Monday, June 1, 2009

Swat: Military Operation to Increase Militancy

By Abdullah Muntazir
No one knows what will be the final outcome of the ongoing military operation in Malakand division of Pakistan’s frontier province; however, one of the immediate consequences of the operation is that the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) has gone into the millions. The other outcome is that the Taliban, who were increasingly losing their credibility prior to the operation against them, have now received a chance to prove that they are victims of ‘America’s allies’, and they will most certainly exploit the collateral damage caused by military operation in their favor. Ever since 2004 when military operations first began in tribal areas, we can clearly see that after every military operation the Taliban only became stronger than before. I fear the results will be the same this time too, and the Pakistani military will only earn the outrage and hatred of the displaced people. In fact, the people of Swat have already begun to speak out against the military operation. They have now begun saying that we have become homeless not because of the activities the Taliban, but in fact, because of the military operation there. The military operation has not only made us homeless, but our beloved ones have fallen prey to the much-abused term ‘collateral damage’.

 I am not a critic of the goals and objective of the government in Swat. It is the right and prerogative of the government to establish its writ and use all available resources for this purpose, but the way the government wants to achieve these goals is not suitable at all, rather, I would say the government’s strategy of using the military at this point in time has been counterproductive. Wise people learn from the mistakes of others. The Pakistani military is neither more powerful than the U.S. Army, nor does it possess the state of the art war technology which the U.S. forces have.
 Despite having the largest and strongest army in the world and spending more than one trillion dollars in two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has failed to root out militancy in both countries, and the worsening situation in Afghanistan has compelled the U.S. to hold talks with the Taliban. In these clandestine negotiations, the U.S. has offered the Taliban a big share in the Afghan government, but the Taliban are standing firmly on their own conditions. A game of percentage is underway. Inside reports show that the U.S. is ready to give the Taliban more than 70 percent share in the Afghan government. In return, the Taliban will induct U.S. nominated people on key posts. However, the U.S. is holding these talks as Plan B. Plan A, like before, is to use military might this summer too.
 The formula of the military ‘surge’ like Iraq will be a last try in the ‘try try again’ military exercises. Arrival of more American troops is a part of this ‘surge’ strategy. If the ‘surge’ strategy does not bring the required results like Iraq, then Plan B will taken up. Saudi Arabia is acting as a broker in these talks and while the Pakistani security establishment not only has full knowledge of these dialogues, but it is playing its own role in the plan. It is amazing how while being an eyewitness of America’s military failure in Afghanistan our security establishment still decided to begin a military operation in the style that it has. Such action is only expected to increase militancy manifolds. Forcing the whole population of an area to migrate and then destroying every remaining structure in that area has neither brought the desired outcome in Bajaur Agency in the past, nor will it do so now in Swat; except for yielding some half-hearted expressions of U.S. satisfaction, if at all.
 Moreover, an inadequate arrangement for the displaced people is adding fuel to the fire. It only sends out the message that the government has no concern for the affected people. This style of military operation against militancy is unprecedented. Perhaps no one in recent history has used such an annoying technique, which affects the whole population of the area so severely. The basic rule in fighting against militancy is to win hearts and minds of the civilian population. If the government thinks that by proving the Taliban wrong and holding them responsible for the military operation will win the hearts and minds of the public, then it must revise its approach. TV talk shows cannot alleviate the suffering of those who have been evicted from their homes, and anyway, the displaced people do not have the luxury of watching TV programs about themselves in their refugee camps.
      As an example, India has been fighting Kashmiri freedom fighters since 1990 but it never used its air force against them. Use of gunship helicopters is also rare. This is because India does not want to buy the enmity of the whole Kashmiri population. It is the Kashmiri nation who does not want to live with India otherwise India has tried its best to win hearts and minds of Kashmiri nation. It was essential for our military to win hearts and minds of the people. This is the key to success in any war against ideologically driven militancy. Whether they are right or wrong, ideologically motivated people never submit to military might. Such military operations only generate more militancy.
 Ironically, one wonders why our security establishment does not try to get inside knowledge as to how these people motivate their followers and what are the arguments they present before a young boy who becomes willing to sacrifice his life in the hope of attaining paradise. The Taliban were rapidly losing public support in Swat valley, but military operation has become a godsend for the weakening Maulana Fazlullah, the leader of the Taliban in Swat. The militants will definitely exploit human rights violations and collateral damage caused by ongoing operation, and as a result will be able to attract even more youth of the area, and thus militancy will never end in the area.
 I personally believe the only solution of the problem is for the security forces to avoid committing bigger mistakes than those of Maulana Fazlullah and Tehreek Taliban Swat. Furthermore, the Government of NWFP should go ahead with the implementation of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation (NAR) and prove to the people of the area that it was always sincere. Before implementation of NAR though, a military operation, or use of any kind of force for that matter, will not work at all. If you have any doubts regarding my analysis then just wait until this phase of operation is concludes and the ground reality for speak for itself.
 The writer is an expert on militancy and regional security issues.


Yeshna12 said...

There is a bigger problem. I think it would be better for pakistan to negotiate with its own citizens. It would be better advisable that pak to negotiate with them and make them understand the path of voilence is not an option for establishment of an ISLAMIC state. What is actually happening in swat is BROTHER against BROTHER. IT WILL MAKE THE MOTHER CHILDLESS. Better to ignore external influence and stand up to configure its own path.

Abdur Rehman

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