The recent inhumane act of terrorism in Peshawar has aptly been termed an ‘attack on the heart of the nation’. Strangely, once again our enemy has chosen to make an attack on our heart on December 16. According to Rule of law Index report 2014, prepared by the World Justice Project, Pakistan has become the most insecure country in the world. Therefore, the so-called 4G Plus war is now posing a serious existential threat to Pakistan. So far, more than fifty thousand Pakistanis have lost their lives in this war. In fact, this death toll has outnumbered the collective casualties suffered by Pakistan in all the Indo-Pak conflicts since independence. Keeping in view the conventional threat perception, Pakistan has established one of the largest armies and become the seventh nuclear power in the world. On the other hand, Pakistan has failed to assess the exact nature and magnitude of this war.

A national security policy doesn’t necessarily mean only a counter-terrorism strategy. A military operation or negotiation may simply be a component of this policy or strategy. Regrettably, all successive civilian governments in Pakistan have miserably failed in formulating and enforcing a comprehensive national security policy so far. The incumbent PML (N) government has made no significant progress in this respect beyond holding APC’s on this issue. The much talked-about NACTA and much-hyped Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA) to fight terrorism are nowhere to be seen in reality. Indeed, extraordinary circumstances warrant extraordinary measures.

At present, a three-dimensional (3D) strategy to fight this 4G war imposed on Pakistan is advisable and desirable. The proposed strategy is comprised of three dimensions—the psychological, the tactical and the strategic. Firstly, as the 4G war actively involves highly sophisticated psychological tactics to spread confusion and chaos, the psychological dimension of this strategy is important. We have to be clear on this issue by removing all doubts prevailing around us. We have to evolve a consensus among the intelligentsia, politicians, journalists, analysts and religious scholars on this issue.

All the, conscious or otherwise, media manipulation and propaganda complicating this issue should immediately be stopped. Having evolved strong public opinion on this issue, we have to make ourselves mentally prepared that we are in a state of war. It is the time to call a spade a spade. Therefore, silence will be both criminal and disastrous.

The second important part of this strategy is its tactical or operational dimension. As the 4G war is low intensity armed conflict, it cannot be won without evolving a comprehensive military strategy. Aiming at destroying all sanctuaries of the militants and their command and control structure, a well-planned, well-executed and well-coordinated military operation can only help curb this menace for good. The ‘clear and hold’ is an effective COIN strategy in which military personnel, while winning the support of the populace, clear an area of guerrillas and insurgents by a military operation; then the local police effectively re-establish state authority there.

Although late, the Pakistan Army rightly decided to launch Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan this year. As of now, the Pak Army has successfully cleared almost 90% of North Waziristan. Earlier, Pakistan Army’s XI corps has successfully concluded the military operation in Bajaur agency, South Waziristan and Swat. Taking advantage of the porous Pak-Afghan border, all top Taliban commanders have escaped to Afghansiatn. Having cleared FATA of all mistreats, Pakistan must consolidate its complete writ in these areas. Keeping in view Pakistan’s threat perception vis-à-vis India, the Pakistan army has deployed seven out of nine corps on the eastern border. The XI and XII corps, headquartered at Peshawar and Quetta respectively, are entrusted with the task of defending the western border. Now, in view of changed geo-strategic realities and internal challenges, the Pakistan army should re-evaluate and reformulate its order of battle and national defence policy, and Pakistan seriously think about fencing and manning its western border now.

The third and strategic dimension of the proposed strategy relates to geopolitics. Having launched a military operation in Fata, it is now a most important part of the strategy. Pakistan has to review and reformulate its foreign policy in general and regional security policy in particular. The greatest strategic challenge for Pakistan is to undo or defuse the ‘Strategic Encirclement’ planned against it on the very soil of Afghanistan by the so-called Anti-Pakistan Syndicate. It also includes dismantling of the material and moral support bases, and launching pads of militants in Afghanistan. Following the 2009 Swat military operation, TSNM’s prominent leader Maulvi Fazlullah along with other militants fled to Afghanistan. Having re-organized there, he again appeared in Pakistan and became the chief of TTP following the death of Hakimullah Mehsud last year. Now, after the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, he has managed once more, to escape to Afghanistan. Therefore, no military operation in Pakistan would be successful until the headquarters, and the command and control structure of militants in Afghanistan, are not completely destroyed.

Besides exploiting normal diplomatic channels, Track 2 diplomacy can also be tried to negotiate the terms of peace on a reciprocal basis. Both our eastern and western neighbours should know well that each state has some inherent vulnerabilities. Therefore, people in glass-houses shouldn’t throw stones. Like America’s 9/11 and India’s 26/11, Peshawar school attacks is Pakistan’s 16/12, and now Pakistan must treat it as such.

In the name of the War on Terror, the US intervened in Afghanistan, and have been conducting drone attacks in Pakistan without any formal UN authorization. Therefore, if Afghanistan’s incumbent government doesn’t comply with Pakistan’s reasonable demand of the handover of Maulvi Fazlullah to Pakistan, then Pakistan reserves the right of hot pursuit in Afghanistan. Now, if anti-Pakistan forces in Afghanistan don’t exercise restraint and stop perpetrating against Pakistan, then there will be another proxy war in Pakistan. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Pakistan has an edge and a sort of ‘comparative advantage’ over these forces. It has the longest common border with Afghanistan and has historic, religious and ethnic affinities in Afghanistan. Likewise, in case of any such proxy war, it can mobilize all the pro-Pakistan elements in Afghansiatn like the Haqqani Network, certain Taliban factions and ethnic Pashtuns who are the largest segment of the Afghan population.

After 9/11, the United States did not allow Pakistan to sit on the fence by declaring, “either you are with us or against us.” Now, after 16/12, Pakistan should also ask the US whether it will stand with Pakistan or with Pakistan’s enemies in Afghanistan. Certain developments in Afghanistan have caused Pakistan to sink into so-called strategic depth in Afghanistan. Now, in case of any new paradigm shift vis a vis an insurgency in this region, the ‘Strategic Encirclement’ prepared by the so-called Anti-Pakistan Syndicate in Afghanistan could turn into its own strategic whirlpool.

 The writer is a lawyer. He can be contacted at him on Twitter