This is our war

Published: August 15, 2012
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The writer is a retired brigadier who has served in senior intelligence postings in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata

The writer is a retired brigadier who has served in senior intelligence postings in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata

“The fight against extremism and terrorism is our own war and we are right in fighting it. Let there be no doubt about it, otherwise we’ll be divided and taken towards civil war. Our minds should be clear on this.” This warning comes straight from the horse’s mouth, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, commander of the forces deployed in combat zones fighting militants and the most well-informed person about the ground realities and the intentions and objectives of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). This statement should be an eye-opener for all those who think we are fighting a US war.

Pakistan faced an armed uprising in 1994, once Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi followers occupied parts of the Malakand Division and demanded enforcement of Sharia law. The Pakistani Taliban started operating in some parts of Fata in 1997/98. However, the US invasion of Afghanistan, al Qaeda’s flight to Pakistan and bans on jihadist and sectarian organisations gave a new dimension to militancy, violence and terrorism. The US invaded Afghanistan with the objective to strike al Qaeda training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime. The US did not adopt a comprehensive approach to deal with the situation like taking into consideration factors like past Afghan history of resistance and prevention of Taliban resurgence. US forces also failed to locate the al Qaeda leadership while they were in Afghanistan after 9/11. They succeeded in disrupting and dislocating both al Qaeda and the Taliban but the al Qaeda leadership, along with foreign militants, crossed over to different parts of Pakistan and initiated terrorist activities. The first post-9/11 suicide attack was executed on March 17, 2002, on a church in Islamabad. Since then, a spate of violence has killed about 40,000 Pakistanis.

The Americans want to leave but not with the impression that they have been defeated, which can motivate and embolden jihadis all over the world. Their main concern is to protect their homeland from another terrorist attack. Their strategy now is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The US has realised that the Taliban have no global agenda and their interests are confined to Afghanistan. The US strategy is no longer directed at defeating the Taliban but to degrade their abilities to occupy and control territory. In case the Afghan Taliban guarantee that Afghan soil will never be used by anti-West Islamic jihadists, the US will be more than willing to accommodate them. If the US can manage a breakthrough, which can lead to formation of a stable government in Kabul, they will focus on al Qaeda in Pakistan — if it is not secured by our own army by then.

In the recent past, the TTP, through videos and press statements, has revealed its agenda to impose the Sharia law through the use of force. One option to deal with this is to negotiate, which some political parties that are unfamiliar with ground realities, propose. The option of negotiations has been exercised on many occasions since 2001. In case the TTP declares that it will lay down arms on US withdrawal from Afghanistan and will not run a parallel administration, the army should pause all operations against them. But it will not do so as it has designs to gain power and rule. To degrade its ability to occupy and control areas, army operations have to be conducted. Other steps to be taken include negotiating with those who are willing to surrender, granting amnesty to young ones and de-radicalising them and rehabilitating and developing the areas. Dealing with terrorism while Nato forces are in Afghanistan is comparatively easier than after their withdrawal.

The army needs the support of the nation to fight a war. Political parties and the media can play a major role in educating people about the threat pointed out by General Kayani. Imran Khan has a large motivated youth following. As a responsible leader, since he is against this war, he should get a briefing from the army about the ground realities and, if convinced, he should reconsider his policy about the war on terror.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (53)

  • entropy
    Aug 15, 2012 - 11:21PM

    The TTP is our enemy but the Haqqani group is not. The Haqqanis are America’s enemies. Let the Americans fight their own wars. Call their bluff. Our sovereignty is being violated anyway, so let America attack the Haqqanis in North Waziristan. They will never do it. Firstly, because they will lose a valuable scapegoat in the form of Pakistan to blame their own failures on. Secondly, because they will lose the fight.

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  • Khan of Jandul
    Aug 15, 2012 - 11:29PM

    @author! good analysis and good suggestion for Mr. Imran Khan. Nonetheless, I am doubtful that your advice would get proper attention from the concerned circles as the latest shift has mainly occured due to the release of CSF, and threat of military response from the US and Nato. The campaign and change would be more effective if it would have originated from within the institution. Nothwithstanding these suspicion, I hope the lates shift prove useful in stablizing the region and establishing peace in the entire Pakhtun region, which has suffered tremendously in the past 30 years.

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  • azmat khan
    Aug 15, 2012 - 11:43PM

    Express never accommodate my comments. what is the use of writing anything!!Recommend

  • Iron hand
    Aug 15, 2012 - 11:52PM

    The misconception in Pakistan is that the US is against Muslims. This is not the case. The US is against violent, extremist Muslims who attack American interests, just as it would be against violent Hindus, Christians, Jews, or any other religious group that perpetrated terrorist violence against it. As far as Americans are concerned, Pakistanis can be as devout as they like – they just can’t plot and execute violent attacks against America and Americans. If they do, they will be dealt with accordingly.

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  • Khalid Munir
    Aug 16, 2012 - 12:01AM

    Bravo

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  • janaan
    Aug 16, 2012 - 12:04AM

    Haqqanis are neither the friend of Pakistan. if they were, they would have ensured anti paksitan groups like TTP do not operate from NWA, which obviuosly is not the case. They would have also listened to Pakistan not to use its territorries for attacks acroos the border. It is a cease fire for now and i am waiting when the Pak Army patience will run out.

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  • Syed Bilal Haider
    Aug 16, 2012 - 12:18AM

    I think we need to clarify that America’s war is not our war.

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  • Falcon
    Aug 16, 2012 - 12:27AM

    I would be more than happy to believe in the wisdom of the Army General if men in similar positions before him in the form of Gen. Ayub, Zia, and Musharraf had made wise decisions only. For now, I would consider it a less thought out move taking into consideration the timing of CSF funds. I have no disagreement that we are at war with militants, but the decision to take them on should come from within rather than outside. If you don’t understand the subtle difference between these routes, you need to read up more on how militants think.

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  • sabi
    Aug 16, 2012 - 12:30AM

    I’m really curious about imran khan reaction to army chief statement if he has enough courage to shout on chief sahib they way he do so with civilians.If he has guts to to come to public and challange this statement.I’m sure he wouldn’t.

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  • entropy
    Aug 16, 2012 - 12:39AM

    Iron hand

    The misconception in Pakistan is that the US is against Muslims. This is not the case. The US is against violent, extremist Muslims who attack American interests, just as it would be against
    violent Hindus, Christians, Jews[…]

    Yes, you are right the US isn’t against Muslims per se. What actually happens is that the US pursues natural resources, markets and geopolitical advantages without the slightest regard to justice or morality. In this pursuit the US will without any qualms use violence, undermine and overthrow democracies, sponsor brutal dictators, arm and sponsor terrorist groups including Islamists, bully, threaten, invade and occupy weaker nations…you get the idea. Recommend

  • MSS
    Aug 16, 2012 - 12:52AM

    At last Gen Kayani has started to say the right things. He knew all this when he was heading ISI or as a senior General. It has taken an awefully long time for GHQ to articulate this. I hope the plan of action is not timelined over two decades. The enemy within, whether in NWA, Panjab or ‘assets’ in Kashmir is gradually devouring Pakistan and denials by all in power are equally dangerous. There will be a price to pay, some collateral damage will be sustained. The ill advised policies of the past will darw their share of blood. If Pakistan deals with the situation whole heartedly, others will cooperate. I hope it will not just remain limited to words, otherwise Pakland will become a land of intolerance, hatred, fear, poverty, barren and a copy of Afghanistan of 1998-2002.

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  • Engr.Waqas
    Aug 16, 2012 - 1:09AM

    lol author do you really think its our pakistan war ? i mean are you serious? this is and will never be ever war if we say a big NO to america !!!

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  • Aryabhat
    Aug 16, 2012 - 1:23AM

    “The army needs the support of the nation to fight a war. Political parties and the media can play a major role in educating people about the threat pointed out by General Kayani.” – I beg to differ.

    Pakistan is only country where Army has a country rather then the other way round. All it needs is change in its own orientation – instead of trying to annihilate India with Ghauri and Abdali, it would need to fight radial ideologies with better educational curriculum, less of Jihad in everyday life and renouncing “Good” militants as something acceptable for national good.

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  • wacko898
    Aug 16, 2012 - 1:26AM

    is osama bin laden our hero?

    are tehreek e taliban pakistan our heroes?

    do you think it is right for the pakistani taliban to kill our innocent children?

    answers

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  • Asif Ali khan
    Aug 16, 2012 - 1:35AM

    Of course this is our war. We lost almost 50000 inocent citizens. Our schools and markets have been bombed and destroyed.our 700 elders have been targeted shot dead in FATA. I doubt Imran and Nawaz sharif will under stand this serious situation. Leaders leads people and don’t go after popular slogans. Imran is surrounded by those who have soft corner for militants. Imran and Nawaz both are banking on religious votes. Common Pukhtun will support the military operation against the militants in Waziristan and FATA as they supported the military operation in Swat/ Malakand.

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  • Roflcopter
    Aug 16, 2012 - 1:36AM

    @Iron hand, and the reason muslims attack US is because of US installing and supporting dictators in muslim world while showing unrelenting support for Israel. The muslims world (not just Pakistan alone) is justified in seeing US as an enemy of muslims.

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  • Imran Saifi
    Aug 16, 2012 - 1:46AM

    I would disagree with the writer. Being a student of Political Science, I have an understanding that war is the last option, universally. America, as the writer mentioned himself, is engaged in a dialogue with Taliban in Afghanistan. This is what Imran Khan has been promoting in Pakistan. He is of the view that Pakistan government should tackle this all through dialogue, not through war.
    If America is engaged in dialogue with Taliban in Afghanistan, then why can we not use this tool to settle down the same issue in Pakistan?
    Pardon me readers but I would remind you all that our military has been at Baluchistan for years now but the problem has not yet been solved there. Similar is with FATA.
    The political theories say that dialogue, economic development, right to political participation are the prefered solution to military attacks. Have we tried these solutions before engaging into war? No. We must act responsibly now. We must make our preferences now.

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  • Mirza
    Aug 16, 2012 - 1:56AM

    Sir I salute you and ET for a very fair and pragmatic Op Ed. One can only wish that there are more army officers like you!
    The problem is no rightwing party is going to openly support the army in its war against the terrorists. It is a shame but this is the truth, and that is why the large silent majority of rural heartland of Pakistan do not vote for rightwing parties. There is an ideological war going on in Pakistan and making the US as an excuse these fanatics are unleashing barbaric terrorist acts against Pakistanis.
    Gen Kayani should come out more openly (at this late stage in life one has to be open and honest and has nothing to lose) against these forces of terror and not mince words. Once again thanks for being open and honest.Recommend

  • Aug 16, 2012 - 2:54AM

    Note that the emphasis is only on Pakistani Taliban, TTP and not the Haqqani network, who are under the Afghan Taliban umbrella committing terrorism in Afghanistan and whom the US and Afghan govt are most concerned about, but sadly considered as ‘assets’ by Pak, even though both TTP and Haqqani have both indulged in terrorism but in different territories and share similar connections, including with Al Qaeda operatives.

    So it still seems its only half-our-war despite what is suggested by the unaccountable general.

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  • bangash
    Aug 16, 2012 - 3:39AM

    Terrorist groups have captured large parts of our territory and want to conquer more. They are misusing our land, resources and turning our kids to suicide bombers.

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  • salman b
    Aug 16, 2012 - 3:45AM

    this is NOT our war

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  • syed o
    Aug 16, 2012 - 3:46AM

    well atleast asad munir and musharraf have something in common

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  • Abdul Jabbar PTI
    Aug 16, 2012 - 4:59AM

    @Iron hand: but America can do as it pleases and attack anyone it wants. No questions asked. The Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11. Similarly what was Iraq’s connection to that tragedy. The bible says if you live by the sword, you shall die by the sword. Anything that happens against the US is a consequence, not a cause of US actions. No wonder, it’s the hated country on the face of the earth.
    Its time to wake up and smell the coffee.

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  • Raw is War.
    Aug 16, 2012 - 7:53AM

    fighting your own people?

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  • Aug 16, 2012 - 7:59AM

    This is not our war. This is America’s war.

    Also America is against all Muslims. That is why it has invaded 2 Muslim countries (Iraq Afghanistan) and attacked 4 others (Libya, Somalia, Yemen and now covertly in Syria) in the last decade alone.

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  • unbeliever
    Aug 16, 2012 - 8:52AM

    @Roflcopter:
    and the reason muslims attack US is because of US installing and supporting dictators in muslim world while showing unrelenting support for Israel. The muslims world (not just Pakistan alone) is justified in seeing US as an enemy of muslims.

    you are right. this is what happened precisely in southern america. they do regard america an enemy country, but instead of blasting american citizens, concentrated on their development and welfare of their citizens. and, thus are relatively free from american gaze.

    so, don’t you think the onus, to an extent, lies on muslims too, who instead of informing their citizens and educating them, have senselessly brainwashed them.

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  • Harkol
    Aug 16, 2012 - 9:18AM

    All those who say War against Haqqani is not Pakistan’s war should be ready to have Fight a war (directly or indirectly) a war with USA. Haqqani can be a nuisance, but USA can destroy Pakistan without ever firing a single bullet.

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  • Khan of Jandul
    Aug 16, 2012 - 9:22AM

    @ Imran saifi! What the Afghan government and the US is negotiating with Taliban include many things ranging from commitment to not allow the Afghan soil for international terrorism to redrafting of the Afghan constitution and powersharing among various ethnic groups. So any agreement between the Afghan Taliban, the Afghan Gov and the US would include compromises and give and takes over these core issues. NowThe question is whether the Pak military and in that sense also Imran Khan are willing to hold dialogue with TTP on these issues. TTP has repeatedly made known her goal of doing away with present political system and imposition of their own brand of Sharia. So holding negotiations with TTP and making concessions to them may likely entail accomodation of TTP ‘s vision for the “land of the pure”. Such an outcome may actually trigger even dismemberment of the country.

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  • Nazir Ahmed
    Aug 16, 2012 - 11:56AM

    @salman b:
    Then why are we under attack and being killed?

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  • Anticorruption
    Aug 16, 2012 - 12:03PM

    @Falcon:

    I agree that the decision should be taken internally rather then coming from outside, but could you please clarify the following statement:

    “If you don’t understand the subtle difference between these routes, you need to read up more on how militants think.”

    Where can we read up on how militants think? I ask this as a genuine question and not a retort or point of disagreement.

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  • Awan
    Aug 16, 2012 - 12:40PM

    Well written article. I agree with writer.

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  • Ammar
    Aug 16, 2012 - 12:46PM

    This is our war and it’s a war against a mindset, we have nurtured for more than thirty years. This is war against an army of mercenaries we bread for more than thirty years. This war is to be fought on both table and in battle grounds (Militant Camps, Garrisons, Security Facilities, State Houses, Markets, Educational Institutions, Play Grounds and in open fields). Let’s not make mistake, we are at war, an open war…

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  • grge
    Aug 16, 2012 - 1:13PM

    @abdussamad:
    hoho!!!

    attacked 4 others (Libya, Somalia,
    Yemen and now covertly in Syria) in
    the last decade alone.
    !!!

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  • Nazir Ahmed
    Aug 16, 2012 - 1:55PM

    Asad Munir seperates chaff from the grain.Very good effort to clear the perceptions. Only those who do not want to deliberatlysee the light would deny facts.

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  • Falcon
    Aug 16, 2012 - 2:26PM

    @Anticorruption:
    In my humble view, tracking information and political lineage of someone’s motives is very important to design the right social / political / economic solution. I would recommend 4 resources as a starter. 1. Journal ‘Defense Against Terrorism’ (specially the research published by M. Zaidi) which can be found online. 2. Resistance and Control in Pakistan by Akbar Ahmed. 3. Robert Pape’s book (Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It). 4. Typical Jihadist material that is fed to militants. One source of research might be the magazine Takbeer.

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  • mateen
    Aug 16, 2012 - 2:41PM

    Eventually Military leadership has recognized “war against terrorism” is our war. Bravo.

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  • Nabil
    Aug 16, 2012 - 2:56PM

    Well said, Brigadier

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  • Azhar Ali
    Aug 16, 2012 - 3:18PM

    ‘It is never too late to mend’. It is very encouraging that clarity of mind has started prevailing. It is when you operate in fog that goal eludes you. Now that fog is getting thinner with the sun getting hold, we can hope in a big way.There will be difficulties, but hurdles of mind are the most difficult to overcome. Army has changed its mind. Rest is easy. Bernard Shaw wrote, ‘those who can’t change their minds cannot change anything.’

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  • Aug 16, 2012 - 3:38PM

    @Roflcopter: if US has been installing & supporting dictators why the Muslim people were happy/ tolerant over so many decades ( please note dictators were best advocates of sharia and Islamic ideologies.) So you should hate dictators but as the Muslims favored religion over governance dictators were tolerated. and suffered. Now instead of introspection and own mistakes someone is to be blamed to justify your conscience that we have not done any wrong/committed mistakes and it is US which is the non believing monster ( not the dictators). grow up.

