The first thing Gen Bajwa has to realise


The first thing Gen Bajwa has to realise

Ayaz Amir

It is this: the victories achieved by the army, with crucial help from the air force, in Zarb-e-Azb were won by the military alone. The civilian governments, unfortunately, had no hand or input in them. This is an awkward fact but incontrovertible. The civilians climbed the bandwagon of the war against terrorism very reluctantly. Their hearts were not in the enterprise.

If it had been up to the civilians they would have conducted endless negotiations with the Tehrik Taliban-i-Pakistan without ever coming to a firm decision. They would have kept describing the TTP as our misguided brothers. Fata would never have been liberated and the TTP’s virtual emirate in North Waziristan would not have been touched. Instead of fleeing into Afghanistan the TTP guerrilla warriors would have remained on this side of the Durand Line, from their safe havens here carrying out their attacks all over Pakistan.

If the next phase of this war has to be prosecuted successfully and jihadism defeated once and for all, the military again will be on its own. Realistically speaking, it can expect no meaningful help from any other quarter.

Yes, the police, the Rangers, the Frontier Corps, the Frontier Constabulary, have crucial roles to play. But their direction has to be set by the army. The command and the inspiration have to come from there. Like it was in Karachi where the Rangers were in the field but the army was at their back.

Intellectuals and self-taught soldiers rather than the products of any military academy led the Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Cuban revolutions. Unfortunately Pakistan is neither Cuba nor Vietnam, much less any other revolutionary cockpit. It is not even Iran. It has no revolutionary tradition, no history of radicalism.

The military arm has to be its own commissar and political guide. It can expect no help from the RanaSanaullahs and the KhawajaAsifs, or the ChaudryNisar Ali Khans, not to mention the top leaders from both leading parties whose expertise lies more in sugar mills and other businesses rather than in any Napoleonic pursuits.

If you want to circumvent the law and move sugar mills from central Punjab to southern Punjab there will be no superior strategists or tacticians than our ruling sugar barons. But for the long-haul war against terrorism Gen Bajwa and the military have to depend upon their own capabilities.

What was the civilian contribution to Zarb-e-Azb? Nothing but froth and rhetoric. What will be this contribution in any future operation? Pretty much nothing. Army and air force will be on their own and they will have to do their own thing.

The civilians are into entirely different domains: sugar mills, London properties, offshore accounts, Panama hearings. They get into the anti-terrorism mode spasmodically, reactively, when a terrorist incident happens. Then meetings are held and a smokescreen of propaganda is set across the landscape. For a few days it is all sound and fury…and then it is back to business as usual, before the next terrorist attack when the same drama is repeated.

And they take this to be a nation of idiots which will be dazed and dazzled by this exercise. The National Action Plan is as much a tale of fiction as the Qatari letters presented in the Supreme Court. Is anyone in government serious about implementing its various provisions? Is anyone in this country serious about reforming education and bringing madressahs into the national mainstream? We can’t adequately look after the schools and colleges we have in the government sector, treating them like second-class establishments. How do we look after madressahs?

Education is not our priority. Health is not our priority. The scarce, limited resources we have are going into showy projects meant to serve the political interests and election prospects of the ruling party. Who has the time or the inclination to do something about the reform of education? Can Lt Gen Nasser Janjua the national security adviser who is supposed to oversee the National Action Plan give an honest assessment of anything meaningful done under its banner? One can be forgiven for wondering what goes on in his mind when he sits in on meetings in which the same things said a hundred times before are again repeated.

The Chotu gang in Rajanpur was too much for the distinguished Punjab Inspector General of Police, MushtaqSukhera. What is to be expected of him in this second phase of the war against terrorism involving the armies of Khorasan and the TTP? The Khorasanis must be laughing up their sleeves. At the expense of two or three suicide bombers, brainwashed into believing that they are flying straight into the arms of the holy virgins and the land of eternal bliss, they are able to send the entire republic into a spin.

Pakistan’s topography has already changed—with raised walls around schools, colleges, hospitals and government buildings. In the wake of the recent attacks the authorities have closed all parks in Rawalpindi. According to this logic we should soon be shutting down everything. The so-called jihadis are setting the agenda and when a terrorist incident happens our civilian saviours respond with their set pantomime (tamasha) of useless meetings and meaningless declarations.

The common citizen has a better appreciation of the gains achieved in the fight against terrorism than the professional politician. Politicians and sections of the commentariat have a hard time acknowledging the army’s sacrifices in this war. They find them too hard to swallow. Ordinary people understand better who has done what in this struggle. They are not fooled by the comings and goings—the aaniajaanian—of the political class. There is no graveyard in any village of Chakwal which doesn’t have its share of shaheed soldiers. Wouldn’t the people of Chakwal understand the dynamics of this conflict better than armchair warriors?

The commander as much as the soldier have to realize that they are on their own. Theirs is a lonely struggle. The nation’s prayers are with them…of this there should be no doubt. But those who should be setting the political direction of this struggle—who should be undertaking the hard task of national reform—are masters of lip-service. Indeed no one can beat them at this game. But their priorities lie elsewhere. On their minds are other things and other passions rule their hearts.

The biggest lie in Pakistan is the theory of the single page—that everyone is on the same page. The military went into Zarb-e-Azb because it was left with no other choice. It was either that or the forfeiture of national sovereignty, not only in North Waziristan but other areas of Fata. As we have seen in recent days terrorist incidents are still occurring but Zarb-e-Azb’s achievements should not be under-estimated. All said and done, and despite the recent incidents, Pakistan is a safer place today than two years ago—thanks to the military. After the change of army command there was a slack in military operations. It is safe to say that the bombers of Khorasan took advantage of this lull.

The civilian side is treating this as a part-time war, to be taken seriously only when a terrorist incident happens. But this is a full-blown war in which there can be no letup. This much, however, should be clear: the civilians will do the talking and the shadow-boxing. As in the first phase of Zarb-e-Azb, the serious stuff will have to be done by the military.