ISLAMABAD: The seemingly decisive military action in the North Waziristan Agency continues to grab the spotlight to create much-yearned-for unity among public at large over eliminating the militancy with a firm hand.
Now that the rumour mills that were cynical of Islamabad’s motives to land in the most challenging tribal agency have been shut down, a rare unanimity of view looks to be forging between the political rhetoric and the public sentiment in favour of a blanket action against the trouble makers in the north-west. To much relief of the rulers, the final word on the launch of Zarb-e-Azb came from the military. Had it been up to the civilian leadership to make this kind of daring utterance, there would have been much hue and cry, cribbing and cursing – to open up a full Pandora’s box of allegations –from branding the supporters of military action as ‘American agents’ to foreseeing a broader conspiracy suggestive of an unholy alliance between Washington and the liberals in Pakistan to challenge the very ideological foundation of Pakistan.
But given that the men in uniform took up the cudgels for the NWA offensive – the dissenting notes look to be lost somewhere. It was not very surprising to see Imran Khan finally getting to mend his ways and switching sides within no time. Khan’s boisterous and categorical opposition to the use of force and his notable sympathy for Taliban had been an irritant between the military and the PTI right from the day the political party formed government in KP. The creation of a forward bloc in the KP Assembly was a bitter episode in this context.
Sensing the gravity of the situation, Khan was quick to switch to a reconciliatory mode. While his strong stance against the military operations in FATA softened, he stopped labelling the supporters of the use of force against the TTP as ‘American agents’ and ‘men of dollars’. Desperate in search of an opportunity to make up with the military, Khan could not find a better opportunity than the one that came through last week when the army announced that it had landed in the North Waziristan for good. A hurriedly called PTI Core Committee meeting followed by the press interactions was well in endorsement of the military action.
But for other ‘Taliban lovers’ like Maulana Fazlur Rehman, there has hardly been a way out. For the observers, Fazl, these days looks quite much like a pendulum that keeps on swinging between the two extremes unknowing who to side with. Hopelessly trying to balance his parochial political priorities with his cleric outlook, the Maulana seems to have been caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. On one hand, there is the government at Centre he has partnered and on the other hand, there are the Taliban he has to bear with in his political constituency of KP. Either way, Fazl cannot afford to part ways with the rulers. After all, his more than year-long efforts to land at the treasury benches now reap fruit and the JUI-F men are elevated to the ‘real’ ministerial slots.
Still, the convergence of public opinion and political support breeds the kind of national spirit essentially required against terrorism. For a while, though, the Punjab government’s blunder to unleash brute force on the activists of Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek proved to be a distraction. The centre of attention, however, is back in the saddle, with all and sundry generally subscribing to the operational updates from the North Waziristan on the ongoing offensive’s presumed successes the military claims daily.
On the tactical side, the launch of the Zarb-e-Azb offensive in the summer season has been rated on a plus, throughout. The TTP’s unending penchant for bloodshed had turn the heads of the ruling lot for landing boots in the tribal agency but the weather stood aversive. Fingers of criticism were at PM Sharif when he had just stopped short of announcing the long anticipated military action, and, had, instead, announced to give peace another chance— in his rare address in the Parliament this January. But as things stood, the government needed to buy time till the climate conditions improved in NWA –a phenomenon that best favours security forces for waging an assault against the terrorists in the mountainous or steepy terrains. And finally, when it happened, it was high time to go about it with full force.
Strategically, on a broader level, in terms of regional context, it was perhaps to the hard luck of the outgoing Afghan President Hamid Kazai that the military action in the NWA is launched during his last days in power. Karzai’s accusations against Islamabad on sponsoring cross-border terrorism trace back to more than a decade, ever since his early days at power, but the ruling bosses here never deemed him credible or authoritative enough to pay an attentive ear to. Nevertheless, for Abdullah Abdullah, the presidential probable, things omen well. It appears that his pro-Indian outlook does not earn much of a concern for the rulers in Islamabad and the commanders in Rawalpindi courtesy Abdullah’s recent statements exhibitive of his desire to work in harmony with Islamabad. Unlike Karzai regime, the strategic seers infer, Islamabad and Kabul will generally have a smooth sailing in the Abdullah’s period.
Pertinent to the strategic context is another aspect involving the military action at Pak-Afghan border: The NWA operation has been launched well ahead of the withdrawal of the NATO forces from Afghanistan. The idea has been to ensure border coordination with the allied forces that call the shots at the other side of the border. With a hostile Afghan intelligence and not-very-cooperative Afghan military, Pakistan’ security bosses map out plan to primarily rely on the allied forces to take care of the runaway militants and the TTP sanctuaries on the Afghan side of the border. This looks to be a workable option.
To sum up, it may have taken the Pakistani rulers and commanders several years to make a decision on the NWA but it is better late than never. Back home and abroad, the Zarb-e-Azb operation is welcomed. The international community and the Pakistanis heave a sigh of relief seeing that there has been an intention on part of the security establishment to stop rating friends and foes in Taliban and to do way with the terminologies as good and bad Taliban. A complete wipe out of the terrorists is something we all need.
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