Bara operation

At least 1,000 families left their homes after a military operation against terrorists began in Bara, Khyber Agency. This will now add thousands of people to the burgeoning list of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Pakistan. Reports indicate that asking the people to vacate their homes was an afterthought by the military. In the past, we have seen that overwhelming firepower during a military offensive has made the militants leave the area instead of staying there and fighting the army. It is inherently na├»ve to think that every militant will be killed in such operations. Despite the fact that our military has been fighting all kinds of insurgencies over the decades, their doctrinal and technical understanding of guerrilla warfare leaves much to be desired. In the case of Swat, Orakzai, Bajaur, South Waziristan, most of the militants were ‘flushed out’ from the areas instead of being taken care of. When an area is ‘cleared’ of militants, the next step is to re-establish the writ of the state through the civilian establishment and institutions. It is pertinent to give confidence to the civilian population who should not fear that the militants would be able to come back to the area at a later stage. This is the classic dilemma of counterinsurgency. Clearing an area is easy with military might, but the real test is to hold that area and ensure that the militants do not return. For that, the re-establishment of the subverted structures of the state is necessary. By allowing the militants to decapitate the tribal structure that was in place for decades, Pakistan’s military establishment's shortsighted view was exposed. By now asking the tribes to form anti-Taliban lashkars (private militias), the military is putting the tribals at risk. The recent killing of anti-Taliban tribesmen in Mohmand proves that these lashkars are no match for the battle-hardened militants. Targeted assassinations are now taking place all over the tribal areas.

The only way to win the battle against the Taliban is by scrapping the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban doctrine. The Taliban are one and the same. The so-called ‘good’ Afghan Taliban have given refuge to those ‘bad’ Taliban who want to wage war against Pakistan. In the light of Maulvi Fazlullah’s call for an all-out jihad against Pakistan, it proves that our so-called ‘assets’ are helping their Pakistani counterparts. It is important that Pakistan realises that Maulvi Fazlullah is backed by the Afghan Taliban, thus the problem is not divisible. Two separate sections of the Taliban are the same from within. It would be in our interest to work with the US-led NATO forces and the Afghans in countering this threat together.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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