Operation Zarb e Azb Rolls On

Spearhead Analysis – 15.07.2014

Operation Zarb e AzbWhen the military launched Operation Zarb e Azb on the direction of the political government there was no doubt in any one’s mind that from that day on the country would be at war with those within and without who planned to destroy its territorial integrity and the core values that constitute its national interest. The military’s land air offensive is in full swing without hesitation and without let up because it believes that it is fighting for the survival of Pakistan — the Pakistan that Pakistanis want and not what others want to impose on them through terror and violence. Precious young lives are being sacrificed, people are suffering the pain of loss or displacement and the writ of Pakistan’s government is being re-established.

The talk about the military coercing the political government into launching the military operation has died down as all such rumors die. The talk of past procrastination by the military does not pass muster because no political directive was given to the military by the previous government. The Military waited patiently accepting losses while the present government considered dialogue and only acted after it got a political directive to do so. Once the military went into action there were many expectations that needed to be quickly fulfilled to maximize the chances of success once state power had been unleashed. This war, like all wars, had to be a national effort because the scope of this war was by no means limited to the Waziristan theatre of operations — the scope of this war encompasses the entire country. It is most important that the scale of this war in terms of duration and dimensions be correctly understood by the government. The military is just one element of state power — the other elements have not been activated.

In every war the political leadership has to address and motivate the nation so that they are inspired to rise above petty interests and trivial pursuits. This sets the tone for the nation’s wartime behavior and this effort has to be sustained and appropriately modulated over the duration of the war so that the suffering that is inevitable is seen to be shared by all and resolve does not falter. So far this has not happened. It must happen quickly because the fighting men expect that the nation and its leadership is not only fully behind them but is also visible to them in the forward areas.

It was understood and accepted that there would be fallout in the urban areas because of the insurgent displacement into urban sanctuaries and the linkages forged with heartland based extremists and militants as well as with criminal mafias operating to raise funds through criminal activity. This warranted immediate measures by the government to ensure excellent intelligence coordination, civil defense and internal security measures. The interior ministry should have ensured all this. In the absence of any other functional arrangement the ISI should have been designated the lead agency for all intelligence coordination and given enough resources. The Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS) should have been in action continuously under the National Security Adviser to review security and exercise oversight. If police capacity and loyalty was questionable then the urban security should have been put under military control. These actions now need to be taken on a very high priority basis.

The Foreign Ministry under a competent Foreign Minister backed up by the National Security Adviser should have ensured the expected exterior maneuver in support of Pakistan’s war on terror — after Pakistan had supported the West and Afghanistan and accepted blowback.. Has Pakistan received any additional military support from the US — e.g gunship helicopters and precision munitions or drones? Has Afghanistan acted to throw out the TTP leadership operating from its soil in Kunar and contained those who have fled to seek sanctuary there? After all no prominent TTP leader has been killed or captured so far. From the pattern of operations so far it seems that the military will make decisive territorial gains but the insurgents may live to fight another day unless Afghanistan cooperates with blocking positions when the military extends into the Shawal Mountain. Much needs to be done because so far the military seems to be acting on its own and doing everything by itself — even managing the IDP’s —Internally Displaced Persons.

This is no time for dharnas, political long marches and institution bashing. The Army should not be fighting a lone battle even if it is coming up to the nation’s expectations, Political and administrative decisions need to be taken and arrangements made for civil control over the FATA. This is the time for introspection and continuous communication with the people and the media as well as interaction with the world. Pakistan is at war and all wartime measures must be taken.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)