Thursday, June 19, 2014

Military operation alone is no solution, Pakistan needs pragmatic policy

Placed between the devil and the deep blue sea, Pakistan has finally ended its prolong fickle to launch a military operation in North Waziristan. Especially after the unfortunate siege of Karachi airport which resulted in loss of many innocent lives, there has been a proverbial consensus among many Pakistanis in support of military operation. However, there are still many, flooding on social media – not so happy with this war, labeling their counter-parts as utterly wrong. Let me just say for them that sometimes war is a necessity. More importantly, the government’s decision to declare war against terrorists is consistent with the principles of just war: it is being fought to save Pakistan and Pakistanis from Taliban attacks, it is being undertaken by a legitimate authority and above all this war is waged only as a last resort.  

However, the ongoing military operation against those responsible for the brazen assaults is not the first operation in Waziristan. In 2004, President Musharraf amidst international pressures deployed thousands of military troops in South Waziristan against the militants lead by Waziri commander, Nek Mohammed. The end result was the Pakistan Army signing a peace deal with Nek Mohammed known as the Shakai Agreement. As Hussain Haqqani writes, “the general hugged and garlanded the man responsible for the killing of Pakistani soldiers just a few weeks earlier”. The truce was brought to an abrupt end by the militants – they returned more organized, effective and revitalized in their protracted attacks on Pakistanis.

The second operation was launched by Pakistan People’s Party led government. The military intervention accompanied once again the peace agreement signed with the tehreek nifaz-e-shariat muhammadi. The nexus between TNSM and TTP was allowed to flourish as government continued appeasement. The failure to opt for an all-out blitz produced dreadful consequences. Each time the agreement was broken and militants emerged strong enough to penetrate the SWAT.  

As today's debate ensues about new potential military "solution", it is imperative that the discourse must also accompany certain policy changes to ensure its sustainability. Here are the three which I believe are instrumental.

Comprehensive and all-out:

Pakistan has never opted for an all-out operation in Waziristan. Instead, it has been inclined towards reconciliation with different groups. For long we have distinguished between good and bad Talibans. For instance, Pakistan has given unqualified support to Haqqanis whom the military considers as good Talibans despite knowing that group has become a really big liability for Pakistan. This distinction must terminate now.

The realities of changing regional politics require that we must ensure that the tribal territories are no longer hiding ground for militants. In the aftermath of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, it will make Pakistan’s position very difficult on international front. Therefore, the ongoing military action must not differentiate among different groups – the only way for Pakistan to avoid playing into the hands of the militants yet again.

Reversal in Pakistan’s Afghan policy:

As Pakistan begins a decisive military action, we must also ask difficult questions on what actually brought us here. Any self-introspection in the past would reveal that our wounds are self-imposed. For long, the military establishment had flirted with these militant ordeals to push for an Islamabad friendly government in Kabul. Today a decade later, not only Pakistan remains enormously unpopular within Afghanistan but these militant organizations have put the very survival of Pakistani state itself at stake. Thus, the military operation is not going to be effective until it is coupled with a critical assessment and review of Islamabad’s Afghan policy.

Develop a counter terrorism strategy:

The ease with which the terrorists attacked the country’s busiest and heavily guarded airport indicates that strength of the militant groups has grown considerably. More worrying is the proliferation of these networks across the country. The military operation in Waziristan is one dimension; dealing wholly with the crisis of militancy in Pakistan entails a coherent counter-terrorism strategy.

For instance, the first thing that the United States did after the awful attacks of 9/11 was to establish Homeland Security. The reason was that CIA, FBI and others lacked the ability of unconventional combat. Pakistan also has more or less the same weakness. Our police, paramilitary and intelligence forces are at best reactive, not attuned to be pre-emptive. There is a serious need to strengthen the capacity of intelligence agencies.

Without adopting pragmatic, long-term policy solutions, the objectives of military action will not be achieved. We are already too late to embrace these. It’s high time that we must act now and act fast.

By: Kashif Ali

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