Pakistan military’s another major offensive against the TTP and other militants in North Wazirastan is in full swing. According to the reports from the front line, the military is blitzkrieging enemy’s units and hideouts. Hopefully the operation is not far from a complete victory on the ground. However, unlike ISPR’s rhetorical claim of not leaving behind a single terrorist, the reality is far from it. The less than expected resistance on the ground hints to the fact that a significant number of militants might already have escaped from the area. The contextual unfavorable factors of the porous border to the West and massive infiltration of militants into other urban centers further reinforce such thinking.
What distinguishes this operation from the earlier ones is the clarity expressed both by military and civilian leadership in undoing the distinction between good and bad Taliban. Though commendable, but so far this has only been a verbal commitment. While the critics are already suspicious of this claim, based on our past record, our leadership will have to make sure to stay honest to this new commitment.
In order to further block the possibility of such insurgencies in the future, an additional paradigm shift is needed in our security and foreign policy: To get away from the policy of supporting all non-state actors – and that applies to all others militants based in various places including Punjab. From Afghan Jihad in 80s to the Haqqani network, the failure of supporting militants for strategic objectives is all too obvious.
The other significant aspect of this operation, like all others, is the public opinion front. On the face of it, the way different political actors and ideologically opposing factions have come together to support military in this just war is commendable. Even those who used to term any such operation a potential suicide, instantly came to support the military. Such dramatic change in public opinion is a reminder of the eerie fact of who calls the shots in this country. Yet let’s not overlook the possibility of a different situation after the operation is over. The habitual political point scoring and the unsavory opposition can again jeopardize the civilian leadership’s attempt to tackle in the problem in the long run. Ending militancy is not just a matter of military operation. There are a number of factors involved in it which cannot be undertaken without civilian supremacy.
The staggering number of half a million people displaced as a result of the North Wazirastan operation is nothing short of a humanitarian crisis. As the operation was planned and expected way before it actually started, the acute lack of planning in dealing with the crisis is nothing short of a shame. Apart from the humanitarian aspect, the wretchedness suffered by IDPs a potential factor for losing their hearts and minds in favor of the militants. While PML (N) government can spare billions for youth festival, the scanty grant of Rs. 500 million for the IDPs is surely far from sufficient.