Following the recent attacks against the armed forces by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), fighter jets of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) bombed suspected militant hideouts in North Waziristan. Military sources claim that over 40 terrorists have been killed, including the prominent TTP commander, Adnan Rasheed. Reports regarding civilian casualties have also emerged. There is a lot of ambiguity over the circumstances surrounding the surprise action being conducted by the armed forces.

It is hoped that Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, cancelled his visit to Devos, Switzerland, because he was aware of the action, and was the man who gave the order. If he stayed only because he suspected the army could launch an operation, then it is not a good indicator of the co-operation that is necessary for success. Has the recent Mir Ali episode repeated itself? Then, the action was retaliatory, as troops had been killed by the militants, and the government only came out in support the next day. If this time around too, the motive behind the move is mere revenge, then it will not help Pakistan in the long-term.

The government appears to be confused, and lacking the ability to take initiative. Decisions are being taken for it and against it – by the Army and the TTP respectively – just not by it. Its most recent activity is the meeting which was deferred, since the national security policy required improvements. With regards to the operation, it is silent, and doesn’t appear in-charge, as it must. Firstly, the operation has to be full-scale. Avenging the killings of the troops and then halting all activity will keep the state in a deadlock with the militants. The armed forces cannot do it alone, and they shouldn’t when an elected government is in power. Also, someone ought to give them the order to go ahead and do it, whether they like it or not.

Secondly, it is important to understand that the country is in a state of war. There are terrorist groups which are fighting the state and its people, and they are not interested in negotiations. A country-wide exercise targeting militant strongholds in FATA and various hideouts across the country presents itself as the most sensible option. Anything short of a thorough cleanup will prove to be a temporary lull, which is unaffordable. There will be a lot of hue and cry, some over genuine concerns such as civilian casualties, but the action will have to be completed. It must be realised that no military operation can guarantee zero civilian casualty. Losses always exist. It’s an unavoidable reality. However, efforts should be made to minimise them. Better access to media will also prove helpful for the credibility of any action.

The government is advised to take charge, and implement a security policy which is reflective of the need of the hour, and encompasses the role of all concerned institutions including the armed forces, the judiciary and the police.