The battle for the soul of Pakistan has now begun in real earnest, and the nation appears ready to answer the call to arms.
The first shots in anger have been fired by Pakistan’s Armed Forces in what may eventually turn out to be the final and decisive phase of the war on terror on Pakistani soil. It will require the Government of Pakistan (GOP) to demonstrate its unwavering political will, leadership, grit and determination to carry the fight to the terrorists and to defeat them comprehensively.
With the recent surgical air strikes in North Waziristan, the Khyber Agencies and Tal, in Hangu District the GOP has served notice to the TTP and its affiliates that the Pakistani nation has had enough of their double speak, debauchery and savagery. Furthermore, it was time at last to redress the imbalance in the GOP-TTP equation for good.
The precision strikes carried out by the PAF and the elite Pakistan Army Aviation targeted Uzbek, Chechen, Tajik, Turkmen, Arab terrorists and their local co-conspirators who had taken upon themselves the onerous task of imposing their version of Shariah in Pakistan , conveniently sparing their own countries of the dubious privilege.
With these surgical strikes, the GOP has taken the first steps towards acquiring that thus far elusive and unassailable position of strength from which it must talk down to the TTP. A few more surgical strikes will have a further sobering effect on the TTP causing more fractures and fissures within its ranks. That would be the time to break the weaker groups, which are amenable to talks.
Conflicting and contrasting narratives on the TTP issue are still being flashed around in our print and electronic media. They span both extremes of the political spectrum; from the parties of the extreme right to the secular ones of the left. Where the former act as TTP apologists and seek to pursue utopian ideals quite in line with its thinking, the latter are better grounded realists.
The PML (N) appeared initially to have been caught in no man’s land; stunned by the sheer enormity of the task at hand. Of late though, it seems to be gathering courage and is slowly getting out of its stupor.
Pakistan’s Armed Forces are poised and fully geared to overwhelm, disperse and decimate the TTP and its affiliates.  Furthermore, by virtue of its merciless atrocities, the TTP has achieved what the entire political elite of Pakistan would have been hard pressed to accomplish. It has given cause to the Pakistani nation to unite and galvanize into a solid force in what many see as a critical battle to preserve the way of life the common Pakistani wants to pursue.
There may be a few TTP apologists like the JI, PTI, JUI (S), JUI (F) et al still around but they too are finding it increasingly difficult to sound convincing. As an expression of their inherent hatred for the US they end up endorsing and condoning the acts committed by the TTP and its affiliates. They seem to be unable to determine the line where their hatred for the US must end and where their love for Pakistan must begin. And their confusion is making decision making extremely difficult for the GOP. But these TTP apologists are now becoming more and more irrelevant to national aspirations and the national political discourse on terrorism. They may soon find themselves becoming totally redundant to the national political scene. Public opinion is fast turning against the TTP, its supporters and its apologists and events are likely to overtake the latter’s misplaced loyalties for the TTP. The PTI and JUI (F) appear to be making some belated course corrections but the JI is still adamant in its stubborn defense of the TTP.
However, the will of the people is writ large and clear. They want peace, progress, prosperity and the right to lead a life of their own choice; and if war against the terrorists is the only way to ensure it, then so be it.
The Pakistani nation and its Government ought not to have had any doubt whatsoever about the justness of their cause and the justness of the war that they must wage against the TTP. Theirs is a true, righteous, just and inevitable cause. They are fully justified in opting for a decisive military operation. Rather it is incumbent upon the GOP to act in whatever manner necessary to secure and preserve the nation’s chosen and preferred way of life. Let it not be swayed away from this path by dubious referrals to selectively interpreted religious edicts and political imperatives of the apologists. It must act and stay the course to the end. It already has the moral and ethical ascendancy over the TTP and the unqualified support of the whole nation. It should go in with the grit, determination and perseverance that are the hallmarks of all great victories. It will need the enunciation of a very distinct desired end state to be pursued as a national effort and employing all elements of national power in support of the Armed Forces to get there.
The surgical strikes should logically prepare the ground for a full military operation. They will also bring the GOP into a position of real strength on the talks table, if required.
Talks or war, Pakistan has no option but to win to save its soul .

The author is a retired Brigadier, a former Defense Attache’ to Australia and New Zealand and is currently on the faculty of NUST (NIPCONS).

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