LAHORE - Former army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg says an army operation in North Waziristan will be disastrous unless the government undertakes that necessary administrative measures will be taken after the militants are crushed
The government’s failure to set up civil courts and strengthen the hands of the civil administration after the operation clean-up will give the sympathisers of militants an opportunity to spread out and carry out terrorist activities across the country, he warned while talking to The Nation on Monday.
He said at present six divisions of the army were operating in tribal areas, which also included the strike corps meant for the eastern border. In case these troops got deeper into the quagmire, he said, the defence on the eastern border would be badly affected, giving the enemies of the country an opportunity for celebrations. According to Gen Beg, talks provided the best solution to the situation, no matter how testing. The army operation, he said, would not be without a reaction from the militants.
About the killing of former TTP commander Asmatullah Shaheen in an ambush on Monday, the former army chief said it was in retaliation to the execution of 23 FC troops by the Taliban. The army, he said, wanted to teach the militants a lesson and it was for this reason that important TTP leaders were being targeted one after the other.
In his opinion now the Taliban would go for retaliatory attacks, meaning thereby that more killings could be expected in the days ahead.
Gen Beg said before going for a new military operation, the government should keep in mind the outcome of half a dozen such actions in the past, including the one that had led to the dismemberment of Pakistan. He recalled how the Benazir government had announced amnesty for the estranged Baloch leaders, who had fled to Afghanistan because of the military operation launched by the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government in 1973. These leaders came back to their homes and never again created any problem for the government.
The former COAS said a positive response could be expected even now if the government created an atmosphere for the people of tribal areas to return to their homes. It was not difficult for the army to eliminate insurgents, Gen Beg said, adding that the real challenge would begin when the government would not take subsequent steps required to sustain the rule of law.
He doubted the government had the political will to deal with the post-operation situation.
In response to a question, the former COAS said foreign elements present in the tribal areas were the ‘non-state citizens of the world’ who had no option but to fight the Pakistan forces. He said these Jihadis were not acceptable to any country and thus could not leave the areas where they had been living since the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In his opinion the situation would take a turn for the better after the pullout of foreign forces from Afghanistan. He believed that Taliban would return to power in the war-ravaged Afghanistan after which they would pull the plug on the foreign militants in tribal areas.
Gen Beg said Fazlullah and Khorasani were living in Afghanistan with the consent of the Karzai government and the occupying US forces. Under the international law, he said, Pakistan had the right to target both these leaders because of their involvement in terrorist activities in this country.
He said Pakistan should first urge the US to take action against both the leaders because of their conspiracies against Pakistan. In case the US remained unmoved, Pakistan would be absolutely justified to proceed against them. Gen Beg said the ‘armed militants’ in tribal areas should not be more than 400. However, they could create problems across the country once they were targeted.