OVER A COFFEE : Operation or a comprehensive solution? — Dr Haider Shah
We do not need a military operation unless its strategic objectives are very clear. If it is not part of a more comprehensive plan it would only bring temporary relief
When the little princess of Swat valley was shown on TV in an ambulance, one line from Shakespeare started ringing in my mind. “Come hither, come hither. Here shall he see…No enemy.” And while winter and rough weather are around the corner, it is somewhat comforting to see Malala now in the caring hands of doctors in Birmingham.
As the news of the attack on the little girl broke, everyone was so shocked that only genuine feelings of profound anguish started pouring in. Those who had built their entire political careers by sympathising with militants and extremists were dumbfounded, shaken by the emergence of a new discourse. The defenders of dark forces, however, did not take long and started vomiting filth of all sorts. While Malala lay sleeping, the country woke up to the loud orchestra of conspiracy theorists. Beginning with ifs and buts, they started mentioning Afia Siddiqi and drone victims in their purposeful discourses. When even this failed to stem the public level condemnation of the Taliban, the e-mujahedeen launched a social media war against the little girl who is fighting for her life.
While one can expect little else from parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, the role of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) as the two largest parties is also not very inspiring. The PPP government is so weak that it looks to the army establishment for every important decision. The initial reaction of the PML-N leaders Nawaz Sharif and Saad Rafique was in line with the national mood but their Secretary Information Senator Mushahidullah proved to be a misguided missile. The opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar’s reaction did not do any service to his image as a principled politician either. To the extent that the government might use the military operation as an excuse for postponing elections, his fears are justified. But he could have worked with the government to come up with a joint resolution where the resolve to take action against those who attack schoolgoing children and behead police officers could have been expressed along with a clear statement that elections would be held at their due time. After all, we have seen elections in Israel and Iraq despite both being in a state of war. One can pardon Imran Khan if he makes sweeping statements because the Taliban have historically been a bee in his bonnet. But when as a leader of the opposition, Chaudhry Nisar produces ‘ifs and buts’-driven excuses, every well-wisher of the country is genuinely shocked. It will be unfair if the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s clear stance is not appreciated on this vital issue of national importance. A military operation in North Waziristan can be part of a comprehensive solution but it cannot prove a remedy for the deep-rooted terrorism problem. The militancy that we experience in its most horrible form is the fallout of our social embrace of extremist ideas. What we need is an all-inclusive de-radicalisation plan to root out extremist tendencies from our social life. We have the potential to be much better. But for that we must free ourselves from the crushing grip of emotionalism and obscurantism so that our mental and physical energies can be utilised for nation building work.
We do not need a military operation unless its strategic objectives are very clear. If it is not part of a more comprehensive plan it would only bring temporary relief. Government needs to chalk out a very clear road map with strategic milestones. The unfurling of the plan should begin with a renewed offer of peace provided militant outfits fulfil three conditions. First, all criminals who were involved in the recent attacks on Malala and the police check post in Matni, should be handed over to government so that they are brought to justice. Second, the leaders of the outfits should announce their pledge of decommissioning as a logical result of a peace accord. Third, they should announce their readiness to take an oath of loyalty to the Constitution of Pakistan. A period of one month can be given as a deadline for the acceptance of this offer. During the waiting period, as a matter of urgency, government should enter into serious and sincere talks with NATO forces commanders and Afghan leaders for a joint operation against militants of all kinds. NATO forces should commit going after the Pakistani Taliban from their side while we move towards their hideouts in North Waziristan. The security agencies should also go for a crackdown in the urban hideouts of the Punjabi Taliban and other extremist groups. At the same time, we have to rethink our handling of high profile personalities with terrorism links. We do not wish to act like Hitler who remained in a dazed state of self-induced hallucination while the Red Army was advancing towards Berlin. The Nazi leaders only came to their senses once they saw the Red Army entering the bunker and occupying Berlin. Our military strategists should not repeat these blunders and must think about redefining the security paradigm on the basis of clearly observable ground realities.
From Joan of Arc to Jhansi ki Raani (Queen of Jhansi), certain females emerged as the iconic images of resistance to a much stronger enemy of their times. Never before, however, did a 14-year-old girl inspire so many in such a little span of time. Her attackers did not realise that sometimes a single droplet of blood can become the title of a nation’s history. Perhaps the Pashtuns can very proudly begin writing this historical account now.
The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of the Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org