A militant attack on a checkpost in Upper Dir on June 1 that killed at least 27 people is further confirmation that Dir may be the next front in the fight against militants. That Dir has once again become a target, and even a haven, for militants points to the ultimate failure of the army operation in 2009. At the start of 2010, after a year-long operation, the government had claimed that all militants were flushed out of Dir and had fled to either Afghanistan or to adjoining tribal areas. But in 2011, they are back with a vengeance. Earlier this year, a house belonging to ANP Senator Zahid Khan was attacked, while attacks on checkposts and police stations have become commonplace.
The situation in Dir is also a reminder that Pakistan should not differentiate between militant groups. The main force in Dir is the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, led in the area by its ruthless commander, Hafizullah. The Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi also has a strong base in Dir while it is believed that Maulana Fazlullah, leader of the Swat Taliban, is launching attacks in Dir from across the border. He and his supporters fled to Nuristan in Afghanistan after the operation in Swat and are now returning to Pakistan through Dir. That this was Fazullah’s plan was first suspected in August 2010, when six men were kidnapped from Dogh Dara in Dir and were found murdered in Nuristan. With all the militant groups based in the country sharing a common goal, it is time for the army to stop treating the Pakistan and Afghan Taliban differently. US pressure aside, taking action against the Haqqani network would weaken all militant groups in Pakistan and is something we should be undertaking for the sake of our own national interest. Military operations need to be accompanied by better defensive tactics. After the killing of Osama bin Laden, there were always going to be more attacks against government targets. Security at all checkposts should have been beefed up. The fight against militancy needs to be a two-pronged affair, concentrating on both offence and defence. So far we are failing in both.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2011.
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