About time we dealt with our Frankenstein
The war was never going to be easy. And terrorists were going to react sooner or later. The blowback of operation Zarb-e-Azb has now started. In less than a week, two provincial capitals have come under attack. Earlier this week, a bomb blast in Peshawar carried out by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as “revenge for the ongoing military operation” claimed four lives. Two days later, an attack in Karachi left two dead and seven injured.
The army is moving forward successfully as Zarb-e-Azb continues and militants suffer heavy losses. There now are just a few pockets of terrorists remaining in the peripheral region and the major part of North Waziristan agency has now been cleared. It is likely that the whole of NW will be cleared very soon. But the task of completely eliminating the behemoth of militancy will actually goes far beyond just Waziristan.
Although tribal regions and KPK are being freed of terrorism through military operations, rising militancy in Baluchistan, Southern Punjab and even some areas of Sindh is largely left unchecked. Militant groups operating there are not always officially associated with TTP, but indeed pose as serious a threat. Operating in plain sight, these groups have been able to carry out their extremist activities for too long without any direct challenge from the state. However, the statements from the army and civilian leadership at the start of operation suggested that this time a wipe-out-all approach might be adopted.
The support of civilian governments and especially military establishment to some of these militant groups will have to be reversed before terrorists of all hues and colours are eliminated
But the support of civilian governments and especially military establishment to some of these militant groups will have to be reversed before terrorists of all hues and colours are eliminated. The success of the Afghan jihad was a game changer of many sorts. Among other things, it led the army to believe that if the mujahideen could defeat the might soviet empire, they could certainly help tackle the Indians too. Hence, as it is now widely acknowledged, many of these groups were maintained as potential tools for proxy wars in the region. At the same time, our huge role in creating and nurturing the mujahideen for the Afghan jihad cannot be discounted either. However, it is only after these militant elements started attacking us that we came to realise what Frankenstein monsters we had been creating.
For an all-out end to the menace of militancy, each and every militant group will have to be eliminated without any sort of discrimination of good or bad. Although the state establishment has always been reluctant to give up certain groups that help fight proxy wars across borders, that policy now truly seems to be changing.
Recently, in a talk at Lahore University of Management Science, DG ISPR General Asim Bajwa said, “There will be no discrimination in fighting the terrorists” and “the army realises that it has to end this menace of militancy once and for all”. Commenting on the involvement of state institutions in perpetuation of certain militant groups, Bajwa said “the Afghan jihad was almost a global policy adopted by all the countries of one bloc”, however he denied that any such groups are presently supported by the military establishment, saying “It is a misperception and propaganda that we abet any sort of militant groups”.
Recently, in a talk at Lahore University of Management Science, DG ISPR General Asim Bajwa said, “There will be no discrimination in fighting the terrorists” and “the army realises that it has to end this menace of militancy once and for all”
However, Hassan Askari Rizvi, a senior political analyst, believes that it was state policy to support certain militant proxies and that policy now seems to be changing.
“The army appears serious in not differentiating between militants as it has taken action against all kind of militant groups in North Waziristan”, he said while talking to Pakistan Today.
He also said that a major task will still have to be taken care of after the completion of operation Zarb-e-Azb. “After the completion of Zarb-e-Azb, groups based in Punjab and Baluchistan will have to be taken care of”.
However, he said that in these areas, military operations are not a viable option and it is the provincial governments and civilian law enforcement agencies that will have to take up the major portion of the task.
The success of North Waziristan operation can be a big step forward but it cannot ensure complete elimination of militancy in Pakistan. The extremist apparatus has been allowed to operate and grow for so long that it now poses a huge threat to the state and citizens. The policy of relying on militants for our ‘dirty work’ has backfired. Many believe that the idea of maintaining strategic depth in Afghanistan is obsolete as well now.
It is about time that both our civilian leadership and military hierarchy move on from the policies of twentieth century in the true sense and take the militant elements head-on. The NWA operation is only the beginning of the end of militancy; a more uphill task will have to be completed after that. The sooner we do that, the better for the security of this country and its people.