The Foreign Office has stressed that Pakistan’s strategy in North Waziristan will be based on its own needs and assessment of the situation, and will not be carried out on the basis of US pressure. The comments, made during Abdul Basit’s weekly briefing are significant. Pakistan has faced growing pressure from Washington to move into North Waziristan, where US investigations suggest the would-be Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, received his training. Shahzad, according to latest reports, has said he had help from the Taliban. The issue is a rather significant one. Islamabad must determine what the right time is to march troops into what many military experts see as the treacherous terrain of North Waziristan. Indeed, as the success of the operation in South Waziristan was being announced, some had opined the militants had simply retreated to the northern reaches to lure in the military to an area better suited for guerilla warfare. So for an operation in North Waziristan to be successful, perhaps what Pakistan should also focus is on getting all the assistance it can get in terms of weaponry, logistics and training.
Having said that, we need to unequivocally state that an operation in the agency is as much in our interest as America’s. This is because North Waziristan has become a safe haven for all kinds of militants and those who think that these are ‘good’ – in that they serve some kind of perceived or imagined purpose for Pakistan in Afghanistan – need to rethink their approach to dealing with militancy. Thousands of Pakistanis – civilians, policemen as well as soldiers – have lost their lives to suicide bombings and brazen attacks all across the country. It is indeed difficult, in fact impossible, to argue that those responsible for this mayhem and destruction could in any way be of benefit to Pakistan. And if there are people in the corridors of power, either in Islamabad or Rawalpindi, who think this way they should wake up to see the reality of today’s world.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2010.