Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Daily Times Editorial Feb 26, 2014

National Security Policy at last The federal cabinet approved the long awaited National Security Policy on Tuesday. Today (Wednesday), Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to announce the policy in the lower house, while Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali will give a detailed policy statement on the floor of the house. The cabinet also decided to facilitate internally displaced persons from North Waziristan, which prompted some observers to conclude that the government may be preparing an all-out offensive in the Agency. Imran Khan, in a u-turn on his ‘soft’ attitude to the Taliban, has argued for surgical strikes of the kind that have been taking place in the past few days against recalcitrant terrorists unwilling to talk. He has also urged the evacuation of the 600,000 people of North Waziristan to avoid collateral damage feeding into the recruitment drive of the Taliban. The prime minister demanded that the Taliban announce an unconditional ceasefire if they wanted the dialogue to be restarted. He underlined that the targeted strikes underway would be continued after the slaughter of 23 FC personnel. Meanwhile Chaudhry Nisar’s cricket ‘diplomacy’ earned him a rejection by the Taliban who said cricket and such sports were talking young people away from Islam, and derision on the social media for an idea that seemed absurd ab initio and proved infructuous at birth. Two significant events occurred on Monday: the killing of Asmatullah Shaheen and his companions, and the suicide attack on the Iranian consulate in Peshawar. The first indicates the long running festering fissures in the Taliban ranks have now assumed a bloody, possibly tit-for-tat killings character. The finger of suspicion has been pointed at his bitter rival Said Khan Sajna, both men having vied for the leadership of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) after the death of Hakeemullah Mehsud, and which finally brought Mulla Fazlullah to head the outfit. The days ahead are likely to see retaliatory attacks by the two factions on each other. Whether however, such internal rifts in the TTP will help the government’s cause is uncertain at present, given the impasse in the negotiations. The attack on the Iranian consulate was foiled by the security guards, after which the suicide bomber blew himself up, killing two FC soldiers and injuring 10 others. This is not the first time the consulate has been attacked. The target suggests it was the handiwork of the TTP or one of the sectarian terror groups operating in the country. The area where the consulate is located also houses other diplomatic missions and is heavily guarded. The suicide bomber was prevented from getting close enough to the consulate to damage it but at the cost of the security guards’ deaths and injuries. The incident once again highlights the risky work of the security forces guarding important buildings and installations when confronted by determined suicide bombers. In the National Assembly the Opposition was increasingly restless at the government’s failure to take the house into confidence regarding the status of the talks with the TTP and the government’s thinking on the way forward. The cry went up in the house that the government must take political ownership of any operation if being planned and that the prime minister must ‘lead’ in this regard. Hopefully the treasury benches will be able to allay the opposition’s angst in the briefings to the house today. Events are fairly rapidly moving in the direction of an all-out confrontation with the TTP. A full scale ground operation would probably require preparations and a wait for better weather. However, if the TTP or one of its sub-groups ventures to carry out another provocation of the type visited on the FC soldiers in their captivity, all bets are off. Pious and well intentioned as the government’s effort for a peaceful solution was, the sceptics are increasingly being proved right that we are dealing with a category of enemy that does not recognize any known rules of warfare or humane conduct and therefore deserves little if any mercy.

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