Time to learn from Sri Lanka’s Rajapakse Model ….


By: Hussain Saqib

Politics is too sacred a business to be left to politicians. While in the developed world, politics means statecraft undertaken by experts in economics, international relations, defense and strategic studies; in South Asian countries, politics refers to coming into power by hook or by crook. Here the politics involves intrigues to steal the elections and buy off the heavyweights of other parties. It was for this reason that when someone asked a master crafter of politics the reasons for violating an agreement, he simply explained that it was a political agreement, hence not binding. The politicians in South Asia are normally cheats, tax dodgers, underworld patrons and loan defaulters. Since they are practically illiterate in statecraft, they cannot see beyond their tenure or the next elections and their political interests take precedents over national interest.

This lack of sensitivity to national interest and people’s sentiments on part of professional politicians was at display last week when an All Parties Conference was convened by no other than the person known as father of Pakistani Taliban. The agenda of the conference was how to grant legitimacy to the terrorists as a genuine force at war with the State and extend to them the proverbial olive branch. Another immediate outcome of the conference was recognition of the father of TTP as a man to deal with, as far as it relates to the terrorists. He was called upon by the American Ambassador, immediately after the conference. According to Wikileaks, this man whose party had opposed Pakistan in 1947, was once the prime ministerial hopeful and had presented his candidature to you-know-who. This conference has again brightened his prospects.

The Pakistani Taliban who have killed nearly 45000 Pakistanis including 5000 security personnel want to negotiate peace, without cease-fire, let alone disarming themselves. It is vaguely clear that the security establishment wants the politicians to handle the matter. They are doing so just in order to serve their own petty political interests.

Is it right on the part of the State to negotiate peace with criminals involved in heinous crimes and massacre of innocent citizens? The security agencies are clear about one thing; Pakistani Taliban have safe havens in Afghanistan and operating under the watchful eyes of Afghan Intelligence which is proxy of RAW and CIA. This has been corroborated by a much-discussed past speech of US Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. As against Afghan Taliban, Pakistani Taliban are not fighting NATO forces and comprise mostly elements of LeJ, al Qaeda and fugitive terrorists from Arab and Central Asian countries.

Let’s look at how terrorists of LTTE were dealt with by Sri Lankan government. According to a paper titled, Understanding Sri Lanka’s Defeat of Tamil Tiger published by NDU Press, eight principles, the so-called Rajapaksa Model, of Sri Lankan COIN. Sri Lankan military and civilian leaders believe the application of these principles enabled the government’s victory.  These are, (a) political will, (b) go to hell that is, ignore domestic and international criticism, (c) no negotiations, (d) regulate media, (e) no ceasefire, (f) complete operational freedom, (g) accent on young commanders, and (h) keep your neighbors in the loop.

The defeat of the LTTE, according to another paper titled Future Directions International Strategic Analysis of Sri Lankan Military’s Counter-Insurgency, was the result of strong political will and public support that was uniformly consistent with the military’s strategic and operational objectives. The army had, in the process, demonstrated its prowess in jungle warfare, small unit- and night-operations. Its Commando and Special Forces Regiments had acquired considerable experience in covert operations, namely LRP, LRRP and large-scale hostage rescue situations. After nearly thirty years of experience in high and low intensity counter-insurgency warfare, the Sri Lanka Army is likely to rank among the most combat experienced armies in the world.

According to yet another paper titled, Think Like a Guerilla: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Sri Lanka published in Kennedy School Review, LTTE terrorists were experts in the art of mobile warfare, with a huge cadre of highly committed soldiers who mastered their guerrilla terrain. Yet they were ultimately defeated, largely due to well-crafted strategies implemented by the Sri Lankan government and military. These strategies are (a) gain popular support, (b) fight like a guerrilla, (c) diplomatic and financial isolation of insurgents, and (d) divide terrorists.

Have Pakistani State and its security establishment learnt any lesson from Sri Lanka?  It may be kept in mind that Sri Lankan armed forces are nowhere near their Pakistan counterpart as far as commitment, professionalism and training are concerned. So far the terrorists have successfully isolated the State and the armed forces through their accomplices in media. They use media to discredit world’s sixth largest army and the number one intelligence agency and pressure apex judiciary through the very same media to prosecute the security establishment. As far as national unity, the politicians are already at work to divide the nation on this very sensitive issue for petty political gains.

While the army is convinced that TTP terrorists are the most potent national security threat, politicians are trying to make us believe that the terrorists are a bunch of disgruntled youth protesting Pakistan’s participation in War on Terror. These politicians have no explanation why the foreign terrorists do not return to their native countries and fight their governments who are already participating in this war.

The kind of terrorists that Pakistan is fighting knows no morals and there is hardly any ground to sit with them for negotiation. This is something that the security establishment should deal with without leaving it to the politicians.

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