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  • observer
    Aug 16, 2012 - 3:38PM

    @Roflcopter

    the reason muslims attack US is because of US installing and supporting dictators in muslim world

    I am confused here, do help me out.

    A. Is Asad also US installation? And so were Gadaffi and Sadam?

    B. Was Zia ‘installed’ by the Americans? Or did he agree to do their bidding to justify himself?

    C. And didn’t Bill Clinton refuse to shake hands with another?

    D. And the Taliban are the ‘Democratic’ alternative to US installed dictators?

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  • Aug 16, 2012 - 4:34PM

    All terrorists including Haqqanis to be eliminated by our army otherwise there will be no peace!

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  • Babur Sohail
    Aug 16, 2012 - 5:38PM

    GHQ, Mehran base and now Kamra base. is there any doubt left??????????????
    If they still favour TTP, then nobody can save us.
    This is our war and matter of our existence and they all should be eliminated because dialogue is not the solution.

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  • Babur Sohail
    Aug 16, 2012 - 6:00PM

    Imran Khan should reconsider his stance of war on terror. I think this is the biggest mistake in his policy matters. This is our war and we have to fight it out.

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  • Chan Makhna
    Aug 16, 2012 - 6:34PM

    It is not our war, this is war of Money! Dollars, mineral resources of Afghanistan and Central Asia. Article has full filled of dollars’ fragrance.

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  • Imran Khakwani
    Aug 16, 2012 - 6:54PM

    The only solution to this war is “GIVE PEACE A CHANCE”.Recommend

  • Ammar
    Aug 16, 2012 - 6:56PM

    In the words of great Eqbal Ahmed Chickens of Afghan Jihad are coming home to roost!

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  • Azeem
    Aug 16, 2012 - 7:02PM

    It is our war only because 10 years ago we poked our noses where they never belong. This is our war because through our best efforts we made it into our war. So do you think drone attackers and offensive against our own people will make the people of the tribal areas love Pakistan more. It will just send them running into the waiting arms of the Taliban even more.

    To end this war the people of FATA must be engaged in dialogue and their problems taken resolved. You cant eliminate the TTP through an offensive. They train across the border and have plenty of willing recruits to replace those killed or captured. You need to go at their roots, cut of their recruitment grounds and seal our borders. The tribals themselves will do that for you more effectively than our army for which i have nothing less than the highest regard. Do that and then the TTP will be wiped out.

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  • shahid
    Aug 16, 2012 - 8:05PM

    The main culprits are so called Islamic parties in Pakistan. They are Astin Ka Sanp. Unless people start showing open disrespect and hatred for thier deeds and they are banned nothing good can happen in this ciuntry

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  • Enlightened
    Aug 16, 2012 - 8:24PM

    An apt analysis by the writer who is candid in his admission that its Pakistan,s war and not America and its right time to strike when US forces are present in Afghanistan. Most analyst have predicted that the terrorists would make Pakistan their next destination once foreign forces leave Afghanistan.Recommend

  • Zalmai
    Aug 16, 2012 - 9:47PM

    @Ammar

    Ditto! The late Eqbal Ahmed predicted the eventual outcome of breeding and training snakes in your backyard. Astin ke saap will eventually bite you.

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  • Aslam
    Aug 16, 2012 - 10:37PM

    These comments show that how divided we are on the issue of ‘war against terrorism’
    The key members of society should sit and decide the fact that is it our war or not?
    Chinese proverb says that “first know your enemy.” After many years we are still undecided. A credible civilian government with the public backing can handle this issue and those who don’t want to come on the table can be fought. But first of all we need a credible, honest and competent civilian government. The solution can come out.

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  • truth
    Aug 16, 2012 - 11:57PM

    The only war that is left is dialogue war- \my question to author is where was the intelligence and army sleeping when TTP started it existence. Why they were allowed to live why they were not uprooted then and now the water is over the head they come to people pf pakistan to support them.

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  • Abbas, John
    Aug 18, 2012 - 8:54AM

    @abdussamad:
    so you know what will happen if any such misadventure happens again. 4 countries for one mistake and next time if it repeats…. 10 countries????

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