Swat: Demystifing The Battle

Local Newspaper Announcing 500 billion bounty on Baitullah Mehsud
Local Newspaper Announcing 500 million bounty on Baitullah Mehsud

Last week a drone attack in South Waziristan killed over 80 people. The Government has not released any information regarding these individuals. There has been no disclosure of evidence to prove that all of the 80 dead were militants either. Appalled at the silence of constant drone attacks in Pakistan I scribbled down my condemnation which can be read here. I was shocked to receive comments and mails that either approved the action or condemned it along with condemning the army offensive. A reflection of staunch opinions representing

  1. A blind eye to the ‘loss’ of civilian life by drone attacks. In some cases justifying their deaths by accusing them of harboring the Taliban.
  2. Sympathizing with the ‘civilians’ to an extend which includes sympathizing with the ‘Taliban’ and against the army offensive.

Both of which can trigger a perplexed debate. The fact that some still doubt the credibility of army operation against the Taliban is worrisome. A recent headline in a local Urdu daily reads a message by the Taliban `announcing’ 100 million rupees bounty for Federal Minister of interior Rehman Malik. Reflecting that the Taliban still believe in having mass public sympathies.

The army has confessed earlier of ‘religious, ethnic and patriotic’ sentiments causing a very cautious approach during the operation. According to sources extra caution is being taken to minimize collateral damage. One of the most biggest challenge being not only to prevent civilian causalities but also minimize damage to buildings, farms and cattles. The extreme backdrops that come with fighting a battle within ones border. The Army has also resorted to work alongside local lashkars in order to identify areas with strong hold of the militancy. However if the drone attacks continue to cost ‘civilian’ lives there is a significant chance of backlash from the locals. The Times talks about ‘The CIA’s silent war in Pakistan’

But is the drone war winnable? The White House routinely dodges questions on the subject, and neither the CIA nor the State Department would talk about the program on the record. But officials familiar with the CIA’s operations say at least nine of the top 20 high-value al-Qaeda targets identified last fall have been killed by drone strikes, along with dozens of lesser figures. Many bases and safe houses have been destroyed. On the other hand, Pakistani officials say the majority of strikes have either missed their targets or, worse, killed innocent civilians.

Image Courtesy: Daylife
Image Courtesy: Daylife.com

The common belief that Pakistan is fighting a proxy war for the United States needs to be subsided. The fact being that the Taliban have cost us far more than they have to the west or United states in particular. Taliban have repeatedly owned up to terrorist attacks carried on in the civilian areas across the country. The series of blasts that have targeted that have Pakistani people and not the foreign civilians. Local channels have been airing patriotic songs and video messages to provoke and unite people against the Taliban and in support of the army offensive.

A piece in the REUTERS suggests ‘ Support for Pakistan’s anti-Taliban war seen solid’

But investors and the Pakistani people in general wanted to see the offensive prosecuted to the end, and only then would their confidence be restored, said a stock broker.
“It is absolutely necessary for the government to control and counter these terrorist elements and regain its writ to end the state of despondency among the people who had started to feel there was no one to protect them,” said Asif Qureshi, director of Invisor Securities.

It is without doubt that the army offensive against Taliban will continue. Whether it will continue gaining mass public sympathy and succeed in eliminating militancy is the question at hand. At the end of it all it is at the hand of the state to ensure that public support remains alongside the army operation. The morale of the battle will only be upheld and steady if the masses continue to support. Furthermore the growing exodus and the constant intervention by the US in shape of drone attacks needs to be tackled. The Government needs to take a strategic approach towards rehabilitation of refugees and a firm stand against the drone attacks, to prevent swelling of Anti- American sentiments and successfully weeding out spatting insurgencies.


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