clip_image001  Saturday, May 30, 2009


Does the government have sufficient information for it to take right decisions at the right time with, regard to the challenges it is dealing with in FATA, Malakand and Balochistan. Do we know the numbers of militant fighters we call Taliban and their locations? How many of them are foreigners? And how many of them have entered the tribal areas, say during the last six months? We have been told by our interior minister that India is sending in trained terrorists and funding insurgency in the north-west and in Balochistan.

Do we have exact and authentic information and if we have what have we done to stop this infiltration? Have we lodged a protest with India and if not why not? Why don’t we report this intrusion in our territories to the United Nations? Possibly we don’t have adequate information which can stand up to international security? Where further do the Taliban get their funds and arms from? Do our intelligence agencies possess required information in this behalf? What has been the government doing to stop such supplies? Most of such questions remain unanswered. It is time such information is made available to the media and the elected houses so that necessary remedial measures are taken.

In this ongoing war against terrorism, how are the decisions taken? Who takes the decisions? How come the military operation started in Swat and the adjoining districts almost a week prior to the announcement made by the prime minister on the television? Was it done to comply with a directive from Washington when our president was already in the town to meet the American leadership? Was the prime minister who is the constitutional chief executive of the country consulted by the president when he told a British newspaper that the military operation was being extended to Waziristan?

Did he realize what the decision will entail? How it will lead to displacement of hundreds of thousands of residents of the area pushing them to various settled districts of NWFP and beyond. The exodus of more than 2 million from Swat and other parts of the Malakand division too was not foreseen. Nobody knows how long will it take for them to return to their devastated homes.

One wonders if we really know what is going on in the minds and hearts of these people and how it will affect social and political conditions in the days to come.

The negative attitude displayed in Sindh and some other places about them is bound to bother them, forcing them to think of their rights as citizens of Pakistan. A pointed out in the media, their crops will possibly remain un-harvested and the fruit in the orchards will rot, un-plucked.

A little delay in launching the operation might have saved these crops. The haste with which it was done without exploring ways and means of consolidating the agreement arrived at, suggests that action was taken peremptorily, on orders from outside.

No clear picture is available at what is going on and how long it will take to complete the exercise. The first detailed revelations have come from our defence attaché in Washington. In a briefing he disclosed to a gathering of Pakistanis in USA that

(a) the Swat operation was launched on April 25

(b) 150000 soldiers were involved in the offensive in the north-west areas; this includes 5 infantry divisions, 58 wings of the Frontier Corps and one SSG battalion

(c) pockets of resistance will be cleared in 4 to 5 weeks

(d) 85 % of the area captured by the militants has been freed

(e) 820 militants were killed while 657 have been captured

(f) there were an estimated 6000 militants in the Malakand division. These include Uzbeks and Afghans and

(g) the military had seized Indian rifles from the militants.

Imran Khan’s stand on the question of the military operation merits serious consideration. Some of the points made in an article published in a newspaper on May 23 are: One. As a result of the army operation the tribal social and political structure was destroyed throughout FATA and Malakand and the vacuum had been filled by nine major Taliban groups and twenty minor ones.

Two. Every effort should have been made to make the militants abide by the peace deal that was backed by over 80% of the people of Swat and Pakistan according to an IRI survey.

Three. All along, a concerted effort should have been made to gain time to revive civil administration, police, and the parliamentary presence in Swat.

Four. The diehard militants who consistently refused to adhere to peace agreement could have been isolated over time – a key counter-insurgency tactic followed by precise military action to decapitate the leadership.

Five. During the operation hundreds of civilians have been killed (the operation possibly could have been better planned).

Six. There is every possibility of the Taliban resurfacing in various parts of the country and possibly in the urban areas (militants have staged a come back in Bajur and Mohmand areas).

Seven. It is time to take stock and stop ourselves from committing a collective suicide.

(Here one may take note of an observation made by I.A. Rehman in a recent contribution to the DAWN: Nobody can think of exterminating the militants, recently and that even after their resistance has been broken, matters will necessarily be decided through negotiations).

Imran’s recommendations:

a) A swift end to military operations.

b) A clear governance and political strategy that allows IDPs to return and ensures justice and enforcement of the writ of the state.

c) Military action should focus on specific targeting and commando action.

Imran quotes the former chief of CIA in Kabul who has written in the International Herald Tribune that only the withdrawal of US and NATO boots will begin to allow the process of near frantic emotions to subside within Pakistan and for the region to start to cool down and further that “Pakistan is well able to deal with its own Islamists and tribalists under normal circumstances.”

The indications however are that US has no intention to leave Afghanistan for a long time. The US chief of army staff in a recent statement said that the US would keep fighting forces in Afghanistan for a decade. With the increase of 20000 US troops in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s troubles are bound to increase. More of Pakhtuns will be crossing over to our tribal areas.

The possibility of Americans themselves intruding in our territories cannot be ruled out. The special fund for Pakistan counter insurgency capabilities ($ 400 million) requires the training of army and FCR personnel. General Kayani has been resisting such trainings. 120 American military experts are already in Pakistan. President Obama himself is on record not ruling out the possibility of taking care of Pakistan’s nuclear assets.

Not much can be expected from the weak-kneed and “fragile” PPP government in Islamabad to show spine and stop US from interfering in the internal affairs of the country and influencing our foreign policy in furtherance of its designs for the region. Can Nawaz Sharif whose prospects, for a leading political role in the parliament and outside, have been boosted with the Supreme Court decision to declare him eligible to contest elections, rise to cope with the multiple challenges staring Pakistan in the face today. He should seek support of Imran Khan and other self-respecting Pakistanis to mobilize public opinion with a view to safeguarding vital national interest.

The writer is a political and international relations analyst.



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