PRIME Minister Imran Khan addressing a public rally in Orakzai on 19 April 20, 2019 while expressing sympathy with the tribal people for the hardships that they had to suffer because of military action against the terrorist outfits in the tribal areas said that he was the only politician who had opposed military operation in the tribal areas at the behest of the United States. He went further to blame the Nawaz Sharif without naming him for the operation saying “It was the then ruler and not the Pakistan Army which was responsible for the military operation in the tribal areas.” He admitted that demands of PTM for the rights of Pushtuns were legitimate but the way they were being propagated was not appropriate as anti-Army slogans would weaken the country.
As far as Pakistan Army is concerned, its role in the war against terrorism is beyond any reproach and it rightly deserves unqualified gratitude of the nation for the sacrifices it has rendered in checking the menace in its tracks and the efforts it is making to take the fight to its logical end. He was right on money to disapprove anti-Army stance of the PTM. However in regards to his other observations he sounded more like an Opposition Leader trying to have a swipe at the government for ephemeral political gains. His discourse implied that the military action in the tribal areas against terrorist outfits was wrong. His words blaming Nawaz Sharif for initiating military action in the tribal areas at the behest of the United States, negated our national narrative which we have been presenting before the world so far that Pakistan was fighting the war against terrorism in its own interest without taking dictation from anybody and that both the civilian and military leadership were on the same page on the issue. Imran Khan must realize that he now Prime Minister of the country and not an opposition leader, therefore, he must shun his loose cannon behavior. Whatever he says has repercussions and implications both internally and at the global level. Perhaps he needs some schooling in the statecraft and managing international affairs.
Would that somebody had briefed him about the fact that operation Zarb-e-Azb in the tribal areas was initiated on 15 June 2014 in the backdrop of an attack at Karachi airport. The terrorists actually asked for it by committing that dastardly act a week earlier, which proved to be the last straw on the camel’s back. The decision to abandon the option of talks was taken in the National Security Council meeting convened immediately after the attack. It would perhaps be pertinent to mention that neither the APC resolution nor the National Internal Security Policy announced by the government precluded the possibility of use of force against the militants. They invariably advocated use of force as an ultimate option. It was a collective decision owned by the entire political leadership and the military commanders. In fact the plan for military action, according to credible sources, was drawn up in 2011 but it could not be initiated for a variety of developments and engagement of Army in other national duties.
The terrorists were challenging the writ of the State and could not be allowed to carry on with their nefarious designs. The logical conclusion after the failure of talks with them was the use of force. In view of the foregoing facts it is absolutely wrong to say that the then ruler forced the Army to take that action. Army has throughout been involved in the decision making process ever since the terrorists entities unleashed acts of terrorism. It was and is a state cause and not of a particular individual or a ruler. The entire nation is at war with the terrorists in its own interest.
The operation was very much justified to establish the writ of the State and to give an appropriate message to the international community that Pakistan abhorred terrorism in all its manifestations and was prepared to render any sacrifice to eliminate the scourge of terrorism. It is, therefore, wrong to say that it was initiated at the behest of the United States. There is no doubt that the people of the area had to endure a lot of hardships during the operation. But it is also an irrefutable reality that the state and Army made relentless and dedicated efforts to mitigate their sufferings and rehabilitation after the end of the operation. The development work carried out in the area by Pakistan Army has more than compensated the people for their losses. The entire nation appreciates sacrifices made by the people of the tribal areas and sympathizes with them for the hardships that they had to face but there is no need to be apologetic about what the state did to get rid of the menace of terrorism which was not only hurting the country badly but was also tarnishing its image in the comity of nations.
The nations have to show their character in times of adversity. The entire nation and the people of the tribal areas did show their character by supporting the state initiative and backing the Army in its endeavours to protect the future of the posterity. The Prime Minister should have defended the military action taken against the terrorists to send a right message to the world community. Imran Khan is well advised to come out of the politicking mode and express his opinion on such sensitive issues with utmost care and circumspection. He is also well advised to seek appropriate advice from the ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Security Establishment before shedding his pearls of wisdom on inter-state relations.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.