Azeri.Today's special project: Interviews with special services
Azeri.Today continues the column "Interviews with special services". In this column, readers will be able to read interviews with directors, ex-directors, former high-ranking officers of the special services of the world about the threats to national security of countries, international terrorism, confrontation between special services and states.
Today's guest of Azeri.Today is Lieutenant General, Sikander Afzal, former Director General for Strategic Analysis in the Interdepartmental Intelligence of Pakistan (the main body of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence of Pakistan) in 2004-2006. From December 2009 to December 2010, he served as commander of the United Nations Mission in Liberia.
- Mr.Afzal, from 2004 until 2006 you were the general director on strategic analysis under Interdepartmental Intelligence. Pakistan is a peace-loving country; however, it locates in an extremely unstable region, neighboring with extremely unstable states. What does Pakistan stability and security rest on?
- Pakistan’s stability and security rests on the resilience of its people, its institutions and the will of the people to overcome all odds and dangers that threaten the state of Pakistan. These dangers and threats may be internal or external.
- Where does the biggest threat to Pakistan come from?
- Pakistan’s biggest threat comes from two directions. The first and most important is the internal threat that Pakistan faces. The internal threat is largely from a lack of direction that the Pakistani polity (State & Society) has been able to ascertain for itself. Legislative bodies have failed as a result of their individual vested interest. They relied on nationalism, socialism, religious extremism then enlightened moderation (different names) for what suited the ruling class to manipulate the society. The society thus remains lost in what Pakistan stands for. Thus society has failed to evolve a direction for itself and swung from one extreme to another.
The second is the external threat primarily from India. This has led to wars, misadventures from both countries and a hardening of each other’s stance to resolve their disputes. This threat has increased manifold since 2005 by the active support of the Indian intelligence agencies who have abetted the Afghan Intelligence Agencies in supporting the separatists in Baluchistan and FATA to wage a war of terrorism against the Pakistani state. The arrest of a serving Indian Intelligence officer who was involved with funding, directing terrorists and extremists in Baluchistan, the voluntary surrender of a very senior TTP leader and his statements of the support being provided by India to the terrorists and anti-state elements provide ample proof of India’s undeclared covert war against Pakistan.
- Kashmir conflict, which occasionally escalates claiming innocent lives, is among the most painful problems of Pakistan. What factors hamper the peace settlement of the Kashmir conflict? What external forces are interested in worsening of the Pakistan-India relations?
- The only reason why the Kashmir conflict is unable to be settled is as a result of India’s intransigence and it’s not agreeing to the implementing of the UN resolution or to any options that Pakistan offered to settle the issue bilaterally.
- The world community is watching closely and is concerned about the growth of extremism and terrorism in Middle Eastern countries. Pakistan has also faced the threat of ISIL. How do the Pakistani special services cope with their task in fighting terrorism and religious extremism?
- The threat of ISIL (Daish) is real and alive. With an established base in close proximity of its border in Afghanistan, converting of several factions of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) into its fold, diminishing attractiveness of AlQaeda to attract recruits and abundant funding available to Daish it has the resources to grow even in Pakistan. All agencies dealing with the threat of terrorism are dealing with the penance and tracing it.
The government has also developed a plan to deal with extremism. However this plan has fallen short of meeting any of its objectives as by eradicating extremism the ruling class would lose control over the same elements who form their vote bank and are used to coarse their opponents to submit to their will.
- Two major forces – the United States with their allies and Taliban - are now operating in Afghanistan. Despite the loss of power in Afghanistan, Taliban remains quite a weighty force. Is there a possibility that the United States and Taliban come to grips and agree on the presence of the other in Afghanistan?
- Not to my reading of the situation. If the US was to accept the Taliban as an entity and work together with it to bring peace to Afghanistan it would be accepting the fact that since 2000 it has killed thousands for no reason and history will not judge it kindly.
- Many in Russia fear that Taliban will not contend themselves with Afghanistan and after winning will start to ‘export’ their influence to Central Asian countries, which Moscow considers the area of its interests. What can you say about it?
- I think this is an incorrect assessment and not based on a study of Taliban history since 1988. The Taliban would never be able to export their ideology to the Central Asian Countries for two reasons. First the control of the establishment in these countries does not allow any room for this. Secondly culturally the Taliban and the people of Central Asia come from two different cultures. Never in in history of the area for the past thousand years has any ingress whether military or cultural moved from south to north.
- There is an opinion that Pakistani intelligence helped create ‘Taliban’ and also supports other Islamist militarized grouping that attack India. Do you agree with this opinion?
- Yes there is no denying the fact that Pakistan was responsible for creating the Mujahedeen (Not Taliban) to fight against the soviet forces in occupation of Afghanistan. The Taliban evolved from these Mujahedeen factions after the Soviets had withdrawn from Afghanistan and as a consequence of internal strife between the various Mujahedeen factions for control of Kabul /Afghanistan.
Yes. Pakistan did support various groups which were fighting in Indian Occupied Kashmir from 1990 to 2003. However after a decision was taken to stop support to these groups by the government no support has been provided. As a matter of fact most of the people involved with these groups were rehabilitated, taught new skills and resettled to begin a new life. This is not new and was explained, shown all ambassadors and used a rehabilitation model by several other countries.
- Pakistan has long been viewed as the US ally in fight against terrorism, but the relations between the two countries have recently worsened seriously, and today Islamabad cooperates with China, rather than the US. How will the relations between Pakistan and the United States develop under Trump?
- Trump or no trump the minute the US swung towards India as a counter balance to China relations between Pakistan and the US turned mellow. This trend will continue to grow. Pakistan in the near and midterm is of no relevance to the US therefore Pakistan must expect the relations to sour more as a result of developing environment in Afghanistan, Iran, India. I would not rule out the imposition of sanctions on Pakistan in the short term by the US.
- How do you assess the Azerbaijan-Pakistan relations?
- Azerbaijan and Pakistan relations will remain cordial. As there are no trade links, economic or security interests the relations will remain cordial. However Russian control will always remain an influencing factor.
- Azerbaijan is grateful to Pakistan for its support in Karabakh issue. How do you see the resolution of this conflict?
- I do think that I or anyone else can give a suitable recommendation for the simple reason that we in Pakistan have not been able to resolve our disputes with India related to land and sea borders therefore we are in no position to provide advice. However as this demand will continue to make the region unstable.
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