By Bushra Zulfiqar
‘Misfortunes come not alone, they come in battalions and this time it is a whole army.’ Issues are many, issues are inter-twined and complex. One feels unable to flag the highest priority dilemma in today’s Pakistan because everything has sort of crept up together, from increased militancy and terrorism to the Kerry-Lugar Bill and to the NRO. But there will be little dis-agreement that in this time of multiple crises, the most dangerous and disastrous one is posed by that of terrorism, to the state and people of Pakistan because each one of us is a victim and is effected. Nobody is less or more safe, every one is vulnerable and at risk. If the GHQ which is the power house of Pakistan was attacked, no corner of the land is safe. My generation did not physically witness the two respective wars that Pakistan has fought in 1965 and 1971 but for now it seems that the situation even during those catastrophic wars would not have been as grave as it is today. Toady the entire country has been turned into a battle field while the whole nation is being held hostage by the militant terrorists/Taliban.
Events of the last two weeks have taken people by complete shock and horror. In this war of hearts and minds, we seem to be loosing our hearts at least for now. Already there are speculations about the outcome of the South Waziristan operation. Yes, it is a very mountainous, dry and rough terrain with a very harsh winter just round the corner. The militant Taliban are natural guerrilla fighters with state of the art weaponry and ammunition. Whereas our Air force still awaits the laser bombs to be provided by the US for targeted shelling of weapon depots and night vision goggles for attacking the militant hideouts. Nonetheless the US management along with our more loyal than the King administration has been too busy pushing the much controversial, un-popular and rather destructive Kerry-Lugar Bill. The prolonged pause after the Swat operation has given the Taliban an opportunity to re-group under a new and younger leadership, desperate to re-assert their existence in the most barbaric forms. Our military is fighting an asymmetrical, un-conventional war transiting between thin lines of large scale ground offense, air-strikes with gunship helicopters which do not differentiate between the civilian population and criminals in that densely populated belt and negotiations with specific factions of the tribes. The key challenge is that this time around, the enemy is within. Presently, more than ninety checkpoints have been installed in the country’s capital, but Islamabad or Lahore or Karachi or Peshawar cannot be sealed for long (Quetta being a different scenario altogether). This makes the war tougher with intractable insider enemies. Although in this specific operation, support for the military is unanimous unlike the Swat operation where some opposition parties initially opposed.
There are no immediate victories and quick solutions to combat this terror of terrorism but there certainly are points to ponder. Perhaps a meaningful introspection could only slightly iron the wrinkles on our collective thought process. The Mujahedeen of 80s are the present day Taliban who were born and brought up under the patronage of American and Pakistani intelligence agencies. They were trained and militarily armed by the Pakistani state and security apparatus, to counter the Russians after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later they went on to become the proxy army engaged in Jihad in the occupied Kashmir. As the post 9/11 world order emerged, the US cleverly and successfully shifted a considerable element of the Afghan war into Pakistan, specifically in the law less tribal belt. Since then, our situation has worsened. There have been somewhat mixed attempts of repeated peace agreements with the Taliban which at times the US did not let go through and at others the Taliban blatantly violated. Some self-interested players in the region have shamelessly tried to benefit from this situation by aggravating the separatist movement in Baluchistan, demanding access to Muraidk and increasing cross border activity in Kabul. The very recent demolishing of the NATO and Indian check posts along the Afghan border reflect the sinister intent, which is to increase the inflow of militant Taliban from Afghanistan to fight the Pakistan army in South Waziristan but as the rhetoric goes, they believe in peaceful co-existence with their neighbours. The fact of the matter is that in this day and age, conventional war fare is not an option. For all practical purposes, it has become impossible to physically attack another country due to advancements in nuclear technological capabilities. Verbal threats and war hysteria are no more considered pressure building tactics and have to be stopped if real peace is an aspiration.
American’s strategic partnership with our traditional rival is certainly not in our interest and clearly reflects the selfish global policy pursuits of the super power. Let there be no doubts, America’s self interest is supreme to them as history has proved almost in every continent. We have to be clear about the inter-linked, embedded, entrenched web of enemies if Pakistan has to evolve strong and safe. This undoubtedly is going to be a tough battle and if the terrorists are to be flushed out of the country for good, there will be blood shed. Having said that, military operation does not offer a long term solution and eventually there has to some kind of a political settlement with the tribals. As of now, we as a nation should stand united like a rock behind our forces because this has become a war for survival with a point of no half way return. Last week while praying at the army graveyard in Rawalpindi, I was grieved to notice how quickly the ground has been filed with graves, mostly of the martyrs of the Operation Rah-Rast (Swat) of young officers and the jawans and goes without mentioning the thousands of civilian deaths and casualties. We have and are everyday paying a huge price and these sacrifices will not go wasted. What do we learn from this cancer spilled all over will finally determine the future course of our foreign policy and hopefully a wise re-assessment of national priorities.