The rulers of Pakistan are busy in power game, but the terrorists have been killing the people freely. Now the government of Pakistan has announced that elections will be held next years. Now rulers and politicians have forgotten that a war is being fought in the parts of tribal areas and other Pashtuns-dominated areas. They have forgotten that millions of people have been leading their lives in state of terrorism. The main problem of Pakistan is not democracy, but the elimination of terrorism. In a state of terrorism, how can a person will use his vote freely. The first priority must be the elimination of terrorism.
According to newspaper comment, finally the army has begun its ground offensive in Swat after days of sniping at the Al Qaeda militants from its helicopter gunships, killing 35 on the first day. Since the army went into the Valley, there has been a steady growth in casualty among the outsider elements and their local supporters. This is a change from the humiliating reversals which the militants inflicted on the paramilitary personnel earlier on, forcing one to come to the conclusion that that phase in Swat had done much to undermine the confidence of the local population and given heart to the planners of Al Qaeda and its Taliban minions to act as if they owned Swat. The beheadings carried out by “foreign-looking” terrorists had nearly convinced the Swatis that a new government had actually come into being, pledging to institutionalise what they had always demanded as “justice without delay”.
One reason why the army delayed going into Swat could be linked to the MMA government of the NWFP which had to first “requisition” the operation. Peshawar had its own angle on Swat, perhaps looking at it as the first instalment of what it wanted to do to the rest of the province through its Hasba Bill. In May this year the MMA government had struck a nine-point “peace deal” with the local warlord Fazlullah in return for his pledge to let Peshawar handle the law and order situation in Swat. He had also agreed to close his centres of training for the militants, end acquisition and manufacture of weapons like the bombs, and had committed to providing troops [sic!] in operations mounted by the province against any “anti-state elements”.
This was, of course, a joke and an eyewash which no one, including the media, tried to question. Fazlullah was given permission to operate his FM radio stations from where he continued to warn the local population against flouting his so-called “sharia laws”. The federal government reacted to this by extending the operation of PEMRA to the PATA area which included Swat and thus rendered the agreement null and void. This aroused Fazlullah to attack anyone playing or listening to music. After he beat up four mechanics in Mingora, workshops of the area shut in protest, something that was soon out of fashion because the warlord was just too powerful to challenge. Fazlullah began his rounds on his legendary black stallion and established his dominion over the usually peace-loving Swatis. As the paramilitaries went into Swat to stop his activities, he called in his friends, the Taliban, from the neighbourhood: South Waziristan, Bajaur and Dir.
Since the army has gone in, the average death rate among the terrorists in Swat has been around 25-30 daily, strangely parallel to the Taliban death rate achieved in Afghanistan by the NATO-ISAF forces these. This is a development of some significance as it is bound to cause anxiety in the Al Qaeda camp where strategy experts like Aiman al-Zawahiri are in the process of creating centres of Al Qaeda in Pakistan to face up to the real challenge of attacking inside the US, a dare that they have not been able to carry out since Al Qaeda struck on 9/11. The hold Al Qaeda has on people like the warlord Fazlullah stems from many factors, not least of which is funding and control of the local economies. Warlord Fazlullah’s father-in-law, the great Sufi Muhammad, was the first religious scholar who legalised what the government of Pakistan thought was smuggling. Now Al Qaeda and its Taliban minions have legalised all kinds of smuggling through taxation, a dangerous trend that may be difficult to roll back if ever Pakistan succeeds in re-establishing its writ in the lost territories.
The Pakistan army, as it operates in Swat, must recognise that the present operation is just the opening of a larger battle front. Some Punjabi veterans of the Kashmir jihad now fighting on the side of Al Qaeda, when interviewed recently, spoke of the fighting in Swat as a part of the grand strategy of “establishing small independent emirates” to be administered by them and their Islamist colleagues in Waziristan, Swat, Bajaur and in Afghanistan. Therefore, for the sake of Pakistan, it is imperative that a politico-military strategy is laid down to defeat this larger Al Qaeda design. One reason this “larger design” has to be opposed is its utopian lack of realism and its total defiance of the dynamic of Pakistan’s survival as a state. But Pakistan can’t go it alone in terms of the funds needed to underpin the on-going military operations. One has to admit that Al Qaeda is much better placed in that respect. Therefore assistance from the rest of the world, including states of the Islamic world, should be made available and accepted if Pakistan shows willingness to fight the war for its survival.