MILITANCY is tearing away at the vitals of Pakistan, defacing it. Further procrastination in attending to it cannot be.

There are just two options. We can either challenge the militants physically to regain control over the territory lost to them or we can negotiate with them and hope this delivers better results than earlier attempts did.

As someone who strongly believes that the mess we are in today is largely of the military’s making, one feels it must fall on the army leadership’s shoulders to lead the way to safer shores.

As a first step, the army may wish to hold an internal debate and decide whether it considers US drone attacks on Pakistani territory a low-cost (in terms of money and our soldiers’ lives) weapon that has taken out some of the country’s worst enemies, mass murderers.

Or whether it considers the continued use of drone attacks by the US as an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty that has to stop, especially since these cause civilian casualties too. Drones here of course can be taken as a microcosm of the gamut of military relations between the two countries.

This clarity is vital because ever since the first example of drone activity over Pakistan in the mid-2000s the government of the day (first the Musharraf administration and then the current government) and the military have decried the attacks.

This has done two things. It has reinforced the impression, perhaps rightly, of the US as an arrogant, uncaring power that doesn’t even entertain the objections of a major ally on such an issue and has contributed to the spiralling anti-US sentiment.

With all public opinion surveys suggesting that the US is the most disliked foreign power in Pakistan, it is not a step too far to say that any government and/or the military that is seen as allied too closely with the US is to be despised too.

A duplicitous official policy has left us with very few options to exercise. We have ended up alienating our supposed allies and simultaneously our own people merely because we have failed to inform them properly.

There should be a cost-benefit analysis of going one way or the other and decisions made on an informed, transparent basis so the people can understand why a certain decision was preferable/preferred over others and buy into it.

Wikileaks demonstrated we have been saying one thing to the Americans and the rest of the world and the opposite to our own people. This is a recipe for disaster and must stop immediately.

There are those who believe militancy in the country is only because of Pakistan’s support to the US-led ‘war on terror’.

If this view is shared by the majority of political forces in the country including those in government, then it is incumbent on us to openly debate all the pros and cons of our current policy. The people have a right to know all possible repercussions before a policy change.

Armed with all the facts, if the people want a change no matter how dramatic, a change it shall have to be.

Army chief Gen Kayani as recently as mid-August this year described the war against militancy as Pakistan’s own war. He also said there was no room for an armed minority to force its will on the rest in a civilised society.

The Swat attack on Malala Yousufzai, the continued desecration of Sufi shrines, the extermination of anyone opposing the Taliban in the areas under their control, the murder of Shias in Kurram Agency and elsewhere are but some reminders of the evil that stalks us.

Do we need to wait till the next round of beheadings of our security personnel by the Taliban or the next suicide bombing to act?

Those committed to the creation of an Islamic emirate go about their business ruthlessly. Our response cannot be inertia.

It is up to the military planners to decide whether a march on the remaining sanctuaries of the militants from where they plan and direct operations against us is a better option or relentless special operations to break the back of the monster we have created are more effective.

We may not have the means, need or the desire to take on the Haqqani network, given our goals in Afghanistan. But if their militant attacks in Afghanistan are traced back to North Waziristan Agency surely our sovereignty claim is undermined.

Do we have enough influence with them to persuade them not to launch attacks on Afghanistan, particularly if we opt out of the alliance with the US as any attack across the border will probably lead to military reprisals?

As we deliberate over strategy that may dictate whether we survive or become a basket case at the mercy of marauding hordes of religious zealots, we need also to consider all scenarios and possibilities including failed negotiations.

Gen Kayani ought to take the initiative and brief all key political forces in the country on why he says the war against the militants is our war. He should be open and honest about the strengths and weaknesses of the machine he commands and list his challenges too.

At the same time the government, the ECP and, if need be, the judiciary and the military too should spell out their commitment to national elections on time so the fears of some parties are addressed. They fear action against militants will lead to a poll postponement.

Some of these parties will have to rethink their policy of appeasing the extremists too, because once, and if, the militant sanctuaries are cleared, we’ll need to cleanse the many hearts and minds of the toxic intolerance that poses an equally potent threat to the fabric of our society.

