General (retd) Athar Abbas has revealed in an interview with the BBC that it was the indecisiveness of the former COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani that led to the operation in North Waziristan (NW), for which preparations were afoot for about a year, not being conducted after the South Waziristan offensive in 2010. General Athar did not mince his words in saying that the PPP-led government at the time seemed hesitant to either take the bull of militancy by the horns or risk creating bad blood with the army by insisting on action against the terrorists in NW. General Kayani, according to General Athar, had been afraid of a backlash from the religious right in the wake of any military operation in NW. Because of this failure to tackle the militants, they had been able to dig deeper strategically, operationally and tactically in NW and in the rest of the country. The result has been untold human misery and material losses. That a COAS, seeing his country torn apart by terrorism, would not act and the government of the day being complicit only shows the apathy of the top civilian and military leadership towards the plight of the people. They could bear seeing their own soldiers, men, women and children killed, maimed and annihilated, but failed to act to protect the country and its people. The military’s obsession over many years to advance the perceived interests of the country through jihadi ‘strategic assets’ has ended up costing us dear. The military’s support to such groups as the Afghan Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has been the cornerstone of the armed forces’ security strategy in what was considered a belligerent neighbourhood. Having acknowledged that his thinking was India-centric, General Kayani’s indecisiveness in conducting a military operation in NW was not that difficult to comprehend, even if one were to disagree with such thinking. General Athar Abbas’ revelation has only reinforced what had been perceived about General Kayani. It is therefore hardly breaking news.
That makes it doubly intriguing why General Athar Abbas’ statement has so disturbed Chaudhry Nisar. What is it that the retired army spokesman has said that had not been discussed threadbare in the media already? And what about those retired army officers found on TV screens on popular talk shows and in Oped columns every day? They criticise, raise fingers at and support their former bosses. Have we forgotten the former ISI chief’s revelations on TV about the ISI’s involvement in creating the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) to defeat the PPP in the 1990 elections? It is hardly a new or unknown phenomenon to see uniformed officials speaking their mind after retirement. In fact, given the abiding secrecy surrounding affairs of the state, these revelations are refreshing, educational, and throw light into corners of national life that would otherwise remain permanently in the shadows. *