Collective Wisdom for North Waziristan Operation
By Sajjad Shaukat
In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy in the US homeland, American government, opposition, media and public had become one by showing collective wisdom, because the country was at war against the non-sovereign entities, popularly called terrorists.
When the Pakistan Government decided to launch the ongoing military operation “Zarb-e-Azb” against the militants in North Waziristan Agency (NWA), Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took the nation into confidence through parliament and senate, asserting that Pakistan would not be allowed to become safe havens of terrorists. He further stated that military operation would continue till achievement of ultimate objectives. Earlier, DG, ISPR Directorate, Major-Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa stated, “On the directions of the Government, Armed forces of Pakistan have launched the operation against foreign and local terrorists…who had been waging a war against the state of Pakistan by disrupting our national life in all its dimensions, stunting our economic growth and causing enormous loss of life and property…with the support of the entire nation, these enemies will be denied space across the country.” On June 16, 2014, Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif also pointed out, “Operation Zarb-e-Azb has been launched with the objectives of rooting out terrorists, eliminate their sanctuaries in NWA and rid the country of terrorism.”
Since June 15 when the military operation started, the jets of Pakistan Air Force have bombed militants’ hideouts in North Waziristan, and killed more than 300 insurgents including foreign militants, while Pak Army has also started ground offensive which has successfully been achieving its goals. Recently, several militants of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have been killed and more than 20 surrendered before the Army.
Although Pakistan’s media, politicians, leaders of religious parties and general masses are showing solidarity with the armed forces, which could be judged from the countrywide protests and rallies in support of the North Waziristan operation, and assistance to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), yet incorrect impression is being created by some propagandists like political parties—JI and JUI (F) that the government and the Army were not on the same page regarding militancy, counter-terrorism and the military action in NWA. They are spreading rumours that the present operation was started on the US pressure.
Meanwhile, some elements are also manipulating the statement of the former DG ISPR, Maj-Gen. Athar Abbas who said on July 1, this year that the decision to launch a full scale operation against terrorists in North Waziristan had been taken by the military leadership in 2010, but it could not be initiated due to the indecision of the former Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
It is notable that during the Chicago Summit, and when DG of Inter-Services Intelligence agency, Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam met with CIA Director David Petraeus in 2012, some internal and external entities, especially the US media were spreading disinformation that the two spy chiefs agreed on joint operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and had named the planned offensive in North Waziristan as operation, “Tight Screw.”
It was owing to the rumours spread by external media, and also unfortunately by our internal political parties and media that reports of military operation in North Waziristan caused a lot of panic among the majority of locals who had begun fleeing the area.
Taking cognizance of the baseless media reports, on August 17, 2012, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani categorically dispelled the speculative reporting in foreign media regarding joint operation in North Waziristan. He reiterated, “We might, if necessary, undertake operation in NWA, in the timeframe of our choosing and requirements” as “determined only by our political and military requirements. It will never be a result of any outside pressure.”
Earlier, while stressing upon national unity, Gen. Kayani especially stated on June 9, 2011, “Any effort to create division among important institutions of the country is not in national interest…the people of Pakistan whose support the army has always considered vital for its operations against terrorists.”
While dispelling the misperception about the military operation in North Waziristan, DG, ISPR Major-Gen. Asim clarified on June 27, this year, “It is solely a Pakistan Army operation and not a joint Pak-US military offensive”, adding that “Pakistani security forces are capable of doing such an operation.”
However, it is our misfortune that certain political parties and religious groups in pursuance of their political interests appear to have lost sight of collective wisdom which is essential for obtaining national goals by fighting and eliminating the scourge of terrorism.
Now, a broad-based operation has been launched to smash terrorists’ hideouts in North Waziristan areas and flush out all militants from Pakistani soil. This envisages provision of consummating public support, backing by political parties, media and civil society. The government has to maintain its resolve to eliminate terrorism, using assorted counter-terrorism strategy, whereas politicians must maintain order by postponing rallies, train marches, relegating politics of protest and deferring party programmes to hold political meetings.
In this respect, violent brawls between Punjab Police and members of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) in Lahore, on June 17, which led to live firing and killing of innocent people including women is absolutely deplorable and inappropriate. But, in wake of the present operation against the militants, there is a need to remain peaceful, and render all available assistance to the government so as to thwart all game plan of terrorists rather than opening new conflicting façade from within.
Nevertheless, collective wisdom requires that the nation must remain united as the military operation continues against terrorists in North Waziristan Agency. For this purpose, local dissent and protests must be postponed to show solidarity with the rulers as well as the armed forces.
No doubt, media, political parties, religious scholars and civil society deserve appreciation for showing cohesive harmony during testing times of the military operation. In this context, the concerned authorities must prepare comprehensive plan to engage with media for its further favourable support to the operation. Initial success of unity among different segments of society must be capitalized by offering detailed briefings to media about progress of the operation and other related issues.
Particularly, IDPs which are already being helped by the federal and provincial governments including political and religious parties, and other renowned persons like Malik Riaz of Bahria Town must further be accommodated—and those trapped in war zone be rescued by bringing them to safe areas. Government must reach out to public of North Waziristan areas with a sense of deep compassion and sympathy.
At this critical juncture, political parties and religious leaders must postpone their schedules of train marches, protest rallies, political meetings, and show-off congregations till the objectives of military operation are achieved. In this regard, postponement of train march by Sheikh Rasheed is appreciating.
Besides, violent police action against members of PAT, which resulted into killing of innocent people including women, must be thoroughly investigated, and responsibility must be fixed against all tiers of command and levels of the administration.
As the TTP-led terrorists had accelerated their anti-social, undemocratic and un-Islamic practices, therefore, people from all segments of life wanted that a handful of terrorist elements must not be allowed to dictate their agenda and to impose their self-perceived ideology on the majority of Pakistanis. So, the right hour has come that Pakistan’s media, politicians and leaders of religious parties must show solidarity with the armed forces by also rejecting the propaganda of these zealots against the security forces in relation to the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan.
Nonetheless, nation must be united in the face of threat posed by terrorism. The success of the military operation and defeat of the terrorists will become assured, if the ruling and the opposition parties including all the segments of society display practical unity not only with one another, but also with the armed forces, which is also necessary to maintain order at this sensitive moment.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations