FATA operations — why a cut-off point?

Published: June 24, 2010
The writer is a retired officer who served in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (khalid.munir@tribune.com.pk)

The writer is a retired officer who served in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (khalid.munir@tribune.com.pk)

This is in response to Syed Talat Hussain’s article of June 21 titled ‘Back to the old drawing board?’ I am surprised that the writer has asked for a cut-off date for military operations in the north. Asking Nato to give a cut-off date may be appropriate as they are fighting in a foreign land but Pakistan’s case is different. Should we ask our police for a cut-off date for ending crime? Or ask the chief justice to give a cut-off date for deciding all cases pending in the Supreme Court? This 30-year-old war has created havoc in Pakistan and for the people of the region. A generation has grown up in these conditions — ‘children of war’ was a term we read in books, now we see them in our own country.

Until the start of army operations in Swat, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was under Taliban control. A senior minister, Bashir Ahmad Bilour, was not exaggerating when he said that the Taliban could take over Peshawar whenever they wanted. Though officially banned, the Taliban held meetings with the district administration in government offices. Hussain admits that results achieved from military operations are not satisfactory, yet he wants a date. If he thinks operations should be abandoned halfway, it is a disastrous suggestion and brings out the pro-Taliban role of the media. Claiming that operations do not have the support of the people speaks volumes about media manipulation. How can a journalist with no contact or mandate from the people claim anything on their behalf?

I acknowledge his visits to Fata and the agencies, with and without the ISPR, but that does not qualify him to claim representation of the people there. He has carried out detailed visits to every agency and produced balanced reports on the prevailing situation, but that was in 2008. In this war, more soldiers have laid down their lives than both the ‘65 and the ‘71 wars combined. Taliban governments in Bajaur, Mohmand and South Waziristan have been uprooted and although insurgencies may continue for an indefinite period, militants no longer enjoy the authority they exercised in these areas.

These facts should be kept in mind while analysing the situation. Confusing the people should not be the media’s role. Our media had been promoting the Taliban, changing its stance only after the Swat operation, possibly due to fear of the army chief. Last year we listened to our anchors talking about how Blackwater would take over our nuclear assets and how the Kerry-Luger bill would destroy the fabric of national security. One does not hear anything on these subjects any more. Has Blackwater abandoned its plans? Has
the bill been amended? Was the hype only to fill talk show time?

Our media managers should restrict themselves to their role as journalists. You can point out mistakes but the country cannot follow your wishes and whims.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Jun 24, 2010 - 1:40AM

    Right! So we have one retired officer, Khalid Munir here who claims that large swaths of the North West of the country have been or are under Taliban control. Then we have another retired officer, Asad Munir who argued in this paper that the people of FATA enjoy the same facilities as any average villager in Pakistan. I mean can we please get our facts straight! Even today, we have the COAS declaring the battle in Orakzai won, only to find another 20 people dead the next day. We have a government calling on IDP’s to return home on one day, and two days later promising stern action against militants.

    Oh yes – On fear of the Army chief – If only he could strike so much fear into all the industrial feudal elite which props up the Army, to pay its taxes, then perhaps we wouldn’t be in a state where the very guns that are fighting to keep our nation safe are being paid for by handouts from America!

  • Jun 24, 2010 - 1:47AM

    They are so many contradiction here. Yes, the media did make a big hue and cry over the Kerry Lugar bill, but wasnt that after the same COAS expressed his displeasure over its contents? So if the media has stopped talking about it now, then it must be because the army is happy about the current arrangement?

    And if the media is manipulating the people, is the Army chief not also manipulating the media if he is instilling an element of “fear” in them?

    I dont see the merits of Talat Hussain’s arguments, but neither do I the authors who started of making an excellent point, only to end with the typical, Pakistan Army now’s best, so shut up and put up. Recommend

  • faraz
    Jun 24, 2010 - 6:34AM

    The media’s role is certainly dubious but its a fact that Musharraf was running with the hares and hunting with the hounds. I remember how the local police of Swat seized truck loads of ammunition coming into the valley but were released on the orders of some unknown institutions. And how the first army operation in Swat was halted midway after all militants had been surrounded in the Peuchar valley. It seems silly but actually the taliban loved Musharraf, but they hate Kiyani.Recommend

  • Mazhar Rasool
    Jun 24, 2010 - 11:20AM

    agreed with the author to the extent that giving deadlines in wars never wins it , they have to be fought till the last or not at all ,casualties are unfortunate but the alternative is to hand over our country to taliban so unless one subscribes to their kind of religion and politics one cannot rationally call for an end date.

    Yes media does seem to be rather keen on filling the hours , building the hype instead of being objective and reporting the facts , they should refrain from trying to develope military / political strategies ; and why not , they might think , after all LSE has brought about an espionage coup by revealing double hand Pakistan is playing in the game.

    But the author is wrong in suggesting that initially Kyani had prevailed over media to support Swat operation , that’s pure speculation , the very act the media is not supposed to indulge in.Recommend

  • MNA
    Jun 24, 2010 - 12:09PM

    The success of any nation is dependent on its stable and consistent policies which do not change with the change of governments, however they have enough flexibility to cope with the changing situation. We keep on talking about this 30 year old problem, but I will say it goes beyond 30 year, the problem was detected only 30 years ago. However to cut the long story short, Our Government, the Opposition, The Army, The Judiciary and the Media must come onto one platform to lead the nation out of this quagmire. Any one who thinks that this can be achieved in a matter of a few years is mistaken. As Col Khalid Munir has pointed out No cut off date can be set.This cleansing may take up to a few decades. Recommend

  • Rashid Saleem
    Jun 24, 2010 - 12:19PM

    We must understand that such battles are not won over-night. Even if the armed struggle is over, the rehab and the intellectual war will continue. It’s about changing the mind-set more than killing a few thousands militants.Recommend

  • Sadia Hussain
    Jun 24, 2010 - 9:23PM

    Agreed! There can be no definite date for ending the operations, and in the same way there can’t be one for starting them. Pakistan remains committed to fight religious extremism and putting deadlines on such operations is not viable. The army has done a good job in clearing up Swat and South Waziristan and these operations will continue until all miscreants are either dead or they lay down their weaponsRecommend

  • Farooq Khan
    Jun 25, 2010 - 10:06AM

    America is the evil. The moment america leaves we will have peace in the region.Recommend

  • spinkane
    Jun 25, 2010 - 4:29PM

    you can not lay down dead lines in such operations.The whole area has to be cleared.TV anchors want to dictate,how the state affairs should be handled.Recommend

  • Babar Ali Pasha
    Jun 25, 2010 - 4:45PM

    i agree with farooq..Recommend

  • Gulmina Osman
    Jun 25, 2010 - 8:29PM

    Excellent article written by the author. I believe these talk shows are just a source of depression for the viewers. They are misleading in ways and tend to portray only one side of the story. A journalists jobs is to be neutral and present the facts instead of imposing their opinion and misleading the nation. Recommend

  • Brig Said Nazir Muhmand retd
    Jun 26, 2010 - 8:56PM

    To my reckoning Talat Hussain is a bold and credible journalist,his analysis are incisive and objective in nature.Since i hail from FATA, a Muhmand by tribe ,has the experience to have served in FATA,besides .an ex -senior army officer. I know the taste and tone of all the parties presently engaged in FATA,BESIDES THEIR RELATIVE POSITION. and strengths
    The root cause that it was not our war,it was imposed on us through a necked threat and made ours according to the script of the Big Game.Now we have to fight it having lot of stacks in it.It is a long drawn asymmetrical war at regional level with serious implication for the entire region. the sooner it ends the better it is. US has crafted an exit strategy with time lines drawn till next summers.The main player and financier is on the run under the guise of the the surge,with more body bags due to saturation of the space.Once the chips are down one find the the excuse,so are the visible fissures in civil-military thinking.The double game is to involve the regional actors to the detriment of each other ,so that the region remain destabilize to their advantage
    Pak Army has amply demonstrated its resolve in the ops through forward push and punch but in such a war there is no win win situation.Even Gen Kayani has stated that tere is no absolute victory in such a war.The stratagem is to use the military instrument in ones own country to the minimum in a surgical rule and the mopping and holding the ground be done by the para military forces.If the stay gets prolonged the teeth arm looses its deterrence value,morale and conventional fighting skills.In the American military Jorgan the “collateral damage ” is tacking FATA to the stone age , where the drones are fuming HILL FIRE.
    All armies are trained to fight a conventional war, but this type of war of attrition is heavy on human loss ,misery ,displacement and human rights. Today the media do not differentiate between the innocent and the terrorist i.e twenty terrorist killed in drone attack in NWA, irrespective of the fact that the eighteen were innocent . Such news and perceptions are insult to the injury.WHY DO NOT THEY TERM IT AS ILLEGAL ,UNAUTHORIZED AND BRUTAL COWARDLY DRONE ATTACK?After all national sovereignty is some thing to respect and honour it.Today it is in FATA tomarow it will be in South Pujab.
    It is naive to think that the army should be oblivious of their back to the barrack strategy or the dwellers of FATA shall live in tents as IDPs or live under perpetual violence, it is nerve wrecking for both. Before we wear out and give advantage to our arch enemy let us make inroads for peace and embark upon the remaining two Ds i.e dialogue and Development.If there is a well for it ,these shall prevail.Let us take a lesson from the human nature, love begets love ,hate begets hate and violence begets violence.US as per their past record will leave you with a crying baby,it is better to nuse /hug now then latter, when no cure will be available.
    Brig Said Nazir Muhmand retdRecommend

  • M Tariq Khan
    Jun 28, 2010 - 7:47PM

    All said well by the author,why-a-cut-off-point,a soldier will never leave a half win battle what may be, as this act of their would devastate the nation which is already financially marooned.
    As far the television anchors are concerned few of them do have art to carry out a talk show but most off them are mere speculators and proper gating others agenda. Because of their in built trait of speculation they are best suited for stock exchanges. Recommend

  • Shaukat Ali Shah
    Jul 1, 2010 - 10:53AM

    I agree with the author that setting of dead lines for such operations could have negative repercussions in achieving our aims and objectives. It has not been in very distant past that US President had set July 2011 as cut off date for the start of withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. They are already issuing clarification in this regards and back tracking.
    I also agree that journalist should not make tall and sweeping claims merely by making a few visits to the area and interviewing a few odd individuals.Recommend

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