These were some random thoughts. The situation is critical. No one can claim a monopoly over ideas. Let’s pool, crystallise all proposals and move. Sitting around waiting for a miracle will push us deeper into the hole we have dug for ourselves.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

Updated Nov 03, 2012 02:03am

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Comments (13) (Closed)

Nov 03, 2012 03:53pm
we cannot touch the Haqqani group until and after America is gone. Then we need them in Afghanistan for some unknown reasons.
Nov 03, 2012 06:46pm
One of the best article I have read recently on this issue. Well done Sir! I hope your voice would be heard positively in the corridors of POWER.
Raoul Ciao
Nov 03, 2012 02:20pm
yes, Pakistan cannot afford procrastination. The fire is burning, and may not have lit all doors yet - but the religious militancy , the Baluch unrest and the ingress into mainstream areas like Karachi by the TTP etc is only going to go one way if not attacked now - up, and away till the Pakistan state becomes a zombie being broken , literally into pieces. My opinion - two years of no action, and no point of return may be breached.
mohammad shafiq
Nov 03, 2012 02:28pm
Very funny when kayani said there was no room for an armed minority to force its will on the rest in a civilised society............. he probably meant the army excepted.
Nov 03, 2012 02:51pm
How many times ....political leaders have visited tribal areas.???????? clarifies all the doubts.......President should have been visiting tribal areas quite often....if he would have been interested in his country's affairs.......if army has to do everything than why it is blamed for the follies of the entire society....DID ANYONE OUT OF US EVER HIGHLIGHTED THIS ..........AGAIN ZARDARI WILL BE OUR LEADER.....AND SUFFERING WILL CONTINUE......WAKE UP EVERYONE PLEASE.....
Nov 03, 2012 03:51am
The situation is critical and prompt action is needed. However if the mind is confused the solution that emerges will be ineffective in addressing current problems. How long a nation can get away by hiding the bitter Truth from its people needs urgent consideration. Making policies predicated on who is considered an enemy, is a terrible idea. Falsifying history means nothing can be learnt from it. A start has to be made somewhere.
Sue Sturgess
Nov 04, 2012 03:47am
If Pakistan really hates the arrogant USA so much. why doesn't it make its point by refusing to accept all US foreign aid. That will teach them a lesson!
Babur Chughtai Mughal
Nov 03, 2012 10:15pm
With all respect, these are 'random thoughts' as the author describes them. Too random, too incoherent and too simplistic to be taken seriously. The author's analysis omits important factors, like the TTP sage havens inside Afghanistan and specially inside parts of Afghanistan known to be under American control. Is US using TTP as a leverage against Pakistan? Author mentions the beheading of our soldiers. The culprits came from Afghanistan. Who are they? Why ISAF and US Army fails to take action even when Pakistan Army informs the other side immediately after such incidents? The author says this mess is entirely the creation of our military. He is wrong. US army on the other side has a strong hand too. What are the American forces that allow TTP to operate without the full knowledge or consent of US army?
Nov 03, 2012 06:48am
Nice sentiments and suggestions, but unlikely to either be taken seriously by the elite nor ever adopted. The military has a monopoly on foreign policy and on anything strategic, and will not brook any interference by civilians. The political class is glad to let them make a mess of it. The people are just pawns, to be used and abused as needed.
Agha Ata (USA)
Nov 03, 2012 01:53pm
You mentioned two options. There is a third one, too. That is to do nothing. Despite all the arguments like "This is our own war," and "America is a foreign country, and arrogant." Army has decided not to do anything, reasons known to them or to God.` (The end)
Nov 03, 2012 04:07am
~~~" --- Quaid-e-Azam referred to the example of Britain in his address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947. ?As you know, history shows that in England, conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now, there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class...We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country and they went through that fire step by step.? ~~~~" ---- like a jungle fire, the spectre of religious extremism is also not controllable.---" "-----Religious extremism can only be tackled successfully if it is considered a regional level problem as it does not have an on-off switch.---" So ? We know the problem(s) !!!!
muzammil ullah khan
Nov 03, 2012 09:50am
A balanced article. We, the pakistanis , never see things objectively. We go by rhetoric and empty slogans.. We somehow start believing in our empty slogans devoid of any reason. The fact is that war against Taliban is our war and while we are dilly dallying and blaming USA , the Taliban are gaining strength in geometrical proportions. They have almost taken over Karachi. We are blind to their rapid advance . People like Imran and other religious parties are constantly sowing doubts in public minds and are creating sympathy for the Taliban . I believe the drones have nothing to do with the insurgency. It is an issue created by fellows like Imran. Drones are necessary till such time as we take decisive action ourselves which we have failed so far. Now that Hakeem ullah Mahsud has openly said that he will combine forces with the separatist elements, there should be no doubt in any one's mind that drones have little to do with the aims of TTP. If we continue to act as blind people then we dont deserve to survive. ONLY THE BOLD SURVIVE. THE WEAK PERISH.
Nov 03, 2012 04:17am
Nice article tabling all relevant issues. Authorities should think/act along these lines OR bring up their version but not sit idle; situation is critical