EVEN when times get as bad as this, there are a few things that don’t worry me. I am not worried that we face a formidable challenger in the TTP, which is lodged in an even more challenging terrain. Neither am I worried that any military operation here will push their fighters into Afghanistan.
I’m not in denial, yet it doesn’t worry me that heavily armed Taliban groups now sit on the outskirts of Karachi or that they can direct events inside the city from their suburban nests. I am also not worried that assorted jihadi groups and their sympathisers are embedded within our urban centres and even infest our state institutions.
I am also able to shrug off the reality that half of the Coalition forces have already left Afghanistan and by December the remaining would also be gone. At the back of my mind I also know that there will be no reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban. I am aware that this will mean that conditions will worsen in the Pakhtun areas of Afghanistan and that a further two million refugees can be expected to arrive.
I am also not excessively worried about the growing extremism in our society. It is a difficult situation, I am aware, but it is not the difficult situation that worries me.
What worries me is that there does not appear to be a plan. What worries me is that the government, the rulers and the civilian institutions of the state are not seized of how deep this cancer is. What worries me is the absence of clear thinking, and of a credible road map that proposes to chart a course out of this difficult situation.
Giving peace a chance? I will not spend time arguing with generic clichés. But ‘peace’ is not merely the absence of violence. Except in the international relations theory of deterrence — of balance of power — where heavily armed states will not go to war for fear of mutually assured destruction.
In the context of individual nation states, peace is said to prevail when the rule of law prevails, when the writ of the state is supreme and when the state holds a monopoly over violence. Our conditions are far from this. Neither are these conditions likely to result from the current negotiations.
Nobody expects these talks to lead anywhere or to yield any information — about TTP’s demands, its whereabouts, or its fault lines — that was not already known. On the other hand the talks have accorded a degree of legitimacy to a terrorist group and to its toxic ‘cause’. They have provided it a platform on nightly prime time television to disseminate poisonous narratives. Putting this genie back in the bottle may not be as easy.
I have reasonable certainty that there will soon be a series of military operations against TTP groups. How will these be qualitatively different from previous operations? How effective would they be and how precisely will they target the enemy? How will TTP fighters be prevented from fleeing to Afghanistan? What is the plan to capture those who do slip across the Durand Line? Is the necessary coordination being done with Nato and the Afghan security forces? Are there enterprising warlords on the other side who may be up for a bounty hunt? And indeed how does the military address widespread concerns about the efficacy of its conventional forces fighting an asymmetric war?
Considering that the cost of failure may be nearly as high as the cost of inaction, we can only gain from seeking more clarity on such questions. This clarity will also instil more confidence in the public — part of which is still sceptical about the military option.
Even then, any military operation in Fata will address only part of the problem. The other part lies in the settled areas and in the cities where very little pre-emptive action is presently visible. A case in point is Karachi where, in the ongoing operation being conducted by multiple provincial and federal agencies, only 60-70 Taliban fighters have been arrested in the last six months. It is hoped that together with the main bastion in Fata, a simultaneous and broad sweep will scoop up all the snake pits in the cities.
There is also the question of resourcing the war. The budgetary allocations are still not visible. In such a situation, who will take any plan seriously? A good plan, it is said, is like a road map. It shows the final destination and the best way to get you there. And a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
2014 – Dawn Media Group