On ‘operation’ table, can Pakistan let itself down?
The Italian historian, Niccolò Machiavelli spoke wise words when he said, “The Romans never allowed a trouble spot to remain simply to avoid going to war over it, because they knew that wars don’t just go away, they are only postponed to someone else’s advantage.”
Three weeks ago, Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a much-awaited military offensive against the TTP, Al-Qaeda and their allies began in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region, after all attempts to engage them in talks failed.
Despite a cease-fire, the militants continued with “business as usual,” launching brazen, ruthless attacks on both military and civilian targets, even as the talks were in progress. But it was an audacious, deadly (and embarrassing) attack by Tehreek-e-Taleban (TTP) and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan on Karachi’s international airport last month that unified public opinion, and tipped the government to back the military insistence for a major offensive.
Success against the TTP and its allies will depend not just on whether the army is able to drive out the militants from North Waziristan, but also on how it will prevent future re-incursions, and ensure that fleeing militants do not regroup or find safe havens elsewhere in the country.
And then, there is more, for lets not be simplistic enough to believe that this operation will be enough to end this cycle of violence and rife — emanating from and striking in — Pakistan time and again.
What is required is a sound, anti-terrorism strategy that relies first and foremost on a national consensus among society. The people of Pakistan must acknowledge these terrorists as being a threat to Pakistan’s respect and standing in the international world, and more importantly, its own well being and very existence.
The government must spend more on the training of intelligence and security forces, as well as the local police. Improved coordination and cooperation between those who secure Pakistan’s borders and those posted on local checkpoints will mean they are better equipped to deal with those who disrupt the peace of the country — no matter where.
All key entry and exit points must be secured and important infrastructure protected. Attacks such as the one on Karachi’s international airport cannot be allowed. But perhaps the most important step — and this requires a strong will on our part, to educate ourselves first with the teachings of Islam — is to work toward dismantling the educational infrastructure that spews venom and hatred, preparing countless of young people to fight a battle that has little to do with Islam.
Religious seminaries form a vital part of Pakistan’s education system, but they cannot be allowed to be preparatory battleground for students who will eventually go out to fight somebody else’s war.
A revised curriculum in these seminaries that teaches them modern subjects alongside the true teachings of Islam can work wonders in providing a counter-narrative for Pakistani youth that is caught up in this standard education of militancy.
It would also do Pakistan good to rethink its foreign policy, which condones religious extremism as a suitable diplomatic tool.
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