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One, two, three

November 06, 2016

ULTIMATELY, they’re going to have to do it. They know it, we know it and the targets do too: decommission the favourites; defang the good ones.

Get rid of militancy.

Think of it as an arc: from Musharraf to Kayani to Raheel to the next chief, a progressive clampdown against groups that had to be taken on.


Think of it as an arc: from Musharraf to Kayani to Raheel to the next chief, a progressive clampdown against groups that had to be taken on.


With Musharraf, it was Al Qaeda — 9/11 changed the world and the world changed how we did business.

From Kayani to Raheel, a second purge — the anti-Pakistan lot. They came after us, so we had to go after them.

And soon the next chief — confronted with the spectre of a roiling Kashmir and the long-term presence of a right-winger in Delhi causing the last line standing to go into agitated motion.

Something will have to be done before they do us in.

One, two, three — is there an arc of inevitability to it? Each successive chief having to go incrementally further than the last, not necessarily because he wanted to, but because he had to.

Lost in the warfare of the last month was an important consensus: the civilians said something needed to be done and the boys agreed — though, tellingly, the civilians resisted other actions in Punjab.

But the path to recognising that something has to be done about the anti-India lot has begun to be trodden.

It is the logic of utility, institutional self-preservation and the mechanism of jihad: if the groups exist, they occasionally have to go into action; and when they do, the outside world has a reaction.

Once, twice, thrice — from Mumbai to Pathankot to Uri, the future is being written for us.

Uri was perhaps the least significant and so the reaction the most telling. Pathankot was really the bigger deal, but it came a week after Modi’s Christmas Day Lahore surprise.

He couldn’t react as angrily because he had just pushed open the door to normalisation. So India swallowed its rage and the world kept quiet.

When Uri happened, there was no such luck. India went into a rage and the world sympathised, even before the facts were known.

On India, we don’t have the advantage we have with the Afghan-centric lot. There we can always nudge them across the border — go home to where you belong, we can tell them when the time comes.

With the anti-India lot, this is home. They’re from here and this is where the fallout will be suffered.

And so this is where they’ll have to be dealt with.

The past offers some clues about what the future could look like. With Al Qaeda there was an opening wallop followed by sustained action.

The wallop came because 9/11 was momentous. It is how history will be measured, time before 9/11 and time after.

The sustained, years-long pursuit of Al Qaeda, in Fata and the cities, came because America insisted and America had the resources to make sure we listened.

But then came the Osama anomaly — what the hell was he doing here for those long years in plain sight?

The lesson: we’re like the kid who hates homework. We’ll make a show of it in the beginning and then find reason to go slow or switch off.

Phase three, the push against the anti-India lot, will be a root canal — when we get around to it, we sure won’t like it and will find plenty of reason not to until it threatens to kill us.

From the push against the anti-Pakistan lot, a different lesson: the need to create a national narrative first, the fabled public consensus that the boys demand as the starting point.

The boys have already hinted at it in private: telling the civilians to get a parliamentary resolution; arguing that public opinion needs to be kept onside; cautioning against moving too fast and under a perception of Indian pressure.

It can seem a ruse and a delaying mechanism, but the experience of getting to the point of saying no more on the anti-Pakistan lot is mirroring the talking points on the anti-India lot — the boys won’t do it until they’re sure they have the public onside.

But let’s not kid ourselves — the anti-India lot are fundamentally a different challenge.

It’s not like that they’re hard to find — their power is derived from the ability to thrive in plain sight. When we do decide to go after them, the core networks can be shut down relatively quickly.

The challenge, then, is something else: separating them from the anti-India narrative.

We’ll have to find a way to shut down the anti-India lot without tampering with the story of India being Enemy No 1.

Because, as has become evident, India being Enemy No 1 is an unalterable truth, an inalienable position that the boys will never give up.

The logic of utility, institutional self-preservation and the mechanism of jihad means the boys can and will turn on the anti-India lot. What the boys will never do is give up on India being the enemy.

So how to do it? And can it happen as soon as the next chief?

It won’t happen when India is demanding furiously — this much we can see. And it won’t happen when the civilians try to make themselves look good.

But it can if — if — someone can figure out how to get the boys to do it without making it look like it was someone else’s idea and without the boys looking bad.

One, two, three — at least the logic is in place.

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a@gmail.com

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2016