In the recent months, there has been pressure from the US that Pakistan should launch a military operation in North Waziristan. Particularly, after Faisal Shahzad attempted to bomb Times Square in New York on May 1 this year, this pressure increased. US President Barrack Obama dispatched White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones and CIA Director Leon Panetta who were recently in Pakistan. In this regard, our media anchors and reporters misperceive that these American high officials have urged Islamabad to immediately start military offensive in North Wazirstan in order to eliminate the Haqqani network which has provided the militants of South Wazistan with safe-havens.
The fact of the matter is that being a sovereign country, Pakistan has refused to bow down before the US duress. In this respect, Pakistan’s foreign office responded by saying, “Be it the tribal areas or any other part, Pakistan will proceed in accordance with its own priorities and plans.” In the recent past, ISPR spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas had stated that Pakistan’s military is engaged in eliminating militancy in other tribal areas in accordance with its programme and military operation in North Waziristan has not yet been decided.
However, quite opposite to the ill-conceived thoughts of some political experts, it looks clear that the US has agreed with Pakistan’s stand in the matter. In this connection, on May 20, the Pentagon expressed confidence that Pakistan would mount on offensive in North Waziristan, but Islamabad itself would decide on the timing of the operation. Notably, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates remarked that it was up to the Pakistan Army and the government to decide the timing of the offensive since the military was already stretched by operations in other tribal areas.
Meanwhile, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US military’s Chief of Army Staff said that Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Kayani had indicated to him more than a year ago that he had “plans to execute that mission in North Waziristan, but the timing was really up to him.” Mullen further pointed out that he (Kiyani) “has got two fronts. He has got a military that has lost a lot of soldiers, sacrificed a great deal, and so it makes a lot of sense to me that he does get to pick this timeline.” Gates maintained that Pakistan already had seven divisions and 140, 000 troops in and around the tribal areas, calling it “a huge effort.”
Nevertheless, it is wrong to envisage that Pakistan has been under American duress in connection with war against terrorism. The fact of the matter is that Pakistan’s security forces have been fighting against the militants for the safety of its own citizens and national interests. A continued wave of suicide attacks and subversive acts have endorsed this logic.
It is of particular attention that in the recent past, there was disinformation by some Pakistanis and western media that the Swat-Malakand military operations which had been launched by our security forces in Dir, Buner and other adjoining areas against the Taliban were the result of American pressure. This misperception developed due to the irresponsible statements of US and European high officials who have been pointing out that Taliban’s advancement in other regions beyond Swat would result in total control of Pakistan by these militants. Especially, Washington had shown concerns over the Swat deal.
There was strong logic behind the Swat-Malakand military operations. In fact, no army can fight against its own people, but when writ of the government is being challenged and when civil authorities become unable to restore the same, the army is called as the last resort. In this regard, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had clarified that the military operations in Swat, Dir and Buner were meant to re-establish the writ of the constitution and this was the only way to defeat the designs of the extremists.
Now, let us know as to who violated the Swat peace agreement and as to how situation deteriorated, which compelled the civil government for conducting military operations. Setting aside, American concerns, President Asif Zardari had approved the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation, and Chief of Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) had asked the Swat Taliban to lay down arms in accordance with the peace deal as their promise for enforcement of the Islamic law was fulfilled.
By ignoring the terms of peace pact, the Taliban equipped with Kalashnikovs, grenades and explosives started making checkpoints. They strengthened their position in Swat, Dir and Buner. In these areas, Taliban had occupied government buildings, kidnapped policemen and ransacked the office of Belgium-based humanitarian organization of doctors. In the Kambar region of Swat, the Taliban abducted a district commander of the paramilitary Frontier Corps and four of his troops. This situation had triggered a great deal of panic among the local populations of these places. Heavy-armed Taliban started patrolling the streets of Buner. A Taliban commander had remarked that they would set up Sharia courts in Buner as they had done in Swat.
These transgressions by the Swat Taliban clearly proved that they violated the ceasefire and peace agreement concluded with the Pakistani government, prompting protests from the local government.
Instead of American pressure, it was in these circumstances that the civil government was forced to call army to re-launch military operations.
Besides, while underestimating the capacity of our armed forces to fight the Taliban, US high officials had alleged that Pakistan army was incapable to cope with the rising influence of these insurgents, presuming that if the situation was not controlled, the extremists could even take control of nuclear weapons of the country. Surprisingly, even the US President Obama had also expressed similar thoughts, though in some positive tone.
In that connection, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had stated that Taliban “advances are now within hours of Islamabad” and pose “an existential threat” to Pakistan. While showing American concerns over the Swat truce, she warned that Pakistan had dispersed its nuclear weapons throughout the country, increasing the risks that they could fall into the hands of terrorists.
On the other hand, Pak Army had successfully flushed out the Taliban from the affected areas, and proved that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were in quite safe hands. When Pak Army broke the backbone of the Taliban, US and western leaders started appreciating our armed forces, donating million of dollars to Pakistan. They also admitted that Pakistan’s nukes were in safe hands.
Nonetheless, whenever American high officials visit Islamabad since 9/11, some of foreign and our domestic media anchors propagate that they are going to put more pressure on Pakistan’s civil and military leadership. Perhaps these so-called anchors do not know the art of negotiating and diplomacy in its true sense. At present, the US has badly entangled in Afghanistan as the prolonged war on terror and the stiff resistance of the Taliban have proved. While the US-led NATO forces cannot fight this different war against the non-state actors without the cooperation of Islamabad. This fact has repeatedly been verified by the US President Obama, Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton and other high officials. In these terms, if Pakistan depends upon America for economic and military aid, the latter also depends upon the former for war on terror. So it has become a matter of mutual dependence. In this respect, Islamabad does not bow down to American pressure.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations