Once again the media is buzzing with news about American pressure on Pakistan to carry out an operation in North Waziristan Agency. Every visit by American generals gives rise, rather confirms this speculation. Pakistan has said that it will choose the timing itself, that is amounting to agreeing to carry out the operation.
If we look at the ground situation prevailing in Fata and Pakhtunkhwa, the army is overstretched. Stiff resistance is being faced in Orakzai Agency. Tirah valley in Khyber Agency will be a big thorn when the time comes to clear it. And parts of Mohmand and Bajaur have yet to be cleared. Swat is in a state of consolidation state which means that its civil administration needs the army to be around, at least for one more year. Also, there have been signs of the militants re-emerging, albeit not on the same scale as before. In South Waziristan the army is there but most of the its residents are currently in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan as IDPs.
In these conditions making troops available for a major operation in NWA will not be feasible. Already a major chunk of army is busy in active operations. Relocating troops from any operationally active area may result in providing breathing space to Taliban and thus giving them a chance to reorganise. Besides, keeping in mind North Waziristan’s terrain, there may be heavy causalities to our troops. The same goes for artillery guns, not counting the wear and tear to the rest of the equipment.
Another factor which needs to be kept in mind is how to safeguard Pakistan’s interests when Nato forces leave Afghanistan. The Taliban in the agency such as Hafiz Gul Bahadur, Maulvi Nazir and Jalaluddin Haqqani have rarely attacked the Pakistan army or carried out terrorist activities inside the country. Hence, eliminating all pro-Pakistan elements before any meaningful dialogue takes place in Afghanistan will not be in our interest. We may be left with only Gulbadin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami as the only pro-Pakistan group. Also, Kashmiri mujahideen and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (commonly known as Punjabi Taliban) are present in the area and dealing with them requires an altogether different strategy than the tribal militants.
Pakistan should think about reformulating its policy regarding Afghanistan. Afghanistan was a never a satellite state of Pakistan and never will be. All we should strive for is a non-hostile Afghanistan. And while the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was allied with Pakistan, it had a profound influence on Pakistani society and this is turn gave rise to militancy in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Though Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has said that there are no good or bad Taliban, we know that he is not the one who is calling shots in formulating the Afghan policy. The army chief must understand this as well and ensure that the next generation does not suffer because of the mistakes and lack of vision of the older generation.