New people, old stories, same lament

By 2006, when I retired from the PAF, Pakistan had begun to be slowly sucked into the brewing inferno in Afghanistan

Till then we were only a logistic pathway for forces of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)

Limited operational activity restricted to ensuring outflows from Afghanistan — Al Qaeda and the Taliban — remained geographically confined

The TTP grew later when the hosts turned symapthisers turned militants from the tribal regions of Pakistan became active participants in the Afghan war

Ethnic and familial bonding helped as did the religious similarity

Their common purpose slowly evolved to target Pakistani state frequently for being a purported ally in Afghans’ war with the US

Militancy and terror as a phenomenon made a subtle entry into Pakistan’s social fabric

In 2006 I moved to Sri Lanka where another war was brewing

I spent my tenure in Colombo under the shadow of Sri Lanka’s first full-fledged war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)

My predecessor in Colombo had been targeted by the LTTE and was lucky to survive the ambush; his ambassadorial car gutted

Saner elements from the regular specialist stream of the Foreign Office forego the posting for it to fall into military’s lap

The war is long over and sociopolitical and economic environment far changed for it to now revert to specialist care, but tradition prevails

By the end of 2008 when I returned, the bell had finally and comprehensively tolled for the world’s fiercest and deadliest terror group, the LTTE

Back home, my passion for doing something more (I was only 56 then) included dallying in academic pursuits had me writing, speaking and teaching

Private electronic Media was relatively new and hungry for voices

The 2008 Mumbai attack and the 2009 attack on the touring Sri Lankan Cricket team provided a backdrop for a security focus which was intensely and frequently debated in the Media

Relations with India, where Composite Dialogue process had stalled, were critical to the future of the region and found frequent mention

The 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team was an effort to isolate Pakistan from international Cricket

We bayed and bawled adding to the clamour with befitting anger even as we mourned our losses with overt angst

2011 was bad year for Pakistan

Osama-bin-Laden was found and taken out in May

An IMU-Afghan Combo terror group attacked Navy’s Mehran Air Base in Karachi

The US attack on Salala in November, whatever it grew out of, was even more heinous when it massacred regular Pakistani troops in what the US termed was a Turkey shoot

There was a lot to do on the media as terror and a war found root

The attack on Kamra Base in 2012 had RAW written all over it as had been at Mehran

The IMU-Afghan Combo knew what to hit as an assigned task — likely at a rewarding price

What they selectively targeted was only of concern to India with no role, whatsoever, in counter-terror operations

It beat the trend of typical terror attacks, customized to a client’s needs

These were meant to dwindle Pakistan’s warfighting potential

It also widened the front of Pakistan’s internal engagement in the war against a home-made insurgency

The 2008 operation in Swat grew out of inspired efforts to carve a Sharia-based Islamic Republic and expand the boundaries of havens enjoyed by the fugitive groups from Afghanistan

If indeed they could force the government of a nuclear-powered Pakistan to submit under the threat of terror it could exponentially boost their prospects in their war against the infidel

This expedition of the rebels in Swat had to be put down at any cost

It was crushed

That they mutated from mere hosts to Taliban groups to something greatly more insidious meant that war within Pakistan was now fully rooted

It led to a wider operation in the next phase called Rah-e-Raast (The straight and narrow) — we believed some could still be turned around if pushed sufficiently

It also constrained the base of the Afghan Taliban from the wider FATA Agency into a sliver in North Waziristan with arguable success

2014 brought home the need to shed an inherent, reactionary passiveness pervading most in the political government who had outsourced the war to its military

Two attacks changed that disposition

First, the same IMU-Taliban Combo which had tested Pakistan earlier attacked Karachi airport and announced to the world the reach and depth of its ugliness

The military, at this point, wanted an all-of-the-nation approach to fight out the menace with a common will

Instead, PM Nawaz Sharif dithered and succumbed to the notion of appeasing the angry sentiment of those he felt had gone astray

In November though, when the TTP massacred our children at the APS the die was cast

It may already have been too late given the scale and the nature of the loss but Zarb-e-Azb was launched

Over a sustained period of the war the lands of Pakistan were cleansed of the menace that had haunted the minds and moods of the people

In symbolic terms the war was won

The terror outfits regrouped across the border and for some time were restrained to gradually assimilate in Afghan Taliban’s own war against the US

August 2021 brought the Afghan Taliban their due return while the TTP was left pondering its own prospects

Peshawar was thus an announcement of their arrival if many smaller attacks across KP weren’t already sufficient evidence of their nasty presence

They seemed to have rebuilt and reactivated older alliances and nexuses which now haunts our collectively amnesiac memory

They are back to franchising services to patrons and clients and have relentlessly attacked the Chinese to desist them from their presence in Pakistan, and slow if not halt CPEC

They may already have been partially successful

We have dithered in the meanwhile whether to appease and rehabilitate those who ‘look and seem good’

Some were freed from the prisons and some given a passage back

All at a great cost

It is a losing battle as Peshawar informs

Pakistan needs to be cleaned out again

We know them well

We know how it is done

We have the resources to do what must begin forthwith

Policy, structures and operational infrastructure needs to be reinstituted

APEX Committees are a key and must be immediately and functionally restored

An NCOC type operational headquarters in the affected provinces is a good way to optimally use the effort and ensure each side did its bit

There is no time to cry and wail

It is time to get to work


And just to remind, General Patton famously said, “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his”

Action more than words will count

  Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2023

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Date:04-Feb-2023 Reference:View Original Link