There might be some people who will still insist that there are no terrorists in this world, but the latest fighting in Pakistan proved one thing - that terrorists are present.
Terrorists iaround the country have suddenly launched a full-scale war against the armed forces. Poor and innocent people have also been falling prey to the latest fighting. This is an establsihed fact that rulers have created terrorists for keeping themselves in power. But now the rulers of Pakistan cannot deceive the world. Now the truth is coming to the fore.
Daily Times in its editorial discussed the situation in Pakistan. The army has engaged the terrorists in Darra Adam Khel inside the NWFP after four ammunition trucks meant for its frontline troops were captured by the Taliban. The Darra, lying between Peshawar and Kohat, was “regular” only in name because illegal weapons have been made here by local craftsmen for the last 150 years and Pakistan has done nothing to “normalise” the town, letting it remain wild like the rest of the Tribal Areas. But Darra is close to Aurakzai and South Waziristan tribal agencies and is the lifeline of the rebellious Taliban. The army had to go in and engage because munitions had been intercepted and stolen. According to local sources, the trucks contained enough ammunition to last the Taliban two years. This means that the battle has come into a chunk of “settled” territory.
The Taliban and their extremist supporters have been challenging the state in many parts of Pakistan. But this is the first time a major battle is being fought by the army with heavy artillery, tanks and helicopter gunships. There were earlier incidents in Darra which clearly indicated that the Taliban were consolidating themselves in the area but action was avoided in favour of parleys and other methods of negotiation that did not work. Next door Kohat too was targeted and despite the fact that a cantonment exists there, not much action was taken to stop the activities of the Taliban and their sympathisers in the city. In fact out of all the settled areas of the NWFP Kohat has remained the most loyal stronghold of pro-Taliban elements who remain prepared to give shelter to the “foreigners” who escaped to the Tribal Areas from Afghanistan after the Tora Bora offensive in 2001.
After the hijacking of the four army trucks carrying ammunition for the army, efforts were made to negotiate with the Taliban through jirgas but there was no response from the terrorists. It is clear that the weapons and munitions they have stolen are of great value to them, not only for the Tribal Areas but in the rest of the country where their jihadi supporters require them to fight the state security forces. One report from Darra is that the trucks have been found but that they are empty, so urgent has been the need for the weapons. This suggests that whichever group took them wanted to make sure that the army would not be able to make a deal with the local warriors over the return of the stolen weapons. In retaliation, the army has killed a score of the militants but one can predict that the rest will go on fighting and will run away only when they fear being completely overwhelmed.
Yet this is not where the real war is taking place. The real war is in South Waziristan where warlord Baitullah Mehsud is running a mini-state of his own and is providing shelter to foreign warriors. He has been successfully raiding the convoys carrying war material to Afghanistan for the use of the 42,000 strong NATO forces. In the latest raid carried out near Dera Ismail Khan in the NWFP, his men were able to selectively take out the long carriers transporting sophisticated vehicles that Mehsud will probably sell. According to reports, he has taken the help of his Uzbek warriors to learn how to operate the four-wheel drive state of the art vehicles. Around 40 percent of the military supplies to NATO forces go through Pakistan, and it appears that our routes, usually going through Khyber Pass, are no longer safe.
What is happening is the accumulated effect of “national security” policies followed by our establishment in the past half century. Add to that 20 years of jihad which paradoxically weakened the professional Pakistan army’s ability to fight as private warriors took training, learned how to use weapons, then keep them at home without accountability; and places like Darra Adam Khel that went into production overdrive to supply to anyone in civil society wishing to become powerful at the expense of the state. The Pakistan army is now required to fight its own war after the lapse of decades when the nation was wrongly showering kudos on the so-called mujahideen. Today it is out in the mountains fighting for the survival of Pakistan and should be supported by all Pakistanis.
But that, alas, is not happening. The politicians are more focused on remaining in power or getting into power than in backing the army in the difficult job of fighting an internal insurgency mixed with foreigners planning to bring a new kind of order to Pakistan. Even our retired generals are concentrating their minds on the political aspects of the state and not on the survival of the state, seeming to imply that the army should not take on the Taliban. Yet, no matter how we resolve our political problems, the army must succeed in its war against the anarchists in the Tribal Areas to give us another chance at stabilising democracy in the country.