by Mohammad Jamil
After his meeting with General James N. Mattis, Commander US CENTCOM on 17th August, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani categorically dispelled the speculative reporting in foreign media, regarding joint operations in North Waziristan. He had reiterated: “We might, if necessary, undertake operations in NWA, in the timeframe of our choosing and requirements.” It will never be a result of any outside pressure.
Yet some local commentriat and politicos started criticising civil and military leadership. Of course Civil and military leaderships are on one page in this regard that if at all operation is required to be undertaken, its timings will be decided by Pakistan and not on America’s dictation. Anyhow, final decision whether the operation would be undertaken or not will be made keeping in view the Parliament’s resolution, which exhorts to negotiate with the militants. But there is a proviso that in the event all other efforts fail then the government could resort to military action. However, people of Pakistan would have to be taken on board before any military operation is launched in North Waziristan. The question is whether all strata of society is in favour of such an operation?
The situation on ground is that business community is divided; one group opposes the military operation taking the plea it could be disastrous for the national economy. The other group wants military operation should be undertaken to eliminate terrorism and extremism in every form and manifestation, as in the presence of deteriorating law and order situation, neither foreign nor domestic investment would be forthcoming. PML-N leader and Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly expressed his concern over the reports of military operation in North Waziristan, which is reflective of his party’s position. Last month, speaking to the media he said that General Kayani should abide by the resolution of the Parliament and All Parties Conference. Chairman Steering Committee PML leader Salim Saifullah Khan warned that military operation in North Waziristan will be disastrous for the country. JUI-F, Jamat-e-Islami and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf also oppose any military operation in North Waziristan or elsewhere. They believe that foreign forces are occupying Afghanistan, but the worldwide view is that they are UN mandated and supported by a legitimate Afghan government.
Pakistan is facing the dilemma in that it is facing the US plus 49 other countries, and will have to ensure that Pakistan’s soil is not used by the Taliban for attacking American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. At the same time, American and NATO forces will have to take measures that Tehrik-e-Taliban fighters holed in Kunar and Nuristan are stopped from attacking Pakistan’s security forces in areas bordering Afghanistan. The fact remains that these areas are under the control of ISAF forces. The question however is whether people of Pakistan would support an operation against, what they say Haqqani network and other militant groups? Anyhow, people of Pakistan and different strata of society would have to be taken on board, and there should be a consensus on an operation if it is deemed necessary. However, the same should be undertaken after taking into consideration certain pre-requisites including the fall out of such an operation. Of course, measures would have to be taken for temporarily accommodating the people migrating from that area, and again to rehabilitate them after the operation.
According to a defence analyst, “well-planned covert operations must be undertaken to isolate the militants from the locals, though a difficult proposition till the time locals carry the impression that militants are waging ‘jihad’ against foreign forces in Afghanistan. Speedy rehabilitation and initiation of political process after successful military operation are imperatives for a permanent solution, which must be planned in advance. The experience shows that successful military operations in Swat and South Waziristan were not backed by the required political process for seeking permanent solution. Therefore, any future military operation must be preceded by creating the consensus so that political leadership takes full ownership and media is effectively used to educate the masses”. During the last four years, our forces undertook operations in Swat and South Waziristan, and since the border on Afghan side was not sealed, the terrorists went across the border to Afghanistan, and since then they are conducting terrorist activities against Pakistan with impunity from their safe-havens in Afghanistan.
One would not know if it is trust deficit or pernicious designs of the US and the NATO countries when they point their fingers of accusation towards Pakistan either for not doing enough to rein in militants or for supporting and training them. It is puerile nonsense even to imagine that Pakistan is out to destabilize Afghanistan, as Pakistan can gain immensely from stable Afghanistan. It will present tremendous business opportunities because Afghanistan will be a bridge to Central Asian republics. If one dispassionately evaluates and examines the prevailing situation it is not difficult to draw conclusion that detractors of Pakistan have coalesced as their interests converge in the region. It goes without saying that India would be the greatest beneficiary if the Gulf between two brotherly Muslim countries widens.
The US should review its policy and try to identify the causes for violence in Afghanistan, and address the issues. According to Nathaniel Fick, who served as a Marine officer in Afghanistan during the first year of the war and was again sent to Afghanistan to do research for the Centre for a New American Security said: “Based on what we heard while we were there, a lot of these guys are involved in the insurgency for economic reasons first and ideological reasons secondly”. There is no industry to create employment opportunities to the jobless, and no serious effort has been made by various governments to promote agriculture. This leaves the unemployed at the mercy of militants who look after them better than the state because of their income from drug-trafficking. During the last 11 years, warlords had a free hand to amass wealth by encouraging poppy cultivation in Afghanistan and were also involved in drug-trafficking under American and NATO forces’watch.