GEN Kayani’s comments on Monday hailing the bravery and commitment of the Pakistani people to democracy by turning out in large numbers to vote on May 11 despite the threat of terrorist attacks are perhaps an opportunity to turn the question around: will the army leadership now accept that there is in fact a consensus inside Pakistan against militancy and that it is time for the military to catch up with public sentiment? That Gen Kayani has been forthright in denouncing militancy inside Pakistan and challenged militancy apologists is a good thing and he has done it consistently for nearly a year now. But the fight against mili-tancy requires some fundamental shifts on the part of the army that go far beyond words of praise and statements of resolve.
Where, for example, is the army’s strategy for rolling back militancy inside Pakistan — beyond military operations in the tribal areas and parts of KP? To hack off some branches of militancy — as the army is doing in confronting the anti-state TTP — while leaving others unmolested — the infrastructure of ‘jihad’ orientated towards Afghanistan and to some extent Kashmir is believed to be intact — is simply not adequate. Then there is the army’s own history of sponsoring jihad that needs to be reckoned with honestly — something even the forthright army chief has been unable or unwilling to dilate on. And finally, little is said about the armed forces’ internal situation, about the rank and file and leadership tiers that may increas-ingly be infected with xenophobia, extremism or even worse. In fact, Gen Kayani’s stance so far can be interpreted as a sign of concern mixed with confusion, reflecting a military leadership that perhaps has finally understood the problem with its age-old policies but is too cautious or fearful to try and reverse them. Given the number of troops that have been killed on the frontline, Gen Kayani should be aware that to defeat militancy, clarity is needed — on all sides and with all audiences.