Civilian and military leadership on the same page, finally? And the naysayers like Imran Khan too?
“Pakistan: the country where even the martyred dead protest, because the living have failed them”. So tweeted Bilawal Bhutto Zardari freshly-minted PPP chief; hash tag Mastung.
Young Bilawal’s lament should put to shame most of his seniors in the business of politics including of his own party. Condemning the Taliban is a far cry for them. Out of fear or expediency (or both) even the ‘T’ word is missing from their lexicon.
The PPP leadership is lamenting the present state of affairs. Staying in the opposition, they can afford the luxury. However when in power for five years Zardari and his cohorts – too embroiled in the survival games – abdicated to the military their primary responsibility ofdevising a cogent counter terrorism strategy.
The shoe is now on the other foot. Perhaps they can derive vicarious pleasure from seeing the Sharifs stew in their own juices. Unfortunately situation has come to such a pass that it is no longer merely a question of survival of the government but that of salvaging the state.
Altaf Hussain, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief, comfortably ensconced in self-exile has voiced his concern regarding Talibanization of the country. He rightly points out that the Taliban want to impose their own version of sharia that is against the Holy Quran and anathema to teachings of the holy Prophet (PBUH).
The TTP are literally on the rampage. Numbers of incidents of terrorism that have taken place during 2014 exceed the number of days in January. More than a hundred people including security personnel have perished in the fresh spate of terror.
While the hydra-headed monster of terrorism has engulfed the country, Punjab remains relatively less prone to such attacks. But for how long? Meanwhile, the PML-N clueless as ever, pathetically looks like a headless chicken running helter skelter without a cogent strategy.
The much-touted counterterrorism policy is missing. As anticipated events have overtaken posturing and chicanery, so often on display by the enigmatic interior minister Nisar Ali.
The day the draft of the policy was to be presented to the federal cabinet, the TTP struck near the GHQ. The previous day at least 25 security personnel were killed in an audacious attack in Bannu.
Without a policy in place, events have overtaken the government. When the COAS Gen Raheel Sharif called the prime minister just before the cabinet meeting to review the security policy draft on Monday he probably made it clear: Enough is enough.
Apparently, the counterterrorism draft was inadequate – falling in the realm of too little, too late. Events going at a breakneck pace have clearly outpaced the luxury of touting posturing as policy. Hence, the prime minister was left with no option but to return the draft for further tweaking.
Seven months is a long time for a nation under existential threat and still without a coherent strategy to combat it. Whether one agrees or not, how long did it take the US to unleash its military might and intelligence apparatus against the enemy?
In the process they invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and put into service the notorious Guantanamo Bay. Human rights abuses notwithstanding, the terrorists have not been able to execute a single spectacular act of terror on the US soil since 9/11. If perhaps the Bush administration had procrastinated, waiting for the high level 9/11 Commission’s report, results would have been different.
It is obvious that the military and the government should be on the same page to deal with any security threat. Unfortunately this crucial element has been hitherto conspicuously missing from the narrative.
The military under Gen Kayani had stuck to its peculiar approach to combat the threat of terrorism based upon its obsolete and flawed security paradigm. Halfhearted attempts to scorch the snake and not kill it resulted in the Taliban dictating the agenda.
While the army was calling the shots on security issues and foreign policy, the PPP government chose to take the path of least resistance merely to survive. Kayani, who had the pretensions of being a ‘thinking general’, always maintained that the military launching action against terrorists holed up in North Waziristan would result in the TTP unleashing a wave of rampant terrorism all over the country.
Inaction in the badlands of Pakistan was also justified on the plea that the military would be spread too thin guarding the eastern and the western borders. Justifying support of the Afghan Taliban phrases like: ‘we cannot wish away our enemies,’ were frequently used in occasional interactions with the media.
Now it transpires that the TTP has taken the war to every nook and corner of the country without the military lifting a finger to launch a concerted operation in N. Waziristan. Similarly apart from the military under its past leadership, we are told ad nauseum by Imran Khan and others of his ilk, that it’s not our war but America’s war.
Unfortunately we can no longer afford the luxury of fighting the Taliban not being our war. The US is packing its bags to quit Afghanistan and we are stuck with the consequences.
After NATO forces leave Kabul the blowback is bound to affect us adversely. Hence the myth of ‘good Taliban and bad Taliban’ is bound to explode in our face.
Events have also exposed the bankruptcy of the PTI’s anti drone policy and its consistent blockade of NATO supplies. Drone strikes killed only four civilians in 2013, whereas scores of civilians have died in much more lethal PAF strikes and military actions in the tribal areas.
In the wake of all this, the great Khan declares with a straight face that he is willing to support the military action in N. Waziristan provided he is taken on board. It is quite apparent that apart from expediency, there seems to be no method in PTI’s shenanigans.
It’s high time the PML-N government takes the lead and outgrows the ‘talk or not to talk’ syndrome. Talks can only take place from a position of strength, which is unfortunately lacking owing to a collective failure of the entire political spectrum as well as the military.
Hopefully the current action by the military in N Waziristan is not merely a reaction to the TTP moves and is part of a well thought out strategy. Piecemeal measures will simply not deliver.
The two Sharifs, Nawaz and Raheel, should be on the same page. Unless the prime minister leads from the front, having already left his government with much to blush about, the events have the potential to overwhelm his government.
Calling another All Parties Conference (APC) is merely a waste of time – an excuse devised to hide mental paralysis. Both the military and civilian leadership know well what needs to be done without further delay.
According to a PM House spokesman the maverick cleric Maulana Sami ul Haq was never tasked to open talks with the TTP. What took the government to contradict his spurious claim?
These self-styled interlocutors are part of the problem rather than the solution. Nawaz Sharif should steer clear of them. In this context adopting the JUI-F as a coalition partner too is not a very smart move either.