlikely to subside.

It is ironic that despite being the worst victim of terrorism, Pakistan has yet to evolve a counter-terrorism security discourse which enjoys popular acceptance and legitimacy. The delay has in turn jeopardised the efforts being conducted to fight this menace. Counter-extremism, urban intelligence and counter-intelligence are desperately required vis-a-vis the sense of security, the prevalence of law and order, and the writ of the Pakistani state. The situation requires urgent prescriptions for the security planners and policy-makers of Pakistan; these should indubitably be long-term policy objectives that are clear-cut in terms of application and focused in terms of the outcomes that can be elicited.

Bin Laden’s Death and Al-Qaeda’s Future

Abdul Basit

After a decade long search, intelligence surveillance and espionage missions from mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan to plains of Abbotabad in Pakistan, at the long last on May 02, 2011 the world’s most wanted man, the mastermind of September 11 attacks  and a top leader of world’s most feared terrorist out- fit (Al-Qaeda) Osama Bin Laden—who  carried a head bounty of $ 25 million—was assassinated in midnight helicopter raid by US special  forces in city of Abbotabad in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). The killing of OBL is indeed a major symbolic victory—in line with stated objectives of war on terror—for the US and its allied forces. However, the question which merits introspection is whether OBL’s death will change the current dynamics of ongoing Islamist militancy and insurgency in Af-Pak region and activities of Al-Qaeda and its affiliated militant groups in other parts of the world?  

After the attacks of 9/11, subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan and relocation of Al-Qaeda remnants, including its top leadership, to adjacent Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and other parts of Pakistan a lot has changed in Al-Qaeda’s organizational structure, functional matters of the organization and its and its leadership hierarchy. For various Islamist militants organizations around the globe stature of Al-Qaeda is that of an ideological motivator which provides religious justification to their violent acts.

Al-Qaeda is a de-centralized and compartmentalized outfit which no longer falls or fit into the category of classical definition of a terrorist outfit per se. It is not a unified body with a coherent structure. Over the years, it has splintered giving rise to many other groups. Currently Al-Qaeda has five to six autonomous organizations operating in different parts of the world, namely Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula, Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghrib, Al-Qaeda in Somalia or Al-Shabab and Al-Qaeda in Yemen. Besides there are various other militants factions in different regions of the world which are loosely affiliated with Al-Qaeda like for instance Tehirik-e-Taliban Pakistan(TTP)—a conglomerate of anti-state militant movements based in Pakistan’s tribal areas adjacent Pak-Afghan borders, Jemmah Islamiah of Malaysia etc.  (http://www.arabinsight.org/aiarticles/226.pdf)

Moreover, Al-Qaeda is a phenomenon of diaspora communities. Close scrutiny and analysis of attacks on world trade center in 2001, Madrid bombings in 2004, bombings of London commuter trains in London in 2005 and botched bomb attack in New York’s Time Square in 2010 depict that perpetrators of these attacks were holders of dual nationalities who hardly met Bin Laden or visited Al-Qaeda’s training camps. So expecting that his death will result in subsiding of violence is a wrong fallacy.    

In counter-insurgency operations count of casualties or removal of icon figures are hardly any measures of mapping success or measuring victory. Recent history of various insurgencies is a glaring example of this assertion. Assassinations of Nawab Akbar Bugti on August 27, 2006 in Baloch insurgency, execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on December 30, 2006 and death of TTP chief Baitullah Meshed in a US drone strike on August 25, 2009 added further fuel to these insurgencies instead of diminishing them.

So will the violence subside with his demise? The answer is a big NO. Bin Laden’s demise will not affect the worldwide operations of Al-Qaeda. His assassination can be categorized as a significant symbolic victory but operationally it will not have much impact on Al-Qaeda as an organization. Since 2004 Bin Laden has been removed from Al-Qaeda’s organizational and day-to-day management. His status within Al-Qaeda was of an icon figure and that of a spiritual leader. So his death elevates him further from an iconic spiritual figurehead to a martyred figurehead.

The militancy has not died with Bin Laden, even if his killing has delivered demoralising blow to its affiliated militant organizations. A brief analysis of terrorist attacks in Af-Pak region would reveal that Taliban style movements are more active here than Al-Qaeda, and manifestations of such violence are more localized and regional in their nature. So these groups will continue with their actions and the danger of militancy is far from over. Expecting that Bin Laden’s death is a major blow to Al-Qaeda will be erroneous and flawed idea. In fact, Al-Qaeda affiliated groups would resort to reprisal killings and revenge attacks targeting Western and American interests.

The way TTP stepped up their attacks against Pakistani security forces, including the attack on Pakistan army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, and other soft targets to avenge the killing of their chief in a drone strike. A sever backlash along the same pattern can be expected which will further increase the violence.



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