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War on terror: dialogue & use of force

August 27, 2013

THE war on terror or dirty war has completely changed battlefield dimensions where the world is a battlefield. In spite of the fact that it is a global war, Pakistan is one of those countries (including Afghanistan, Iraq and others) which have suffered the most.

The terrorists are exploiting our weaknesses and are fighting a different kind of asymmetric war against Pakistan. Some of these terrorist organisations have multinational elements with diverse goals and objectives.

To begin with, one has to find out specific answers to certain pertinent questions about terrorism related to Pakistan. What are the ultimate objectives of these terrorists? Do they have certain legitimate ends to achieve? Who is responsible for creating these terrorists?

What are the political and military strategies of terrorist organisations? Who is providing financial support to these organisations? What kind of social, moral, religious and human ethics are they following?

Let me put it emphatically that I am not at a loss to answer these questions and can write numerous pages while answering each question. The more I deliberate the more confused I am as each answer leads to a diseased conspiracy.

The people of Pakistan are mostly concerned about the opposing arguments of the debate. Do we have a political and military strategy to fight against terrorism and what is that? What is the reason of our failure and how long the people of Pakistan would suffer? Is it incompetence, lack of resolve or lack of capabilities or all of these?

Do we have certain goals, objectives, means and ends in sight while fighting the war on terror? What are the causes of our failures so far? I am sure responsible people must be concerned about these questions and would be taking corrective measures in the best interest of the country.

It apparently looks that we mostly resorted to defensive measures (except on a few occasions) to fight against terrorism in the last or so decade. We resorted to protecting our vital installations, erecting barriers on roads, arresting terrorists after cruel terrorist acts and sometimes occasional shift to diplomacy.

This reflected our somewhat defensive strategy and tactics. The initiative thus so far rests with the terrorists and they strike at the places and time of their choice.

The given scenario of terrorism requires a mix of available courses to fight against this monster. First, a well-planned counter insurgency operations within territorial limits against those who challenge the writ of the state. The second course is counter-terrorism operations against those who strike at long ranges inside Pakistan territory. These operations must be offensive in nature and ruthless. Terrorists have to be taken out of their hideouts from anywhere in the world.

The third course is to try to win the hearts and minds of those affected by terrorism.

What we need is to formulate a firm political and military strategy based on mix of diplomacy, dialogue and continuous offensive use of force.

The strategy must be executed in a way that it strikes terror into the hearts of the terrorists and wrest ‘initiative’ from them. The ultimate objective should be to force the state’s writ at the negotiating table.

Diplomacy and dialogue must be based on professional ethics looking after vital national interests. The focused strategy would necessitate a political resolve and cooperation among all organs of the state without any reservation. The stratagem must have clear political objectives and ends within a specific timeframe.

Also, the exit strategy and flexibility in political and diplomatic space must be pre-determined.