According to an exclusive story published in this newspaper yesterday, it seems the stage is set for launching a ‘gradually scaled up’ military operation against militant sanctuaries in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) after Eid, reversing the long-standing position that the agency was not a hot bed of insurgency and that there was no justification for us to take on our own peaceful citizens. The decision was reportedly taken at a corps commanders’ meeting held under the chairmanship of COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Friday night. Needless to stress that our security interests, both now and in post-withdrawal period, ruled out any armed action in the tribal region. One really wonders whether the review in policy took into account the disastrous consequences that the NWA campaign would entail for the country’s security. With Karachi and parts of Balochistan in the grip of murderous violence for such a long time and the pervasive insecurity elsewhere in Pakistan, it is hard to believe that our security establishment has a clue how to tackle the likely backlash from the militants. The main grouse that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have against Pakistan is in its role of an ally of the US in the war on terror that has, as the Americans and the coalition fighting in Afghanistan know to their dismay, not  been able to eliminate them. And, as it happened in the past, the military action in NWA would, in all likelihood, provoke them to launch a spate of bombing incidents in Pakistan. They have been striking at will and daringly, even destroying the heavily guarded offices and check posts of the security agencies, besides causing a huge loss of civilian life and property. Negotiations would be a better option or a targeted strategy, which is what our American allies have so far employed.
US insistence has been one reason that a full war is now being charted out for that region. Recommendations from our US allies once adopted have led to some long lasting effects, that, unfortunately do not have an inspiring record. Whether we scan the period before or after the Soviet debacle next door, our relations flourished only when Washington needed our help i.e. there has been no abiding sense of commitment. Several instances could be cited to illustrate the point: how the F-16 deal was struck down after full payment had been made and the money paid back in food grains; the Pressler and Symington Amendments that imposed sanctions on Pakistan; Raymond Davis; Abbottabad raid; and Salala. Then in the belief of safeguarding its strategic interests in the region, the US went out of its way to favour India with the so-called civilian nuclear deal that would help it further strengthen its military prowess. It is not clear whether as a quid pro quo the CIA would put a stop to the drone attacks and rein in the vicious anti-Pakistan Fazallulah group that having escaped to Afghanistan is making deadly forays into Pakistan every now and then.
Nevertheless, the government must explain to the public the rationale of the decision to go into NWA. If it really feels that the agency houses militants who are working against our interests, it must take the public into confidence and explain why it has now conceded the point after years of denying it.