Can General Raheel enjoy what General Fonseka got to rout terror?

By Makhdoom Babar


The Government of Mian Nawaz Sharif, after miserable failure to come with a leadership doctrine to rout the menace of terror from the country, has finally come up with an apparent resolve to address the issue. However despite Prime Minister’s political statements of combating terror with all the sincerity with very strong political will, there appears to be a complete lack of any maturity and sincerity on part of the country’s political leadership that is present in the 2 august Houses of the Parliament.  If one day Maulana Fazal-ul-Rehman is overthrowing the amendments in the constitution, made for the purpose of defeating terror than on another day PPP Chairperson comes up with strong objections to the same. If one fine morning Jamaat-e-Islami is creating bottlenecks for the said constitutional amendments then on another evening MQM is floating its objections to the death sentences for terror convicts.

One looks back when merely a couple of months ago, the same politicians of all these political parties, in a joint session of the parliament , got glued to each other in an unprecedented display of political and parliamentary unity, just to save the miserably failed set up of governance for the “ welfare of people” and even took the opportunity to go for outrageous bashing of institution of army and country’s security agencies. However, today, when they were required to show the same unity and togetherness for an even bigger cause; to save the lives of the people and solidarity of the country, they are, instead coming up with a variety of political gimmicks and showing no united resolve at all.

As far as the government is concerned, it is also showing no mature manner to address the issue with a real fervor, zeal and sincerity and is trying to put all the onus on military leadership without rescuing the military headquarters of any political or diplomatic onslaught, whatsoever, with regard to go for a smooth anti-terror campaign. The government seems to see military leadership to go on terror combat in a rollercoaster rather than providing it with a political and diplomatic backup for the smooth elimination of the menace of terror for good.

One notices with a great shock and dismay that starting from President Asif Ali Zardari, going through Prime Ministers Yousaf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and till date Mian Nawaz Sharif, no leader of the country ever tried to learn from the success of Sri Lankan government and its President Mahinda Rajapaksa to rout LTTE’s monster of terror that was ensured through Lankan Army after suffering the ruthless terror for about 26 years.

Screenshot_2Screenshot_3Successful doctrine of Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa, evolved for defeating India- backed LTTE terror menace by Lankan army under the leadership of army Chief General Sarath Fonseka was, without any iota of doubt, a glittering example for successive Pakistani leaders to follow with regard to combating terror. However, it seems that Rajapaksa’s doctrine immensely failed to impress Pakistani leaders, especially Mian Nawaz Sharif. Contrary to gaining and learning from Rajapaksa’s plan and strategic matrix in which the Lankan President placed the entire anti-terror operation by Lankan army under Ministry of defense’s ambit, Nawaz Sharif government has virtually made Defense Ministry as irrelevant and is making all out efforts to keep army’s anti-terror combat under Interior Minister Chuadhary Nisar’s domain. Nonetheless, Prime Minister has appointed a person as Defense Minister whose venom against country’s institution of army is not hidden from anyone and the gentleman has been displaying the same very loudly and clearly over the years at various levels and occasions. The Prime Minister who enjoys an overwhelming majority in the Parliament while also displayed an otherwise immense support from all the Parliamentary parties via a Joint session of both the Houses a few months back, has given absolutely no attention to come up with a political leadership’s plan to combat terror through country’s Armed Forces, similar to the one, devised by Lankan President and handed over to his army by him.

To understand what Pakistani missed out of Lankan leaders’ approach towards eliminating terror, one needs to draw parallels between Rajapaksa’s doctrine and its contraries by Pakistani political leadership.

