THERE was much that should be acknowledged, and much that was left unexplained, in Gen Kayani’s Independence Day speech at Kakul on Monday. The army chief made it clear that the fight against militancy and terrorism is Pakistan’s war and recognised that it involved fighting one’s own people. These are important messages; there are still many in Pakistan who think the country is only fighting other people’s battles or that ‘foreign hands’ are responsible for violence in the country. By accepting that this is a Pakistani problem with a Pakistani solution, Gen Kayani’s speech marked a welcome change from the persecution complex and denial of responsibility that so often colours both the state’s and citizens’ discourse on militancy.
What the security establishment has yet to explain, though, is who the enemy is. And that has been unclear since 2001 and the ostensible reversal in Pakistan’s security policy, when it appeared to join the global alliance in what was then known as the war on terror. Is there a reason Hafiz Saeed is able to hold public rallies while Baitullah Mehsud was considered an enemy, as is his successor, Hakeemullah Mehsud? Why are Baloch separatists picked up while the outlawed Lashkar-i-Jhangvi is able to get away with trying to eliminate the Shia Hazara community there? What makes Mangal Bagh a target for the Pakistan military while members of the Haqqani network seek shelter this side of the border? If the different approaches to these groups break down along the lines of militants who act inside Pakistan versus those who could be useful for protecting Pakistani interests in the region or whose targets lie outside the country, the security establishment should by now know better. For one, the activities of potentially ‘useful’ groups have created a host of foreign-policy issues for the country and provided a reason for many outside the counry to turn us into an international pariah. But elements in some of these groups have also turned inward.
It remains true, as Gen Kayani said, that law-enforcement is made more difficult by the weakness of the civilian administration in parts of the country and by the lack of legislation designed to address a new age of militancy. Without modifying the laws that govern admissible evidence and defining clearer rules of trial and detention, it will continue to be difficult to put militants behind bars. But that is only part of the story. The other part is the continuing lack of a clear position against armed militancy in all its forms, and of an outright rejection of the notion of ‘good’ or ‘useful’ militants.