After being shifted to the UK for treatment, 15-year-old Malala Yousufzai can now stand and write and appears to be on the path to recovery. Unfortunately, it appears her would-be assassins may end up living equally long lives. So far, a few arrests have been made but there is no indication that any of those apprehended were her shooters. The government cannot afford to treat this incident as a law-and-order issue. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has declared war on the state and this was yet another salvo in a long battle. The TTP should be considered insurgents, not criminals and they need to be fought in the battlefield, not the courts.
The obvious next step would be to launch a military operation in North Waziristan, where the TTP and other militant groups like the Haqqani network are able to operate without impediment. The civilian government seems to have little power when it comes to matters that concern the military. The US has far more influence but even it has not been able to convince the military to launch an operation in North Waziristan. With winter approaching, any possible operation is now likely months away at best. The state has ceded authority, not just in North Waziristan, but in all parts of the country where the Taliban can potentially launch an attack. When the attempted murder of a minor schoolgirl is not enough to spur the military into action, then there is probably no crime so heinous that military force is the only possible response. Our lack of reaction will only embolden the Taliban.
Often, exhortations to launch an operation in North Waziristan are fended off by stating that most militant groups there have not made Pakistan the target of their nefarious designs. This, however, ignores the fact that they have been staging attacks inside our neighbouring countries and, hence, the reasoning not to deal with the sanctuaries is flawed. If we refuse to rein in militants targeting US/Nato forces, we should then be ready to face the consequences because the rest of the world will tell us that we need to sort out the militants in our own backyard. Either we act decisively and launch a military operation to minimise the menace of militancy or we should stop our criticisms of drone strikes, which aim to eliminate the very militants, who we refuse to target and who endanger Pakistan, too.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2012.
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