Friday, October 12, 2012

Daily Times Editorial Oct 13, 2012

A turning point? While courageous Malala Yousafzai struggles for her life in the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in Rawalpindi, where she was shifted from Peshawar to take advantage of better post-operative facilities, the whole country has been up in arms against the dastardly act of shooting the 14-year-old schoolgirl and activist for education for girls and peace. Her two schoolgirl friends shot with her are also still under treatment. The latest medical bulletin on Malala says she is better, albeit unconscious and on a ventilator, but the next two days are said to be critical. The whole country and the world are praying for her full recovery. While the grief, sorrow and outrage at the brutal act of the Taliban are fresh, the response in terms of prayers, condemnation and solidarity, although widespread, still portrays the picture of a fragmented response. The positive side of this response, even if it is not cohesive in practical, organisational terms, is that the apologists for the Taliban, first and foremost most of our clerics, are having a hard time justifying the continuing existence let alone activities of the Taliban fanatics, or the argument that this is the consequence of the US-led war on terror in the region. The response of the mainstream political parties too presents an interesting, mixed picture. The PML-N, despite its leaders’ condemnation and offers of medical treatment for Malala inside the country or abroad, has been shrinking from naming the Taliban as the perpetrators. Critics are inclined to ascribe this pusillanimous approach to the alleged soft corner the party has for the extremists. Imran Khan is still droning on about the drones although arguably his big drive has fizzled out, not the least because of the Malala development. The government has offered a $ 100,000 reward for information on the perpetrators, picked up around a hundred people in a dragnet operation, and vowed to bring the barbarians to justice. The National Assembly and Senate have condemned the attack and pressed for action against the Taliban. Significantly, the military has held high-level discussions on the security situation, and COAS General Kayani has carried that discussion to the president. With the support of across the board public opinion behind it, the military seems to be poised for decisive action against the Taliban terrorists. Admittedly, this effort would be focused against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), self-confessed authors of the attack on Malala, and may not be extended to the Afghan Taliban, particularly the Haqqani network, operating from Pakistani soil. Nevertheless, the possibility that decisive action against the TTP will willy nilly bring the military into collision with their comrades amongst the Afghan Taliban, again especially the Haqqani network, cannot be ruled out. The military’s reluctance in the past, especially regarding an offensive in North Waziristan, considered a hotbed of the Haqqani network as well as various jihadi groups from, amongst other places, Arab countries, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, Xinjiang, the west, etc, was ostensibly because of the military being stretched in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations. But the suspicion could never be fully laid to rest that it was also because the military wanted to retain the proxy option vis-à-vis Afghanistan, particularly in the run up to the 2014 withdrawal of western forces. If the barbaric attack on Malala has finally persuaded the military to ignore the risk of annoying or coming into conflict with the Afghan Taliban backers of the TTP, all that needs to be said is, about time, better late than never. However, while only the military can provide the ‘teeth’ to take on the fanatics, the responsibility of political and civil society is to come together in support of that decisive action against the terrorists on a one-point national agenda: eliminating the terrorists from our soil and abandoning reliance on them, whether in the context of Afghanistan, or the various games the intelligence community has been playing with us for far too long in our homeland itself.

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