A detailed study of Sri Lankan government’s defeat of the LTTE linked terrorism indicated that this amazing victory against terrorism was based on political leadership formulated doctrine. The plan, that is much known as Rajapaksa’s doctrine, was based on some half a dozen basic points or methodologies  that were as under:

  • Sincere and strong political will
  • Disregard for international opinion distracting from the goal
  • No negotiations with the forces of terror
  • Regulating media to achieve the best anti-terror combat results
  • Absence of political intervention to pull away from complete defeat of the LTTE
  • Complete operational freedom for the security forces -Let the best men do the task


Screenshot_14Screenshot_1The first fundamental of this doctrine was unwavering, strong and sincere political will. Rajapaksa clearly conveyed to General Sarath Fonseka: “eliminate the LTTE.” To the outside world he conveyed the same message differently: “either the LTTE surrenders or face, their end.” Rajapaksa instructed the Sri Lankan Army that their job was to fight and win the war. At whatever cost, however bloody it might be. He would take care of political pressures, domestic and international.

General Fonseka commented: “It is the political leadership with the commitment of the military that led the battle to success. We have the best political leadership to destroy terrorism in this country. It was never there before to this extent. The military achieved these war victories after President Mahinda Rajapaksa came into power. He, who believed that terrorism should and could be eliminated, gave priority to go ahead with our military strategies. And no Defence Secretary was there like the present Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa who had the same commitment and knowledge on how to crush the LTTE. Finally, they gave me the chance of going ahead with the military plan.”

Contradictions in Pakistan

Contrary to this approach of Rajapaksa, Pakistani Premier never gave any such task in this very manner to its army chief and instead kept halting him from going for any such action. Government of Mian Nawaz Sharif kept discouraging the military leadership with regard to initiating any action against the TTP terrorists and its ministers kept terming the TTP operators as glorified but misled patriotic countrymen. The Interior Minister, who is now placed at the helm of affairs from the political leadership with regard to army’s anti-terror operation is not record to have defending the TTP terror commanders and condemning as well opposing any attack or operation against them in the recent past. This approach was kept in practice until the huge national tragedy occurred in shape of Peshawar School attack. 


Following from the first, the second principle of Rajapaksa’s ‘how to fight a war and win it’ was telling the international community to “go to hell.” As the British and French foreign ministers, David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner, found out during their visit. They were cold shouldered for suggesting that Sri Lanka should halt the war and negotiate with the LTTE. As Rajapaksa said during the post-interview chatter “we will finish off the LTTE, we will finish terrorism and not allow it to regroup in this country ever; every ceasefire has been used by the LTTE to consolidate, regroup and re-launch attacks, so no negotiations.” Eliminate and Annihilate – two key operational words that went with the “go to hell” principle of the ‘Rajapaksa Model’. After Colombo declared victory the Sri Lankan Army Commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka used words used by Rajapaksa. That the SLA will not allow the LTTE to “regroup”.

Contradictions in Pakistan

Unlike this feature of Rajapaksa’s doctrine, Pakistan’s political leadership kept hiding behind one foreign pressure or the other for not letting its troops to go all out to rout terror for good .Even the moratorium on the execution of the terrorists, sentenced for death by the courts, was maintained under the European Union and other foreign pressures. Even this stance was undone only after nation paid the huge price in shape of the killings of hundreds of innocent children at Peshawar’s Army Public School by terrorists in December last.


The third fundamental was no negotiations with the LTTE. “The firm decision of the political hierarchy not to go for talks with the LTTE terrorists until they lay down arms had contributed significantly to all these war victories,” affirmed General Fonseka. But this meant withstanding international pressure to halt the war, the humanitarian crisis spawned by the war and the rising civilian casualties. Rajapaksa did all of this by simply ensuring ‘silence’ and information blackout under which the war was conducted. Rajapaksa’s biggest gamble was to give the military a free hand, shut the world out of the war zone.

When the United Nations, US and European countries raised concerns of high civilian casualties, Rajapaksa, said that the international community was “getting in the way” of Sri Lanka’s victory against terrorism. “We knew that the moment the military is close to operational successes, there will be loud screams for the resumption of the political process of peace negotiations. But there will be no negotiations.” That was the rock solid stand taken and communicated by Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa to all visiting dignitaries and diplomats.

