Better late than never, the much awaited assault on North Waziristan has begun, 75 days later than it should have. To quote my article, “Non-stop” of Mar 6, 2014, “The precision strikes of the PAF disrupted the (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) TTP’s administrative and operational deployment. More importantly, ‘actionable intelligence’ was available for these to be carried out, that knowledge is bound to have made the TTP nervous. No collateral damage was reported, confirming these targets were pure militant bases. TTP badly needs time and space to regroup after suffering the PAF’s precision strikes and re-locate its hideouts to safer havens. The “snowline” at 8000 ft is preventing the militants from leaving the valleys and dispersing into the mountains before May. With aircraft/drones overhead this is not easy”, unquote.
Using their proxies within Pakistani civil society to campaign for “ceasefire” and “peace talks”, the militants got the requisite time and space, roping in part of our irresponsible electronic media to do their dirty work of spreading propaganda. The government’s vacillation has only add to the casualties, both among our soldiers and civilian non-combatants. Azb was the sword carried by our beloved Prophet (Mohammad PBUH) at the Battle of Badr, operation Zarb-e-Azb was preceded by extensive precision air attacks carried by the PAF (Pakistan Air Force). This took out a number of Uzbek and other foreign militants, including Abu Abdur Rehman Almani, alleged mastermind of the terrorist attack on the recent Karachi Airport. PAF air strikes, helicopter gunships, field artillery, etc are supporting the ground offensive. Possible exit points have been blocked by using heli-borne SSG (Special Service Group, the official name for Pakistani commando force), supplemented by regular units where possible and necessary. One must not hold one’s breath expecting the Afghan Army to seal the border. In any case the plight of the disintegrating Iraqi Army in the face of Sunni militant onslaught is a harbinger of things to come in Afghanistan post-2014.
Asked during a panel discussion arranged by the US think tank Atlantic Council in Washington DC whether Pakistan Army ever planned going into North Waziristan, my answer “when good and ready” was met with scorn and disbelief. As our (Pakistani) jawans (soldiers) spill their “blood and guts” establishing the writ of the State by clearing the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and Al-Qaeda elements, one hopes the skeptical will be good enough acknowledge their sacrifice.
Operation Al-Mizan (2002-2006) was the first time the Pakistan Army went into FATA, “Zarb-e-Azb” is the 8th. Combat experience over a dozen years is a great equalizer, the battle conduct of well-equipped, motivated and trained troops marks the transformation of this Army after the disastrous Al-Mizan into a truly magnificent fighting force top down through all ranks, accelerated after Rah-i-Rast (Swat 2009) and Rah-i-Najat (South Waziristan 2009). Facing this juggernaut, will Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Mullah Nazir manage to remain aloof from the TTP? Discretion will probably dictate they stay away. The sacrifices of our officers and jawans notwithstanding, without a dedicated Counter Terrorism Force (CTF) we will not be rid of terrorism in even 100 years. Instead of passively waiting for a “blowback”, the civilian law enforcement agencies (LEAs) need take to the initiative rooting out the militants from their urban hideouts. Army units being used as a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) should never be deployed in urban areas. The Rangers have done excellent work in Karachi, simply beef them up and give them a free hand.
Pervaiz Rasheed (Pakistan’s information minister) “appealed to the whole nation to stand united behind the government and the armed forces in the war against terrorism.” What a hypocrite! To quote my article “Dangerous Games” of May 14, 2014, “A dozen plus of Mian Sahib’s close political aides seem afflicted with the “Masada Complex”, pushing the Sharifs into a stupid no-win confrontation with the army”, unquote. Mian Nawaz Sharif has a number of sincere, committed and capable leaders, there are quite a few others who are not. The PEMRA farce only goes to prove the PML (N) government siding with Geo against the Army. In any case the PML (N) government has set the ball rolling for its departure in 3-4 months by the brutal police firing in Lahore killing 8 Tahirul Qadri supporters in cold blood. Evoking memories of the shocking PML (N) attack on the Supreme Court (SC) in 1997 was known PML (N) worker Gullu Butt running riot damaging over 20 vehicles and then celebrating by doing “Bhangra”. The SP (superintendent of police) in-charge publicly embraced this “Goonda”(goon) for doing a “good job”. When criminals function in the name of justice, justice becomes a crime.
Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah blamed the federal government for the airport attack, the octogenarian conveniently forgetting that while it was a intelligence failure both at the federal and provincial levels, that the base, logistics etc of the Uzbek terrorists were the prime responsibility of the Karachi police and its intelligence arms directly answerable to the Sindh government. This public abdication of responsibility by the province’s chief minister gives sufficient reason to appoint a Lieutenant Governor and put Karachi in a state of emergency for a period of not less than 2 years. A Taliban-led insurrection in Karachi could quickly spread over the country, we do not wait to descend into anarchy like it is happening in Libya, Syria and Iraq.
Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa’s PTI-led government is the worst affected by terrorism. Shrugging of the mind-games of PTI’s vociferously pro-Talibaan Rustam Shah Mohmand, Imran Khan and PTI are now thankfully supporting the Army action to rid this country of the menace of terrorism. PTI’s leader must recognize realpolitik in Pakistan consists of a mix of conservative thinking blending pragmatically with liberal ideas.
The Pakistani electronic media has unfortunately become an inadvertent tool in the terrorist’s hands to successfully propagate their evil objectives, spreading venomous propaganda and creating fear and apprehension to demoralize the population and weaken their confidence in the existing system. Nowhere in the world is time and space given to terrorists as by our irresponsible electronic media. On the other hand they target the army on any given reason. In “Fight or unite?” of May 8, 2014, I had said, “Given that the freedom of the media is a must for sustaining democracy, the media must not use this freedom as a license to tar and feather the Army. Without their continuing sacrifices on a daily basis, the freedom that the media enjoys today would be lost, as would be the country. Close your eyes for one moment and imagine ‘media freedom’ under a Taliban-run country. We must remain within the parameters of good common sense and not cross fail-safe lines”, unquote.
Appeasement is not an option, terrorism cannot be wished away – and certainly not by good faith and misplaced logic when your brutal antagonists pursue their living by your deaths. There is only one solution to the terrorist problem, and that is to eliminate it.
The writer is a leading defense and political analyst of Pakistan. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org