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Still at war

September 03, 2012


ON most days, this doesn’t feel like a country at war. And yet that is precisely what it is. Consider just some of the violent incidents of the last few days: a bomb in a marketplace in Peshawar kills innocent civilians. In Bajaur Agency security forces and citizens battle militants who are fighting their way back into Pakistan from Afghanistan; on Friday they revealed the severed heads of a dozen soldiers. A judge is shot dead in Quetta in what appears to be a sectarian attack. Zoom out a few more days, and you have Minhas airbase being brazenly attacked, Shias being killed execution-style in Naran and Quetta, and ongoing clashes in Khyber Agency where even cellphone shops are being shut down for being ‘un-Islamic’. What seems to be forgotten amidst all the talk of US-Pakistan relations, judiciary-executive tussles and the state of the economy is the fact that we are still confronted with militancy and terrorism that, in some parts, is gaining ground again.

It’s almost as if Pakistanis have been lulled into a false sense of complacency after the operations in Swat, Bajaur and South Waziristan in 2009 and a decline in the frequency of terrorist incidents after the bloody days of that year. The concerted campaign to build public and political consensus that enabled the relative — though still tenuous — success of the operation in Swat hasn’t been seen since. America is increasingly the focus of public resentment, especially given the increase in drone attacks, and not much has been done to get the nation to collectively confront the reality that something is rotten in the state of Pakistan itself. Nor do the military and administration seem to have the will to launch military efforts with the same determination and focus they did three years ago. Operations and security measures seem piecemeal, hesitant or reactive, lacking the conviction and all-out effort that are still clearly needed. We are far from being out of the woods, but there is no discernible plan to get us through them.