Relocation of Haqqanis
Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan


Contrary to US accusations, that Haqqani network is still based in Pakistani tribal areas, North Waziristan Agency (NWA), the leader of the network Sirajud Din Haqqani has disclosed that they are no more in Pakistani areas, rather has shifted to Afghan territory.

As per his interview to Reuters from some undisclosed location, the young Haqqani has said, “Gone are the days when we were hiding in the mountains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Now we consider ourselves more secure in Afghanistan besides the Afghan people. Senior military and police officials are with us.” He further emphasized that Afghans desire to get rid of US occupation from their motherland and they believe that, this group would provide them such a platform. He even said that his network has linkages with people in the Karzai Government. “There are sincere people in the Afghan government who are loyal to the Taliban as they know our goal is the liberation of our homeland from the clutches of occupying forces.” He mentioned that in past, US tried to strike deal with his network and even offered lucrative positions in the Afghan Government, but they rejected that. Indeed, it was a US ploy to divide the anti US forces and continue its occupation. Since last few months, there have been rumours of this relocation. Following the incident of May 2, 2011, once Pakistan was under stress to take action against this network, these rumours were at the peak. However, there was no confirmation or rejection from the network itself, Afghan Government or Pakistan, until Sirajud Din himself broke the silence in the above-mentioned interview. As revealed by locals’ sources, in the wake of US pressure on Pakistan for a military operation in NWA, even before killing of OBL, Haqqanis have started shifting from the area. This movement was accelerated following the OBL killing in a US raid and thereafter there were some indications from Pakistan that, now there will be a military operation in NWA. According to Brig (retd) Mehmood Shah, former Secretary of FATA, “Haqqani has no more fighting elements left in Waziristan Agency. Air strikes… forced them to shift … across the border… and stopped them from visiting relatives.” According to another defence analyst General (retd) Jamshid Ayaz, “I know they (Haqqani and Taliban) have relocated themselves… but operations are necessary to prevent their return.” According to a local Tribal elder Malik Mumtaz, “Local tribes and Hafiz Gul Bahadur will not support any foreigner or allow anybody to use the soil against any foreign country.” Some reports say Hafiz Gul Bahadur and elders of the tribal peace committee have convinced the Haqqani members and Arab fighters to move out or stay peaceful to forestall a military operation in North Waziristan. Brig (retd) Mehmood Shah, feels that, time has arrived where “The Haqqani network is safer in Afghanistan than in North Waziristan.” Therefore, there is no need to launch a military operation in NWA, as there is “nothing to fight now.” In fact, publicity about a likely military operations and frequent aerial attacks in the form of drones has impeded the movement of Haqqanis in NWA, thus preferred to leave the area. Some people say that Hazif Gul Bahadur has played a very significant role in driving Haqqanis out of NWA. However, this is for sure that, “Foreigners including the Haqqani network have repositioned themselves outside North Waziristan agency.” Pakistan firmly believes that neither foreign elements are acceptable on its soil nor terrorist acts of local can be tolerated any more. On its part, United States has total misperceptions that Haqqanis are a strategic asset for Pakistan’s security establishment, either for an influence in Afghanistan or against India. This is fallacious, as Pakistan is a nuclear power and with over half a million regular armed forces, it does not depend on such foreign elements or none-state actors. Indeed no nation can depend on foreign elements or non-state actors for its defence. Unfortunately, its engagement in Afghanistan during the decade of 1980s, for supporting the US cause made it, its compulsion to have a link with various Afghan groups and factions, Haqqani being one of them. Now US is exploiting the same very linkage for a different purpose, the way it declared the former Mujahedeen as terrorists. On September 13, 2011, terrorists attacked US Embassy and NATO Headquarters, in Kabul, which lasted for over twenty long hours. The attack ended by killing two militants by ISAF. Sequel to attack, US once again blamed that; this attack was launched by Haqqani network, having its safe havens in North Waziristan Agency (NWA). The attack on Kabul though was of the minor nature, having involvement of only few militants, yet the penetration of Taliban in this very high security zone area has raised many questions about the