News & Views
ISPR in a statement said that Pakistan Army on Wednesday launched “Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad” across the country, which aims at indiscriminately eliminating the remnants of terrorists groups and consolidating the gains made in other military operations. Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, Civil Armed Forces (CAF) and other security and law enforcing agencies (LEAs) will actively participate in the operation and support the armed forces’ efforts to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country, the statement added. The decision to mount the operation was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the corps headquarters in Lahore, which was attended by the head of Punjab Rangers and officials of intelligence agencies. Significantly, the focus of the countrywide offensive will be Punjab, which many observers believe has long been ignored when it comes to fighting militant groups due to political expediency and other reasons.
Whereas military had done its part of job by launching operation in North Waziristan and elsewhere, administration did not implement the National Action Plan (NAP) in letter and spirit. NAP had envisaged 20 points that included countering hate speech and extremist material, choking financing for terrorists and terrorist organizations, establishing and deploying a dedicated counter-terrorism force, taking effective steps against religious persecution, registration and regulation of Madaris, ban on glorification of terrorism and terrorists organizations through print and electronic media, FATA reforms, dismantling communication networks of terrorist organizations, zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab, taking the ongoing operation in Karachi to its logical conclusion, dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists, and formulation of policy to deal with the issue of Afghan refugees. Whereas some points were covered, many points have yet to be covered. Anyhow, in operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, the NAP would be under focus.
In 2008, operation Sirat-i-Mustqeem was launched in Bara, operation Rah-i-Rast in Swat in 2009 and also operations in Buner, Lower Dir and Shangla. In 2014, operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched. But all of those operations were launched after some major damage done by the terrorists because there have been apologists in media, in the government and intelligentsia who opposed the military operations and believed that misguided elements can be persuaded to stop their vile acts. Even in the last week, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra while interacting with the media at the Paraplegic Centre in Hayatabad suggested “there is no harm in negotiating with the Taliban, and genuine demands of the Taliban could be considered. But we will never bow down before them,” he quickly added. Despite clarification from spokesman of governor, one could infer that he was referring to banned Tehrik-e-Taliban and not the Taliban of Afghanistan.
Within three months after PML-N won elections and formed the government, then Minister of Information Pervez Rashid had confirmed that backchannel talks between the PML-N government and Taliban were under way to work out a peace formula to end violence which had claimed thousands of lives in the country during the last 11 years. In his address to the nation, Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif had also made an offer for talks to the militants. Maulana Samiul Haq, often known as the father of the Taliban and a respectable and renowned religious scholar had offered to facilitate negotiations between Pakistani Taliban and govt of Pakistan. He had assured his complete support to bring the two sides on table for durable peace in country, as he had played significant role in grooming, educating and guiding many Madrassa students (Taliban), but to no avail.
Of course, the PML-N has the majority in the National Assembly, and the mandate to take policy decisions. Before May 11 elections, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had categorically stated that he would like to hold talks with the militants to bring peace to the land. After elections he stood by his words and declared that holding negotiations with the militants was the first option. It is, indeed, the responsibility of the government to establish the writ of the state and protect the lives and properties of the people, which is clearly stated in the Constitution of Pakistan, whether they do it through dialogue with the militants or use of force, if the militants insist on challenging the writ of the state. Max Weber in his treatise titled ‘What is politics’ stated: “A state is a human community that claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of force within a given territory”.
In the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, ANP had won election in 2008 with thumping majority in the province and particularly in Dir and Swat. It was understood that the party had the support of the people, but ANP leadership did not keep contact with their power base, and thus Taliban could intrude into their constituency. However ANP government had signed an agreement with the TTP in 2008, but Fazlullah and Sufi Muhammad used that agreement to consolidate their position. In 2009, once again an agreement was reached between the government and Fazlullah and Sufi Muhammad, but they declared that they do not accept democracy, the Constitution and judicial system of Pakistan. Thus, the government had no choice but to take military action against them. Earlier, the incumbents, the PML-N in the centre and PTI in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have had held identical views about negotiations with the militants.
During MMA’s government in KP (then NWFP) Mullah Fazlullah had a free hand to indoctrinate the people of Swat, and he had carried out his campaign through illegal FM radio. The then NWFP government, instead of putting up a brave face, had buckled under his pressure to enforce his version of sharea, which is contrary to the understanding of great majority of the Muslims. Political leadership was also found wanting when Charsadda was attacked by the thugs, and leader of the ANP Asfandyar Wali left his abode to find a safe haven in the President House in Islamabad. In view of the critical situation obtaining in Swat due to Mullah Fazlullah’s vile acts, civil and military leadership had decided to conduct military operation in Swat. Given the consensus and the scope of operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, it is hoped that operation would prove as a death knell to terrorist groups.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.