June 28, 2014

WINNING THE TRUMP OF HEARTS: My OPINION in NATION on the Social Dimension of Conflict

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The care and gratitude of IDPs will go a long way in securing Waziristan from militant activities. Like the military operation, this War also has four phases. First, looking after them in a manner they feel they are part of the family and not paupers, providing a new social contract in FATA through administrative and constitutional reforms, rebuilding FATA including homes and communication infrastructure and opportunities for socio-economic development. LEAs will provide the security umbrella. IDPs are just not humans but also include livestock, beast of burden, poultry and pets. Most amongst them have a high standard of living due to availability of smuggled technologies. They are not cave people

The term Internally Displaced Pakistanis (IDPs) is cruel. It implies that the state of Pakistan morphing through successive layers of inventive nationalism has ignored the basis element of a nation state; THE PEOPLE. It also means that throughout these phases, the governments and elites in power were guilty of feeding people as fodder to objectives they had no capacity to achieve. Like a blinded beast of burden that grinds the mill, the state and its elites lived in notions of a grandiose existence (falsification of history) spinning a wheel with yarns that blurred the rainbow. Pakistan the champion of the’ will of the people’ has done the opposite to its own. 67 years of existence and the nation remains nomadic. The scars are visible. The ghettos and slums, shanty housings in the middle of Islamabad, followers of religious, megalomaniac and political cults, an exploitative system, governmental insensitivity and neglect, to name a few. The symbolism of endless lines of tractors, rickety buses, trucks, rickshaws, carts, animals and foot columns of men, women and children, down the road from Sadgai depict the criminal nature of a state that has betrayed people and allowed wolves to dominate. These societal hyenas prowl everywhere personified by the symbolic Gullu Butts.  Militants in Waziristan are one manifestation. As the final battle draws to an imminent military victory, I keep asking myself, will the state lacking civil capacity be able to win the war?

When Napoleon set out to conquer, he executed classic manoeuvres to win many battles. Yet in the final analysis he was trumped by a defeat in Waterloo that cost him the war. So did Hitler. Commenting on the social aspect of warfare, Clausewitz had commented in his Trinity that if all other elements are equal, the numbers finally count. He referred to the synergy built by mass emotions and motivations for a final battle that wins a prolonged war. This lesson of military and social history has been endlessly forgotten and repeated. The factorising of masses in long drawn fourth generation conflicts tipped around terrorism is no exception. In a scenario when a country is vulnerable to multi-dimensional kinetics on all fronts, the entire canvas of the conflict has to be understood to fight.  Rulers it seems have not grasped it.

The state and the people are disjointed with a social disconnect. Investments by the army of major towns and villages, flushing out hideouts and precision strikes would finally result in a spatial victory but what about those hidden and obscured corners of hearts and minds? Who will cater to their miseries, needs and aspirations? What about the absence of good governance, the rising internal and external debts, manipulation of currency markets, and the stolen mandate of the people? Political parties are unwilling to invest their lot with the present government run by a family? Finally, what about the lip service that Punjab and Sindh are paying to this conflict and the doors they close to people scourged by conflict over four decades?

It is unfortunate that the popular fabric of the country is torn and shredded. Pakistan is a country whose people despite backing the armed forces do not trust the government. We can only pray that the state wakes from its dysfunctional slumber to realise that its preoccupation in self-preservation is an anathema to a war it must win. The final battle is beyond the crumbling redoubts of the militants. Spatial military victories are meaningless if the people do not develop a notion of being part of a national construct. This war is to be trumped by an ace of hearts for the people resigned to primordialism, violence and neo-colonialism.

The civil-military disconnect is evident in North Waziristan. Military operations warranted a surprise that was achieved. Timely relief measures were systematically delayed. Federal political and civil administration lacked urgency in filling details of outline plans for temporary relocation of over 700,000 displaced people and assorted animals in the settled areas. Barring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, no one war-gamed the civilian aspect of the crises for relief planning. The federal government made no allocations in annual budget for the war on terrorism and crises created by unprecedented migrations. Allocations for its waivered counter terrorism scripts are meagre. Crores spent on advertisements on IDPS who need no publicity should have been shifted towards relief. Preparedness to combat urban terrorism is invisible. The government rather than synergise opened new fronts.

Being a federal subject, the crisis is a subject entire Pakistan must share. Barring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, provincial governments have yet to take a start.  Malik Riaz, always in forefront of national calamities has single handed eclipsed the announcement of Rs five crores by the Sindh Government. Punjab the big brother is too preoccupied in defending its citadel. Why is there no announcement of national austerity, diversion of funds from projects that can be postponed towards relief and additional allocations to KPK? If the apathy continues and the floods arrive, it will be one very big fiasco.

Amongst the political parties, there remains a lingering suspicion that the government is using the tragedy to hedge its political power. It has widened political divides by mishandling Model Town and Emirates flight. It starves its political rivals in KPK by withholding release of federal funds. Punjabi Taliban is considered an asset. Even within PMLN, there are divides emerging between national and party interests. Does the government realise it needs to win it for Pakistan?

