Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Daily Times Editorial Jan 29, 2015

Cleansing terrorism Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif has returned from his visit to China considerably bolstered by the expressions of solid support from our Chinese all weather friends. On Tuesday, General Sharif visited troops in Mohmand Agency to review progress in the operations against the terrorists infesting the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and elsewhere. Addressing the tribals of the Mohmand Agency, General Sharif vowed not to abandon FATA until the entire area had been cleansed of all the terrorists. This statement of support to the tribals prepared to back the army’s drive against the terrorists is of immense importance in the backdrop of the lack of adequate support to lashkars (tribal militias) that took up arms against the terrorists in the past but were slaughtered wholesale. General Sharif’s statement of support to the tribals indicates the lesson has been learnt. Without the support of the local populace, the terrorists will be difficult to beat. General Sharif’s ringing declaration of intent will warm the hearts of the whole country, still reeling from the shock of the Peshawar massacre of school children that helped galvanise a united front against terrorism extending from the political class to the public to the military and security forces. The country now stands solidly behind the army’s campaign against the purveyors of bloodshed and barbarism. General Sharif, while addressing the troops, praised their courage, sacrifices and achievements in this difficult campaign. He stressed the need for a uniform policy of rehabilitation of all internally displaced persons to ensure the military successes translate into a contented and confident populace. All counterinsurgency strategies have to wean away the people from the militants. In this case, the militants are the worst form of reactionary extremism in the name of faith, a common affliction by now all over Pakistan and many other countries. The COAS acknowledged operations against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP’s) elements sheltering across the border on Afghan soil, including the bloodthirsty Mullah Fazlullah. General Sharif expressed the hope that these operations would help better coordination of military activities against the terrorists on both sides of the border. On the day of his visit, the news from the battlefront was that airstrikes had taken out 76 terrorists in North Waziristan, the Shawal Valley and Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency. There is little doubt of the efficacy of the air force’s operations against terrorist hideouts and fighters since Operation Zarb-e-Azb started. While we wish the army and their supreme commander, General Raheel Sharif the best in the difficult task they have shouldered to cleanse the country of terrorism, there is room for reflection about what must follow in the badlands of FATA if the areas cleared are to be consolidated and inured against any return of such unwanted elements. It should be clear by now that regions like FATA cannot simply be returned to the previous arrangements inherited from British colonial rule days, not the least because those arrangements had a different purpose: keeping the frontier tribes quiet while the British pursued their aims in Afghanistan. What should have happened soon after independence was that the people of FATA and other similar areas should have been mainstreamed, embraced as citizens of the new state with equal rights and given every opportunity to acquire the accoutrements of a modern state and society. Instead, the colonial structures were retained for expedient reasons, not the least of which were the concerns about a hostile Afghanistan that rejected the international border running along the Durand Line as a legacy of colonialism. The tribes were deliberately left to their own devices and the overarching and unjust law called Frontier Crimes Regulation allowed successive governments to run affairs in FATA through the political agents and tribal maliks (chiefs). These maliks no longer enjoy the same pre-eminence in the tribes. Hundreds of them have been assassinated by the terrorists, leaving a vacuum that could also be seen as an opportunity. After the area has been cleansed of the terrorists, the long overdue embrace of the people of the area and their empowerment with the full panoply of rights interred in citizenship would go a long way towards preventing any potential resurgence of terrorism.

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