Monday, December 7, 2009

VIEW: The Enemy of my Enemy? (2008)

PUBLISHED IN THE POST JAN 24, 2008?

The good news; terrorists are on the run in Swat.

The bad news?

See the good news
.

Does achieving the military objective signal an end of terrorism? Or just imply a break in a long winded terror campaign.

The latter seems more probable, considering 2 suicide attacks which were only 3 days apart in Swat and Lahore in the first 10 days of 2008 and terror that struck Karachi 5 days afterwards.

Which is why reports of successful operations in Swat meant to foster long term stability, at least in that particular region, fail to raise hopes about the short term security in the rest of Pakistan. Especially when certain cities have once again been placed on high alert after intelligence indicated the entry of more potential bombers. The January 17, 2008 attack on Peshawar demonstrates the accuracy of this intelligence without altering our growing susceptibility to terror.

Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz wants citizens to cooperate with police and law enforcement agencies and report suspicious activities. What these activities could be have yet to be specified. Nevertheless, recognizing the need to mobilize local populace against terror is a step in the right direction. But to succeed, the State has to contend with a deeply divided civil society more focused on scoring brownie points with masses than denouncing extremist actions, and citizens who are averse to counterinsurgency operations against their own.

While terror remains the only constant, varying views come forth on a daily basis; some trying to determine ‘U.S. interest in a destabilized Pakistan’; others dismissive of extremist designs on Pakistan’s nuclear assets and the ensuing danger to the West, ‘the range of missiles being too limited to concern allies’; most contending that the present scenario has been conjured up, perhaps to pave the way for a U.S. take over. None helpful in terms of resolving the crisis at hand.

That some of these statements come from an international relation expert like Dr. Shireen Mazari and not nuclear experts or defence analysts becomes immaterial given the readiness demonstrated by the general public to embrace any idea that reinforces the carefully nurtured paranoia against those fighting terror. Real experts appreciate the global nature of nuclear threats, their range notwithstanding. In the same debate, a random remark that the JFK murder in 2007 would also have been attributed to terrorists is representative of the prevalent mindset unable or unwilling to grasp the changed realities. Either way the message being sent to society illuminates selective parts of a very complex picture and keeps them in the dark about the ultimate price of picking the wrong side. An article printed on 18 Jan. 08 in a local daily (The News) casually dismisses the Interior Ministers warning as ‘a sense of fear being encouraged by the government’. Yet another example of trivializing this situation underscores the urgency of clearing away propaganda and subsequent cynicism brought on by either naiveté and obstinacy or resentment due to pre-existing grievances.

Given that the war on terror morphed into a war for Pakistan’s survival , it is alarming to know that 7 years on, the counterinsurgency operation is mired in controversy; aspersion are regularly cast on its legitimacy and reservations voiced about its projected success. And while the civil society may be shaken by traumatic events of 2007; they are not sufficiently stirred to seek national reconciliation, or acknowledge that the enemy of any (perceived) enemy is, in fact, their enemy. Now would be a good time to set the record straight.

Images Courtesy of : http://www.pakimag.com/files/2011/03/Mingora-swat-Satellite-map-Swat-Mingora-Kanju-Airport-ImamDherai-Fiza-Ghat-Landaki.jpg

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