Reverberations of war

Posted by Admin On Saturday, 1 March 2014 0 comments
The countdown to the operation against the TTP has brought the country’s leadership to the sand table, their sole purpose: to establish the writ of the state in areas where the TTP currently run amok. With clear political directives on the matter, the military is in a better position to formulate a war strategy to realize these objectives. There can be no backsies; political parties can no longer score points by running counter to the government’s stance; and the army must realize that a stalemate on the battlefield will spell defeat.
This is Pakistan’s battle for survival. TTP might be enemy numero uno, but once the gunships arrive in FATA, militants outside the TTP umbrella: the globally oriented militants, Afghanistan-oriented militants, India- and Kashmir-oriented militants, Sectarian militants and cessationists will join hands out of sheer need for survival.
The air strikes conducted by the army have so far been largely successful. Indigenous drones have been used to provide precise intel for these surgical strikes. According to a news report, telephone chatter after these strikes has shown that the Taliban were in disarray as they were telling each other if such precise strikes continued, they would be eliminated without even a fight. But a wounded animal is a dangerous animal. While PAF jets and helicopter gunships prepare to strike militant targets in the hinterlands, the heat of the battle will be felt in urban population centres.
The army will be met with retaliatory fire in the war zone. The country’s militant hydra, however, has deep roots and presence in urban centres. A report by the International Crisis Group states that  provincial capitals are an attractive venue for militant and criminal networks to raise money, recruit foot soldiers and attack ethnic rivals, sectarian minorities and state institutions. That is because they have so far been allowed to settle there, be nourished and grow.
Once the operation begins, there will be backlash in the urban centres. However, it will not primarily target state institutions. The enemy will try to cut the state at the source of its legitimacy- the populace.
Earlier this month, the Baloch Republican Army claimed responsibility for blowing up three gas pipelines to the Punjab. Intelligence reports say this is the first of several attacks they have planned. Militant organizations have been unrestrainedly allowed to mushroom in South Punjab. With the Punjab-Balochistan border compromised, security forces other than the ones engaged in the operation will have to step up equally.
With nearing ten terrorism attacks this month, Peshawar is the first provincial capital to have felt the ire of the scourge. The ongoing crackdown against militants and miscreants in Karachi will have to be stepped up several notches to counter the reprisal TTP’s organized crime syndicate will mete. Sensitive state institutions will also have to go on high alert against any possible moles within their cadres.
The state should anticipate a no holds barred reprisal. It is very likely that the backlash in urban centres will be directly proportional to the success of the military operation. It goes without saying that provincial governments must take strong solid steps to secure the populace.
The federal government released its National Internal Security Policy on February 25. It stresses on the need to evolve a focal directorate for intelligence sharing and coordination. The Punjab government too has recently completed recruiting personnel for a new counter terrorism apparatus that also places great emphasis on intelligence gathering and coordination between the 33 intelligence organizations in the country.
These are ambitious plans and should be implemented in due time. However, the government also needs to realize that creating new institutions will take time. The cogs of any institution take several years before they can mesh together and develop jewel movements. The state must be able to differentiate between short, medium and long term strategies and goals. The development of new institutions, revamping old ones, trainings and plans are excellent medium to long term plans. The need for action is now. It is in the state’s best interest to implement a three tiered strategy in this regard. There is no time to lose and the state’s premier intelligence agencies should be put to task right now, while preparations for an umbrella organization continue side by side.
The Punjab Cabinet last week decided to launch a crackdown against holding and hoarding illegal weapons. All entrances and exits to the province will be under strict surveillance and a high security alert maintained. The ban on display of fire arms will be enforced. But the government must also empower the police. The Protection of Pakistan Ordinance allows for greater powers to law enforcement agencies and involves the state bureaucracy and judiciary. This must be implemented in all provinces without delay.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif approved training for 30,000 policemen at that meeting. He said the ‘modern training programme’ would be carried out expeditiously under a phased programme. Once the operation begins, the government cannot afford to spare any of its law enforcers. The is a need to appreciate the gravity of the situation here. Immediate requirements cannot be held subservient to long term plans.
The operation will coincide with the US pullout from Afghanistan this year. If carried out swiftly under the clear, hold, build strategy Pakistan could finally put an end to its own war against terror. The army must realize that this has to be an all-out offensive, without room for a stalemate. An impasse will undoubtedly spell a defeat and leave the state a hollow drum. War drums can be heard in every corner of the country and the time to act is now.


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