• Friday, August 29, 2014

The longer view

Editorial: Dawn (Pakistan)

WITH the North Waziristan IDP crisis still unfolding, it is necessary and right that much of the national attention is focused on getting the state to do everything it can to ensure the ordeal of being made homeless within one's country is rendered less painful in every way possible. Yet, perhaps the most significant thing that can be done in the long run to offset the misery of the North Waziristan residents is to ensure that the impending military operation against militants in the tribal agency is as total, complete and serious as possible. And for that, both a longer-term view and a much wider canvas must be considered. First, consider the logic of the militant. There is little hope of militants prevailing in a frontal, direct battle with the Pakistan Amy, especially once the army puts its overwhelming resource superiority into motion. But there are two things a militant can do: live to fight another day and hurt state and society in a way that it saps morale.
As far as living to fight another day goes, militants escaping a military dragnet or avoiding a hammer and anvil strategy is near inevitable. Rarely, if ever, does the entire militant leadership facing a counter-insurgency operation end up in custody or dead in battle. What, then, of the militant leader who lives to fight another day? The embattled TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah has demonstrated just how dangerous that possibility can be, seeing that he was the key militant survivor in the most successful military operation to date. But the problem is more complex than a few militant kingpins who escape capture and resurface to cause trouble again. That next phase -- of a militant resurgence in an area cleared and held by security forces -- is in large part possible because there has been, and still appears to be, no long-term plan to return conflict areas to local, civilian-run administrations. And without that eventual movement towards normality, the alternative is painfully clear: an open-ended military presence that makes more likely pockets and spaces among the local population for militants to hide in and operate from. Just as the civilians cannot do the military's job, the military cannot do the civilians' job. But are they really willing to work in the sequence required?
There is also a serious problem in the short run that must be contended with. Time and again, the militants have demonstrated a willingness and ability to exploit the laxity and breakdown in discipline in defensive security measures during Ramazan. Given that the North Waziristan operation is imminent, so is the possibility of intense blowback in the cities -- just when the law-enforcement and security personnel may lower their vigilance and preparedness. Is there a plan to fend off that particular Ramazan effect?

© Dawn (Pakistan). All rights reserved. Reprinted by arrangement with Asia News Network.

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, July 01, 2014

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