While the designer Donna Karen capitalizes on the Ramzan market and brings out a line of overpriced clothes for the “Muslim” woman, the Taliban in North Waziristan have indulged in their own fashion faux pas and cut off their beards. Who knew that the war time economy would benefit the barbering service industry? The issue of militants fleeing into Afghanistan, or worse still, disguising themselves to infiltrate IDP camps is perhaps the most serious implication of this operation and is causing widespread paranoia and panic. It has led to the general sentiment that IDPs should be kept in camps and not be allowed free mobility in Pakistan. This same paranoia is what has created public support for the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance that promulgates laws that allow shooting suspects on sight and stripping people of their citizenship rights.

These are sadly, the ins and outs of militancy in Pakistan. Seven years ago during the Lal Masjid incident, militants used women and children as shields and hid in burkhas so as to attack the military unaware. This is not to dreg up the mess that was Lal Masjid, but to admit that Islamic militancy has no ethics and takes no prisoners. News reports about the Taliban militants having a penchant for French and Turkish perfumes, soaps, British detergents and American cooking oil only make it obvious that the TTP are far from the robotic, disciplined commanders and soldiers we think they are. They can easily blend into the populace; yet it is their control over violence, and guerrilla tactics that make them evasive.

Guerrilla warfare in recent history has been notorious for taking down national armies from the Cuban Revolution to the Afghan War. Such wars often become wars of attrition lasting years and spinning new splinter groups and ideologies. Governments change or fail, but militancy continues. Examples are abound… Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria, they all have variations of this. Unconfirmed reports say that 80 percent of Taliban fighters fled North Waziristan at the start of the military operation. This means that there are only 2,000 militants in the region, down from the estimated 10,000. While disguised and ex-militants live on government aid, in the worst case a Boko Haram like situation can be envisioned where the Taliban hold IDP camps hostage. The only way to avoid such scenarios is military intelligence that we can only hope for it to be timely, meticulous and on-target.