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Sunday, 6 September 2009

Taliban losing some ground in Pakistan: All this has been achieved because of clarity of thinking in Pakistan, the government and the people both.

NWFP’s security is Pakistan’s security

The Chief of the Army Staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, inaugurating a rehabilitation centre for captive children trained as suicide-bombers by the Taliban, has said that the army has broken the back of the Taliban rebellion; but that the army will not leave the affected areas until the last vestige of the militants is removed. A news report parallel to his statement says there is a 62 percent decrease in terrorist attacks in the country after the success of the military operation in Malakand and FATA.

It is clear that the security of the entire country now depends on the state of war against terrorism in the above region. But more significantly, it is the security of the NWFP that has improved, meaning that one entire province of the country is in the process of regaining its governance. One can also note here the security linkage of the NWFP with the tribal areas — Malakand and FATA. Only Malakand is one-fourth of the area of the province with 3 million people inhabiting it.

What has been achieved is a significant pacification of a terrain that was held hostage by the Taliban and their mercenary warlords. The remnants of terror are still there and will have to be gotten rid of completely; but the interim period too provides a lot of satisfaction to those who want the NWFP to get its fair share from the central divisible pool and implement its development projects without being assailed by the Taliban. The truth that peace in the NWFP depends on peace in the tribal areas has now dawned on everyone; it is also clear that peace in the NWFP means peace in the rest of Pakistan.

The army operation has killed hundreds of terrorists. The Taliban are divided and their decision-making process is affected by a simmering ongoing contest for leadership. The effect on the NWFP has been very pronounced; but it is also recognised now that without sorting out the Khyber Agency of FATA, Peshawar can hardly be at rest. The army is getting to grips with the problem of Lashkar-e-Islam in Khyber run by a local warlord that easily trespasses into parts of Peshawar and kills people there. Khyber is also penetrated by the Taliban because of their strategy of attacking the NATO supply route.

All this has been achieved because of clarity of thinking in Pakistan, the government and the people both. The old policy of abstaining from designating the enemy clearly and interpreting the activity of the warlords correctly led to the consolidation of the illegal writ of the warlords. No one can measure the extent of damage done to the public mind in this period. The child suicide-bomber who says he will not hesitate to kill his parents is just one manifestation of it. There is a general lack of trust in the ability of the state to assert itself, which means that the public mind is free to opt for the worldview of those who control their lives with guns.

The army has its priorities right, but does the rest of the nation? One has to admit that the war against terror is not the uppermost thought among the politicians and some professional sections of civil society. While there is no opposition as such to the military operations, there seems to be a consensus that putting General Pervez Musharraf (retd) on trial for treason is more urgent. There is a tendency in favour of what is called “dittoism”, i.e., everyone thinking the same thought without a healthy tendency to break the uniformity of thought.

The politicians are busy in their infighting, barely hiding their instinct of revenging themselves upon each other. People with no expertise in economics are railing against shortages caused by the demand-push of Ramazan and want the government’s head as trophy, forcing Prime Minister Gilani to say he is not going anywhere. Few realise in this environment that if the war against terror doesn’t go well, all these priorities will be overthrown and the warlords will make their comeback, this time not on the peripheries, but right in the centre called Islamabad where they can still attack a federal minister at will. (Daily Times)

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