AS the sprawling militancy and terrorism complex continues to rain down violence across Pakistan, a slight shift in political perceptions was witnessed on Sunday when PTI chief Imran Khan called for a joint civil-military strategy to fight terrorism. Until now, Mr Khan has talked more about drones and talks with the TTP than about the threat that militancy poses to the stability and security of Pakistan. But with the PTI’s government in KP rocked by a series of attacks in the province and violence in other parts of the country continuing unabated — in addition to Peshawar, Quetta and North Waziristan also suffered serious attacks on Sunday — there is perhaps the beginnings of a realisation within the PTI that the internal threat is real and serious and can only be countered by a firm resolve and coherent plan. So while Mr Khan did repeat on Sunday his standard trope of a ‘political settlement’, he appeared to acknowledge, by seeking the input of the army chief via the prime minister, that a military response is also part of the overall solution.
Perhaps in seeking the input of the army chief, Mr Khan and the other politicians who seem to discount the threat of militancy will be able to get a clearer picture on the scope and magnitude of the danger. While the right-wing political parties may prefer to focus on conspiracies and exaggerated external threats because of expediency or perhaps even out of sympathy for the militants’ explicit goal of overthrowing the state and replacing it with a severe so-called Islamic model, there is a sense that mainstream centrist and right-of-centre politicians do so largely because they are ignorant of the facts. After all, until returning to power in Islamabad last month, the PML-N leadership had been out of the national security loop for more than a decade — in which much has changed on the security front. And Mr Khan had been a fringe, or non-existent, parliamentary figure until the recent elections — meaning his knowledge of the threat that militancy poses will have been accumulated almost entirely outside official channels. An authoritative briefing by the leader of the institution on the frontline in the fight against militancy could do a world of good for the present political leadership of the country.
Drones and the possibility of talks eventually with elements of the TTP can be part of the overall, long-term strategy to fight militancy — but first, clarity is needed on what the threat of militancy means for Pakistan.