Passing the buck- to who?

Posted by Admin On Sunday, 22 September 2013 0 comments
In 2007, before the siege of Lal Masjid, TV personality Hamid Mir interviewed then president General Musharaf and asked him why the army had hesitated so long to launch an assault? The general responded that he wanted to avoid civilian casualties, and then pointed at the interviewer and said that if even one civilian died the interviewer himself would be on TV the next asking why the army even conducted an operation.
Lo and behold, when the army did conduct the operation after mounting civilian casualties by the hostage takers, and the opposition parties including current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto politicised the issue, Hamid Mir appeared on TV the next day decrying the action.
In 2007, when the Taliban took over Swat and the army was sent to retake the region with great support from the local population of Swat, opposition parties went to the airwaves again claiming that the Taliban movement, led by a commander who wasn’t from Swat and his lieutenants some of whom weren’t even from Pakistan, was a domestic uprising and the army was harming our ‘Muslim brothers’.
The truth is the Pakistan military has been fighting the insurgency since 2004. The Pakistani people only accepted the war in 2009 when it spilled in from the mountains, where the ‘savage’ Pakhtuns lived, to the cities. We should have started the war when the Taliban orchestrated mass civilian murders in Afghanistan. But if that’s too idealistic, then we should have at least begun when the first time a Pakistani market was bombed in the 90’s.
Whenever the war on terror in Pakistan is discussed, the question is always: what is the military doing wrong?  Despite not wanting to defend the Pakistani military and their fault in this war, I still have to say that is unfair question.
For example, the first time the Pakistani military won against the Swat Taliban was not in 2009, it was in 2007. But the military had to retreat because of political pressure from Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan who had convinced the populace that this wasn’t our war. It wasn’t until 2009, when the truth that was already known to the people of Swat, was laid bare to the citizens of Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi: public perception had changed enough for the military to launch another assault and consolidate their victory. This time thankfully, the only people to oppose the operations were the usual religious parties, and Imran Khan’s PTI who claim to understand all ethnic Pakhtuns in a way the colonialized Punjabi parties never could. While PPP, which had so vehemently opposed military operations when they weren’t in power, now demanded recognition for the cleverness of Asif Zardari’s ploy.
But even after the Swat operation, there is still a significant portion of the population that refuses to accept responsibility. Lack of consensus- a phrase that has come to define Pakistan’s stance on the war on terror.
The All Parties Conference on terrorism has asked for dialogue with the Taliban. There has been endless debate on whether a dialogue will even come to pass. On whether a dialogue is even possible considering the fragmented nature of the adversary. This time the onus of success in the war on terror lies with the government. The Army- tired of being the eternal scapegoat- has decided to take the backseat… prepared to retreat even if the action defies all logic. Who will the populace blame now?


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