effectiveness of ISAF and Kabul administration even in the capital city. Indeed, this attack has also exposed the effectiveness of Afghan National Army (ANA), police and US, the occupying power. Pakistan strongly condemned the attack. However, as usual, following the terrorists’ attack in Kabul, the US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, threatened Pakistan of unilateral actions if it (Pakistan) fails to take action against Haqqani Network. He said in a statement that, “Time and again we’ve urged the Pakistanis to exercise their influence over these kinds of attacks from the Haqqanis. And we have made very little progress in that area. I think the message they need to know is: we’re going to do everything we can to defend our forces.” The tone and texture of his statement indicates as if Pakistan has done this all, indeed a highly provocative one. Rationally, US could have assessed the grey areas in its security arrangements there, rather accusing Pakistan for its own failure. Pakistani reaction though was quick, but remained mature and cool. The spokesperson of the Pakistani Foreign Office said that, “We believe these remarks are not in line with the cooperation that exists between the two countries.” US however, was reminded to respect Pakistani sovereignty. Pakistan also questioned US about the safe havens of militants on Afghan side of Pak-Afghan border, who repeatedly attacked Pakistani security posts, killing hundreds of security personnel and even innocent civilians. Pakistan feels that, “There is a need to clearly address the issue in a cooperative mode and work for de-escalation in violence as violence is no solution to any problem.” Apart US ambassador in Kabul and ISAF commander in Afghanistan, accuse that, Haqqanis attack various targets in Afghanistan from Pakistani territory (North Waziristan) and then fall back there, being their safe havens. Analysts contest these accusations on the ground that, after all what role 150,000 ISAF troops perform there with equal number of ANA and ANP. Why should they allow these militants to get into Afghan territory, attack targets and easily walk back to NWA in Pakistan. After all, Haqqanis do not have aircraft, missiles and modern equipment, better than US and NATO forces. Furthermore, US has an effective surveillance system to monitor any activity in these troubled spots, therefore, why the militants cannot be track-downed and targeted before they target someone or escape from the scene. Thus, US logics are less convincing and more to throw the blame on others. US should realize today’s world is more aware and visionary, thus cannot be befooled easily. In the same backdrop, during the meeting of the NATO Chiefs of Defence in Seville, Spain, the Pakistani Army Chief General Kayani ruled out any possibility of undertaking a military operation in North Waziristan Agency (NWA). As per ISPR, the General “reiterated the resolve and commitment of Pakistan in the struggle against terrorism while underlining Pakistan’s sovereign right to formulate policy in accordance with its national interests and the wishes of the Pakistani people.” This statement was issued to dismiss the rapidly rising pressure of US on Pakistan to launch a military operation in NWA. Indeed, General Kayani’s statement is a true reflection of the national sentiments of Pakistani nation that was enraged, following the incident of May 2, 2011. After all, why Pakistan be made scapegoat for all ills of Afghan Government, militants and United States. It is a considered view of the nation that under the current security situation, we cannot launch a military campaign in NWA, just to obey the US directive. After all, we are a sovereign nation and have the right to make decisions in our best national interest. Furthermore, such a military operations will have many implications. These implications need to be weighed against the likely gains. A realistic assessment would reveal that there would be no real terms gain from a military operation in NWA, except fulfilling the US desires. US and European countries must know that Pakistan or its security forces have no alliance with Haqqani network nor the network has any love for Pakistan. Pakistan is already doing its best to pull out all foreign elements from its soil. US should realize that, “going after the Haqqani network (whose presence in NWA is unconfirmed) at this stage will have huge repercussions” for Pakistan, Afghanistan and even US. Rather stabilization, this act would further destabilize the region. There can be very severe local reaction of any such action. As a matter of fact, US and NATO should make use of Pakistan and its armed forces to facilitate a negotiation between Kabul Administration and all factions including Haqqani. Pak Army is otherwise busy in flushing out the militants from its territory in its own way. Through a negotiating deal, NATO and US would be able to leave the region honourably.