Contradictions in Pakistan

Completely contrary to this basic principle, exercised by Lankan government to successfully defeat the decades old menace of terrorism, Pakistan’s government of Mian Nawaz Sharif opted to hold parleys with top grade and inhumane terrorists and their commanders, halting the military leadership from taking any action against the terror and terrorists. Completely ignoring and miserably failing to take any initiive from the success story of Sri Lankan government, in a high shocking move, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif formed a “ Government’s Negotiating Team” to hold negotiations with commanders of terrorists. Even setting aside Pakistan’s own experience of getting nothing out of such dialogue with terrorists a few years back in case of Swat Operation, Nawaz government remain stubborn on its stance of  gaining success in routing terrorism through dialogue with terrorists, a stance that eventually came up as a big disaster to anti-terror efforts and gave a handsome opportunity to the terrorists to not only regroup and reposition themselves but also to use certain bargaining chips for minting more money from their foreign financers by blackmailing them under the garb of negotiating with government. 


Rajapaksa’s brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who consistently maintained that military operations would continue unhindered. “There will be no ceasefire,” was Gotabaya uncompromising message. The clear, unambiguous stand enabled other prominent personalities in the Rajapaksa cabinet to speak in a uniform voice. “Human rights violations during war operations and the humanitarian crisis that engulfs civilians caught in the cross fire have always been the trigger points to order a military pull-back,” asserted Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister for Human Rights and Disaster Management. “The LTTE would always play this card in the past. They would use the ceasefire to regroup and resume the war.”

President Rajapaksa was clear that he did not want to go down that route. That was the traditional way of fighting the LTTE – two steps forward, four steps back. The Rajapaksa brothers’ commitment to a military solution was cast in stone. And it was anchored in a deft political arrangement. But first it is important to reveal the idea behind the political arrangement. “It was to ensure that there would be no political intervention to pull away the military from its task of comprehensively and completely eliminating the LTTE,” said a senior official in the Lankan President’s Office.

Contradictions in Pakistan

Once again, without learning anything from the success story of Sri Lankan government, Nawaz Sharif government looked desperate in ensuring a ceasefire when army initiated a soft launching of anti-terror operation in Waziristan, early last year. The “Government’s Negotiating Team”, though could not achieve any success with regard to convincing the TTP terrorists to lay down arms and end terror and militancy, however the great team came up with a proposal of ceasefire between the terrorists and the security Forces and on negotiators’ recommendation, the Federal government ordered military leadership to halt all actions against terrorists and to introduce a complete ceasefire and truce and army had to obey these orders. However, during this truce period, TTP terrorists got reorganized comprehensively. They got themselves positioned in better spots and re-strengthened themselves to prepare for a very strong and reenergized resistance to every action by the troops. There are also reports that during the truce period and in the backdrop of negotiations with the terrorists, government also released some 85 top terrorists of TTP, arrested by the military authorities during different operations in Waziristan agencies.


With just one version of the war available for the media to report, the Sri Lankan government ensured an unidirectional flow of conflict information. The information put out by the LTTE’s official website, TamilNet, could not be independently verified on the ground because access to the war zone was regulated and controlled. This was a vital principle in the strategic matrix of the Rajapaksa model.

“Presidents Premadasa and Chandrika Bandaranaike gave orders to the military to take on the LTTE. But when success was near, they reversed the orders and instructed the military to pull back, to withdraw from operations because of international concerns about the humanitarian crisis and civilian casualties. So we had to ensure that we regulated the media. We didn’t want the international community to force peace negotiations on us,” said a senior official in the President’s office in a media interaction.

Contradictions in Pakistan

Unlike Sri Lanka’s war on terror, Pakistan government never thought of regulating media to get best possible results with regard to eliminating terror and terrorists. Instead, private media was encouraged by government and especially through Minister of Information to create pressure over military leadership and in an infamous campaign by a particular media house against army and ISI, government decided to side with  the said media house and not with its own institution of army with Information Minister running extra miles to opt for army bashing to appease the said media house. It is pertinent to mention here that that almost 50% of the members of the “Government’s Negotiating Team” that held rounds and rounds of talks with TTP terrorists, were from the same media house.

