Pakistan Army’s war on terror dependent on US small arms & communication equipments ?

us-pakistan relations
Representative photo

That Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s pre-Beijing visit paeans in praise of Sino-Pak friendship wouldn’t translate into a slew of major investments was as expected as Beijing’s insistence that Islamabad takes effective actions to ensure security of Chinese assets and the safety of its nationals working on CPEC projects. So, while Sharif’s hurried approval of Operation Azm-e-Istehkam [Resolve and Stability] a multi-faceted initiative aimed at eradicating extremism and terrorism in a comprehensive manner came as no big surprise, but what Pakistan’s envoy to the US Masood Khan said subsequently did!

Soon after it endorsed Operation Azm-e-Istehkam, Ambassador Khan told Washington that “we need sophisticated small arms and communication equipment to oppose and dismantle terrorist networks.” Since Pakistan has the sixth largest army in the world and spends a whopping 1.7 per cent of its GDP on defence, this request obviously came like a bolt from the blue. It’s no secret that under the garb of fighting the US led war on terror Rawalpindi has accumulated exceptionally large stocks of state-of-art weapons and equipment, thanks to the brazen indulgence on the part of US authorities.

The Biden administration’s reversal of the ban on the USD 450 million worth upgrade of Pakistan Air Force’s F16 fighters in 2022 is a case in point and  US Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratne’s justification that this issue was related to America’s “defence partnership with Pakistan which is primarily focused on counter-terrorism and nuclear security,” [Emphasis added] is so unimaginative that it convinces no one. Furthermore, if Washington was genuinely interested in enhancing Islamabad’s counter-terrorism capabilities, why did it fail to provide the Pakistan Army with basic military hardware like small arms and communication equipment?

Pakistan joined the US led war on terror in wake of 9/11 and while it has been demanding state of art heavy weaponry designed for use in conventional warfare, it has never ever complained about lack of sophisticated small arms and communication equipment. However, the moment Washington announced its approval of Pakistan’s latest anti-terrorist operation, Islamabad started complaining that it doesn’t have the requisite type of guns and walkie-talkies to destroy terrorist networks, which is indeed ludicrous.

Some may contend that Pakistan’s envoy to the US may have made the request for small arms and communication equipment due to inadequate knowledge about the Pakistan Army’s weapon and communication profile. But ask anyone and you’ll be told that Ambassador Khan couldn’t have dared requesting Washington for these basic military items without the explicit approval from Rawalpindi.

Furthermore, with the Pakistan Army boasting of spectacular successes against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP] terrorist group as well as Baloch armed groups that are fighting against Pakistani occupation, the sudden request for an inescapable Sharif had announced weapon and communication equipment upgrade is rather intriguing. While revealing its contours, Sharif had clarified that the aim of Operation Azm-e-Istehkam was this “to decisively root out the nebulous and shadowy presence of remnants of terrorists,” [Emphasis added] indicating that the threat level wasn’t alarming.

So, why the sudden demand for sophisticated small arms and communication equipment?

The answer is not too hard to find. Pakistan has been blaming the Taliban government in Kabul of not only providing safe havens to TTP terrorists but also hinting that it was providing this terrorist group with sophisticated small arms and communication equipment meant for the erstwhile Afghan National Army that the US troops had left behind while withdrawing from Afghanistan. This is evident from what Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Munir Akram mentioned while addressing a conference on UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons last month wherein he stated, “Pakistan is particularly concerned about the acquisition and use of modern, sophisticated small arms by terrorist groups such as TTP-a UN-listed terrorist organisation.”

Though he did not name either the US or Kabul, but by saying “Terrorists and criminals do not manufacture these arms,” and adding that “It is essential to investigate how terrorist groups and criminal organisations acquire such sophisticated weapons,” Ambassador Akram left noroom for any doubt that Washington is morally responsible for enhancing TTP’s firepower as well as communication capabilities by leaving a stockpile of the same in Afghanistan.

Since TTP is allegedly using these assets against Pakistan’s security forces, it’s obvious that Islamabad is through its US envoy trying to psychologically arm-twist Washington into providing Pakistan with matching small arms and communication equipment to atone for its irresponsible act of leaving behind small arms and communication equipment in Afghanistan. However, Islamabad’s attempt to take high moral ground on this issue is misplaced because Rawalpindi too is doing exactly what it is accusing Kabul about.

State of art US made M4 rifles with telescopic sights as well as sophisticated communication equipment have been recovered by Indian security forces from slain Pakistani terrorists in J&K. Furthermore advanced Chinese communication devices custom-made exclusively for the Pakistan Army have also been seized from Pakistan sponsored terrorists and the fact that Rawalpindi can afford to supply these items to terrorists clearly suggests that there is no dearth of the same in the Pakistan Army.

Whether Washington accedes to Islamabad’s request for supply of small arms and communication equipment or not is immaterial, but what is of concern is that with Rawalpindi showing no signs of sponsoring terrorism, any hope of Pakistan contributing to a terrorism free world is nothing but great expectations! And former US President Donald Trump’s tweet stating “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit… They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt…” aptly sums up the situation!

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