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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2681

Military option always launched in haste

By Asif Haroon Raja

The military operation was launched in Lower Dir on 25 April suddenly and hastily as if Islamabad was really in danger of getting captured by militants and nuclear weapons in jeopardy of getting stolen. The haste was not because of looming danger of militants but to make the visit of President Zardari to USA successful. In their exuberance to cool down raised tempers of the American leadership and to appease them our rulers forgot the fallout effects of IDPs. Or else, they never imagined that the strength of IDPs would shoot up to the astronomical figure of near 3 millions.

The PPP is blowing trumpets that Zardari’s visit to USA was a great success since he managed $1.9 billion annual assistance out of which $997 million would be paid very soon. The people are however not convinced since they know that the US aid is never without a price. They also know that aid money will be of little value for the poor since the bulk will be eaten up in corruption and to upkeep the lifestyle of the elite.

Pakistan has a history of going to war with India or carrying out counter insurgency operations against local insurgents unprepared and in haste. The 1948 Kashmir war was thrust upon Pakistan by India at a time when we were fighting for our survival and had an army in name only.. Grit and determination of young officers and men as well as freedom fighters saved Azad Kashmir from occupation by Indian forces tacitly supported by Lord Mountbatten. Operation Gibraltar was launched in occupied Kashmir in August 1965 in a rush without creating desired conditions in the valley, or taking into account its fallout effects and getting ready for a full-fledged war. Pakistan survived by the skin of the teeth because of heroics of young officers and soldiers and backing of whole nation. War in former East Pakistan in November 1971 was imposed upon us by India for which we were not prepared and we fought the war on faulty assumptions and under extreme adverse conditions. In the face of international conspiracy fall of eastern province was a forgone conclusion.

The army successfully quelled insurgency in Balochistan in mid 1970s but grievances were never assuaged. Army was again used in 2006 without allaying misperceptions and complaints of the Baloch. Operation Cleanup launched in Sindh in 1992 helped only to the extent of offsetting sinister designs of some among an ethnic party toying with the idea of Jinnahpur. It failed to achieve desired results since socio-politico-judicial prongs could not keep pace with military prong. All political leaders and most activists went underground and some who were nabbed were released by courts. Another operation had to be launched in 1995-6, which broke the back of militancy in Karachi, but could not reach its logical end since the then government was sacked on charges of corruption and extra judicial killings.

Kargil operation was launched in haste in the summer of 1999 without taking into consideration its strategic ramifications and planning the operation in entirety. Resultantly, India snatched victory from jaws of defeat not on battle ground but on media plane. We abruptly took a U turn on Afghanistan in September 2001 under pressure from USA and blindly put all our eggs in the basket of USA to get out of a difficult situation not realizing that it would give Pakistan a permanent migraine and rob us of our sovereignty and integrity. Hasty decision has resulted in encirclement of Pakistan from the east as well as the northwest. Employment of army in FATA in 2003 at the behest of USA was also without evaluating its implications and backlash. Consequently, flames of militancy spread from Afghanistan into FATA, NWFP and Balochistan.

The military was pushed into Swat valley thrice (November 2007, July 2008 and April 2009) without launching a preparatory maneuver. Twice it was pulled out prematurely by PPP-ANP government because of which whatever gains made by the army at a heavy cost were lost. The military instrument had to be employed since the problem could not be solved politically. On each occasion, the government failed to prepare a well-thought out post operation political roadmap and socio-economic plan to redress root causes and to achieve long term tangible results. Ongoing operation in Malakand Division was again launched hastily which caused biggest internal migration in Pakistan history after 1947 exodus.

One of the major reasons of military operation failing to achieve all its objectives is lack of socio-politico-economic backup support. The situation is first worsened by inept and corrupt political leaders and when it spins out of control, they quietly ask the military to clean the mess they have created. While the army gets engaged in cleansing the heap of muck accumulated over the years in real earnest to regain semblance of order and let the leadership and civil administration restart their primary duties of rehabilitation, development works and governance, the political leaders slump into relaxing and carefree mode and recommence their usual game of power politics, corrupt and unjust practices to serve personal interests and to prolong their stay in power. Instead of solving problems of the people and earning their goodwill, their entire focus shifts on keeping the sole super appeased and in good humor. Thinking that their stay in power is dependent upon the goodwill of Washington, they voluntarily hand over the remote control to US Administration and feel no regret in becoming dancing puppets and serving American rather than Pakistan interests.

Use of military force is a last option when all other options fail to deliver. Use of last trump card speaks of failure of political leadership; hence it should be avoided as far as possible and applied only when it becomes unavoidable. Launching of a military operation in a political vacuum without a carefully devised politico-socio-economic plan is a criminal act since it would render huge sacrifices rendered by the army go waste. Military action helps to the extent of creating desired space and safe environments to re-establish writ of local and provincial governments, undertake rehabilitation of IDPs, restore civil administration and infrastructure of judiciary and civilian law enforcement agencies and above all restore confidence of people.

This can be ensured by good governance, honest and efficient working of civil services, provision of cheap and speedy justice, healthcare, social services, reduction of illiteracy and poverty, opening greater avenues for employment, improving law and order to protect life and property of the people. All these steps are essential to win hearts and minds of the people and to curb tendency of marginalized youth to get veered towards foreign agencies and Taliban like outfits offering lucrative enticements and brainwashing them to become terrorists and suicide bombers.

As far as the military is concerned, it is a good thing that the whole army has been put through guerilla warfare training and by now most of the regiments are well attuned. 2008 declared as ‘year of soldier’ and 2009 as ‘year of training’ by Gen Kayani have helped in boosting the spirits of all ranks high. They need to be equipped with sophisticated attack helicopters, humvies, high quality jammers against IEDs, superior communication system that cannot be deciphered by the militants, means to jam communications and decipher transmissions of militants, night vision devices. The US should make these available to the army, the Frontier Corps (FC) and Frontier Constabulary and the latter two outfits trained to be able to take on frontline duties in next six months period with army providing back up support only. The FC should become the nucleus of future counter terrorism force. The police training level need radical improvement and its weaponry improved; police stations need major overhauling by making them bomb proof and defensible against militants laced with sophisticated weapons.

Asif Haroon Raja is a retired Brig and a defense and political analyst; he writes for national and international newspapers.

- Asian Tribune -

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