On the other side, the government, instead of properly regulating media and especially the electronic media and to convince them support the cause of anti-terror combat, started policing the electronic media. Rather than placing media specific specialists to come up with effective policies to regulate electronic media affairs, ex police officers were posted at the helm of affairs in, PEMRA, the body that regulates the affairs of electronic media in country. The purpose of placing these ex police officers at PEMRA was to run the affairs of the electronic media in a crude policing manner and to haunt those media houses that were critical of government’s apathy to strongly and sincerely deal with the menace of terrorism.

To everybody’s dismay, after the tragic Peshawar terror attack, government, after announcing of launching mega anti-terror operations through army, vanished its Information Minister and left the Army Headquarters alone to take and tackle the onslaught of the  local and International media through army’s own media arm of ISPR. There was no Information Minister or the Information Ministry to defend and publicize the army’s operation against terrorists while the Interior Minister was given the task of playing the role of Information Minister by holding Press Conferences over army’s operations, that by no means, comes under his domain. 


Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s appointment to the post of Defence Secretary was made precisely to break this political logjam. Gotabaya had a military past. He had taken voluntary retirement from the SLA. He had retained his long standing friendship with Lt General Sarath Fonseka. Gotabaya met Fonseka and asked him, “can you go for a win”? The battle-hardened veteran said “yes, but you will have to permit me to pick my own team.” Gotabaya and Mahinda agreed. “We will let the military do its job, while we hold the fort, politically,” they told Fonseka. This deft political arrangement worked because both, Gotabaya and Fonseka, were recruited and commissioned into the army at the same time.

With rock solid political backing, General Fonseka was able to motivate his troops and officers to go all out without fearing any adverse consequences. “That there will be civilian casualties was a given and Rajapaksa was ready to take the blame. This gave the Army tremendous confidence. It was the best morale booster the forces could have got,” said a Sri Lankan Minister during a media interaction in 2009, 2010.

So even though Gotabaya came into the political set up virtually out of nowhere, he quickly became the bridge-head between President Rajapaksa’s government and the military. The Rajapaksa brothers fused political commitment to a pre-set military goal. “He (Gotabaya) was embraced and accepted by the military and his was a legitimate voice in the Army,” said a senior official in the President Office. Gotabaya communicated the military requirements to the government – men, material and weapons.
His brother and head of the government, President Rajapaksa, ensured the military got what it wanted. He in turn instructed Gotabaya to tell the Army to go all out and get on with the task.

Contradictions in Pakistan

Completely contrary to Rajapaksa’s doctrine and his strategic matrix, Nawaz Sharif regime, at no stage, gave any rock solid backing to army for an all out anti-terror operation. Premier never assured his Army Chief that government will take all the political, diplomatic pressure and onslaught on behalf of army if army would go for a comprehensive anti-terror combat.

Similarly, no special arrangements were made at the Ministry of Defense to evolve an ideal atmosphere for a civil-military coordinated mega operation to eliminate terror and terrorists. Instead the anti-terror operation that had to be placed comprehensively under Defense Ministry’s assistance and support from the government’s side has virtually been placed under Interior Minister’s prudence and supervision.  To add to salt to the injury, such a person is being kept at the helm of affairs at the Ministry of Defense as Defense Minister who has always been merely a source of irritation and troubles for the army.

In the nutshell, the Rajapaksa doctrine was based on a military precept and not a political one. Terrorism has to be wiped out militarily and cannot be tackled politically. That was the basic premise of the Rajapaksa Model. The Nawaz Sharif government is now making efforts to back army’s anti-terror resolve and task and is carrying out different amendments in constitution and making new legislations. However a lot of very precious time has been wasted and many innocent lives have been lost to reach this conclusion.

