EDITORIAL: Drones and terror strikes
After the many reports alleging double dealing of the Pakistani establishment whereby it was accused of giving its proxy militant friends a heads up in any impending army operation in North Waziristan by moving them to the relatively safer area of Kurram Agency, the US seems to have gotten wind of the location of some of its most sought after targets. A drone strike in Kurram — only the fourth such attack in the Agency — has caused significant damage to the militants as nine belonging to the Haqqani network were killed. The Haqqani network, a particularly determined Afghan Taliban foe of the US, has been the long untouched ‘friend’ of the Pakistani establishment. Following the Haqqani militants fleeing from North Waziristan to Kurram, the question begs to be asked: is the establishment trying to make amends with the US after the recent tensions in the Pak-US relationship by providing intelligence on these militants or is the US going it alone with help from its eye in the sky (satellites)? It looks like the US is not falling for any dilly-dallying now and is stepping up its range of attacks wherever it suspects militants are holed up, with or without our consent.
Not only has the US been complaining of our lacklustre efforts at combating the militants, Karzai’s government has complained in no uncertain terms about cross-border shelling by the Pakistani military on Afghan villages in Kunar province. This came after a pre-dawn attack some five days ago by some 300 Afghan militants who crossed over into Pakistan and stormed villages Manu Jangal and Takha in Bajaur Agency, killing and injuring civilians. The military has stepped up its retaliation attacks and it seems militants from Afghanistan are also bent upon dealing with not just the security forces in Pakistan but also anti-Taliban lashkars that have been effective in dealing with the militants. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) seems to have found safe havens with their Afghan brethren across the border, hence these brazen attacks on the Pakistani security forces. Things are heating up at the border, more so now after the border areas in Afghanistan have been left unmonitored to a large extent because of the pullout of US troops from these lawless areas. A string of deadly attacks on US forces there have rendered the place open for cross-border raids, shelling and attacks by militant foot soldiers.
At the same time, dozens of terrorists attacked and killed nine pro-government tribal elders in Mohmand Agency on Monday. These elders are like an endangered species — they have been favourite targets for the militants. Meanwhile, in Lower Dir, a nine-year-old girl was reportedly kidnapped by militants and made to wear a suicide jacket that was to detonate at a paramilitary check post. Luckily, the young girl managed to flee her captors who then escaped. Could the militants be running out of recruits to have used this risky and desperate measure or were they merely sending out a warning on how they can go to any merciless extent to achieve their blood-drenched cause?
From the fact that Pakistan and Afghanistan are literally the front line states in this terror war, to the border between the two states heating up and to how a frenzied pitch is being reached by militants and militaries alike, it is clear that all the players are now positioning themselves for maximum leverage in the post-US withdrawal situation. A change is set to come in Afghanistan once the US leaves and, by default, will come in Pakistan too. The terror war is about to reach its conclusion. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have to be prepared to dealwith the new ground realities, hopefully together. *
SECOND EDITORIAL: Nawaz Sharif’s ‘anger’
Mian Nawaz Sharif, chief of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), is in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) these days campaigning for his party in the upcoming elections for the AJK Legislative Assembly due to be held on June 26. As is usual with the Opposition, Mr Sharif criticised the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Mian sahib’s tirade about the PPP was general but his particular target seemed to be President Asif Ali Zardari. Mr Sharif roared against the president and said Mr Zardari was a man who did not learn from his past mistakes. “President Zardari has run a highly corrupt government. He should quit the politics of banditry and stop damaging the country’s major institutions,” said Mr Sharif. He also regretted having signed the Murree Accord with the president since Mr Zardari did not keep his word. Mian sahib warned the government that the people of Pakistan have lost patience. Even though such heightened rhetoric by politicians is quite normal during election campaigns, it seems as if Mr Sharif was more annoyed with himself than with the president. Ever since the PPP government came into power, it has succeeded in ‘fooling’ the PML-N, especially Nawaz Sharif, on a number of occasions.
Elections in the AJK Legislative Assembly are going to be quite interesting. The PML-N is trying to up the ante against the PPP and its coalition partners like the MQM in order to mark its presence there. “Pakistan belongs to the 180 million Pakistanis and millions of Kashmiris, not to Zardari or Gilani. The politics of flattery will not work in Kashmir,” said Mr Sharif. Apart from the government, he also blamed the intelligence agencies for ruining the country. One of the reasons for his obvious anger is that the government has so far protected the military and intelligence agencies, especially post-Abbottabad raid and PNS Mehran attack. The PML-N has been the most vocal as far as the civil-military imbalance is concerned. President Zardari, on the other hand, has outmanoeuvred the PML-N by closing ranks with the security establishment. What the PPP government has failed to realise is that in its quest for short-term gains, the country may lose out on an opportunity to finally make the military subservient to civilian rule. *