Why to draw parallels between Lankans’ LTTE combat and Pakistan’s TTP hunt

The Question could be asked that why one should draw parallels between Sri Lanka’s terror combat against LTTE terrorists and Pakistan’s terror combat against TTP teroorists?

For this argument, it has to be kept in mind that the most recent example of a successful terror combat is that of that Sri Lankan government conducted through its army. Secondly the monster of terror in shape of LTTE in Sri Lanka was created, funded, trained and expanded by Indians while the menace of TTP terror in Pakistan has also been organized by the same Indians. The way Sri Lanka managed to rout India-backed and India created terror monster, Pakistan should follow the similar doctrine because the strings of LTTE were in the hands of Indians while the wings of TTP are also controlled by Delhi.

The presence of long arm of India in LTTE-based terrorism in India is not mere a speculation but  the same stands proved by India’s own Judicial probes.

The  concept of suicide squads was introduced in South Asia for the first time by the Indian intelligence agency RAW when it trained the Tamil separatists groups of Sri Lanka such as the LTTE to start militant secessionist movement based on terrorism in the Sri Lanka’s Jaffna peninsula. Two names that surfaced in the media during November 2002, in connection with Hindu Atma Ghataki Pathak (Hindu Suicide Squad), General (retd.) Premnath Hoon former Chief of Western Command and who after retirement became Chief of Shiv Sena’s Military Wing and Colonel (retd.) Jayant Chitale, had served on deputation with RAW for imparting training on the Sri Lanka’s LTTE militants.

It is part of history is on record that top Indian Jurist, Justice (Retd.) Jain headed a Commission to investigate and report on the murder of late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination by an LTTE suicide bomber. This Commission documented the existence of ‘militant’ training camps for LTTE and other Sri Lankan Tamil secessionist groups throughout India, under the aegis of RAW and other Indian intelligence and security agencies. Former Indian Prime Minister V.P. Singh disclosed during his in-camera hearing before the Jain Commission on 5th November 1996 that the first batch of training of Sri Lankan Tamil militants was done by India in 1983 under the orders of then Prime Minister (Late) Mrs. Indira Gandhi. The camp was located at Chakrata, Tamil Nadu. Singh, however, declined to disclose exact location citing national security reasons. According to him all militants were also provided with weapons and monetary backup to carryout activities inside of Sri Lanka. He further disclosed that ironically late Rajiv Gandhi also encouraged and supported training of LTTE and other Tamil militant groups.
Former Indian Foreign Secretary Salman Haider also provided a very incisive insight to the Commission in his affidavit number 343/96-JCI. Haider who was liaising between the LTTE terrorist maestro leader Prabharkaran and Indian intelligence agencies at one time disclosed that “in the beginning Mrs. Indira Gandhi entrusted full responsibility of providing military training to Sri Lankan Tamil militants to RAW”. Prabharkaran was however, not pleased with the share of spoils that local RAW operatives were giving to LTTE in comparison with its rival militant terrorist groups TELO, EROS, EPRLF, and TEA. He thus asked for Haider’s intervention, upon which the former arranged a meeting of Prabharkran with the officials of Indian Intelligence Bureau (IIB). Thus training of LTTE was shifted to IIB from RAW.
Former Advisor (to Mrs. Gandhi) K. Mohandas, in his affidavit number 64/92-JCI disclosed to the Jain Commission that Military training to LTTE was provided by central agencies in Union government controlled camps in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnatka, Uttar Pardesh, Kerala, New Delhi and elsewhere. According to Mohandas, militants were trained, armed and launched into Sri Lanka to carry out subversion and attacks. Perhaps his most shocking revelation was that the LTTE and other militant groups were also provided training in the Indian Military Academy Dehra Dun, which, incidentally, is the basic military training institution for officers of Indian army.

One can hope that someday, somewhere some Judicial Commission like the Jain Commission would reveal that how the Indian government and its intelligence agencies funded, trained and organized the TTP