But there are positives. The armed forces have donated one moth rations that should take care of IDPs for two months. Relief organisations like World Food Program, Bahria Town, JUD, IKF Pakistan Ex Servicemen Association and many more are on the vigil. Sadgai and the road to North Waziristan display a much organised relief effort. Migrating people go through at least five medical check points, NADRA registration centres, inoculation/vaccination and polio camps. Lady Doctors of the army attend to pregnant women. Food and cold refreshments are served. The IDPs are briefed. But the people are not ready to bite pride and live in camps.

Enter Bannu and chaos is everywhere. A city of 1.7 million is choked. The property and transport rents have skyrocketed. Aid convoys are lock jammed by an unending stream of traffic from Sadgai. The relief workers are directionless. Disaster management officials are preoccupied with briefs. The cantonment is inaccessible. The ill-timed visit of the Prime Minister has brought everything to a standstill.

But one thing is clear. PMLN will lose its self-created battle if it does not win this one. Wait and see.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email and twitter:


June 21, 2014



Note the precision of strikes. Surroundings destroyed but the Mosque unscathed. 

(Capacity and Terrorism)

 Not many men have greatness repeatedly thrust on them. Twice you squandered opportunities. You are at the helm for the third time through a contentious process. There are many instances in your present tenure that reflect past conduct. Please overcome your limitations of unidirectional thinking and accumulation of unbridled power and lead this nation to a new era of pluralistic peace and prosperity. It is time you prove many wrong.

The modern notion of politics is moral. It is about inclusivism and sharing. Expediencies and impulsiveness will ruin a nation at war on multiple dimensions. As the chief executive of this scarred nation, it is your responsibility to forge unity beyond the circle of few trusted patrimonial. Your biggest challenge is not foreign policy but counter terrorism for national consolidation. It is possible if you forge national consensus and delegate institutions to function within the established frame works.

The recent incident at Karachi airport exposed the chinks in your capacity to handle challenges. Disaster management reflects a sorry tale of inefficiency and politicalised administrations. Temporary relief only comes through armed and civil armed forces. Politicised civil administrations are notorious for misusing power or holding it to appease bullies.

The assault on Minhaj ul Quran headquarters in Lahore reinforces my argument that Punjab administration and police are highly politicised. Combined with a lower judiciary, they form a trio to let wrongs happen on the weak and perpetuate high handedness when it suits. This questions the ability of civilian led counter terrorism operations particularly in Punjab. You have to ensure this stigma is removed.

I am an affected witness to many such events. In 2009, police stood as bystanders when a Christian colony was burnt by Punjabi Militants. The federal government was helpless. No culprits were apprehended. Later same militants attacked a rival Muslim group in Faisalabad. Robert Masih was beaten to death in Sambrial and the funeral procession fired upon by police. Gosha e Aman a 100 years old Christian relief centre in Garhi Shau Lahore was forcibly occupied by the Punjab Government and remains so today. This centre was run by the same organisation that was once the alma mater you and your trusted colleagues attended. St Joseph’s Colony at Badami Bagh was burnt to ashes while the police watched. Very recently the Government of Punjab forcibly took over Idara e Kissan, Pakistan’s five star community subsistence programme producing Halla pasteurised milk against orders of a court. Strangely Inhar milk got a kick-start. Model Town tragedy is a sour icing on a rotten cake. You have a challenge to forever break linkages with high handedness in Punjab.

Pakistan’s counter terrorism operations are multi-dimensional. All central directives are yours. In the tribal areas, they are military led with civil administration in tandem. In the frontier Regions (FR), the provincial governments operate under the governor. Sooner than later military will have to go back to barracks and your skills at civilian capacity will be tested. Start building them now before the flames conflagrate to your power centres.

The expected backlash in major urban centres scares me for lack of preparedness. Operations will be civilian led. Militants will target vulnerable points and leaders. Though article 245 of the constitution provides broad guide lines, they were not designed to combat 21st century floating non state actors. Existing constitutional procedures will be a limitation. These holes are likely to be used for political expediencies, party interests and self-aggrandisement. In Model Town, a fragile national consensus was scuttled within 48 hours. Hazy directives and injudicious use of force will disrupt synergy and provide relief to militants.

My fear is, if the federal government does not enunciate a comprehensive counter terrorism policy (CTP) backed by legislation, the sweat and blood of LEAs in FATA and innocent Pakistanis could end in nothingness. There are reasons for this argument.

First, the multi-dimensional operations need to be handled in entirety and not piecemeal. The CTP must enunciate immediate, short and long term measures that are to be taken across the entire spectrum of policy with the ultimate objective of making Pakistan a truly egalitarian state that transcends all divides. In terms of the use of force, it means elimination/neutralisation of sectarian, ethnic and separatist militant groups. For Punjab it means operations against Punjabi Taliban and mafias; for Sindh and Balochistan additional action against ethic and sub nationalist armed groups. It also means elimination of armed qabza groups, extortionists, criminal gangs and armed wings of political parties. This is a tall order for affected political parties but you have to set the precedence.

Secondly, the present laws leave yawing gaps for exploitation. The Criminal Court Procedures and Evidence Act are suited for peace time trials. The handling of this menace in courts, preparations of criminal proceedings, protection of witness and prosecutors are not effective. 800 of 1,100 accused released by courts returned to acts of terrorism. Judges had to leave the country after passing death sentences. Police investigators and intelligence officials have been murdered in broad day light. Trials through court martial will only be possible in limited scenarios. Civil courts in urban centres will remain under immense pressures. The CTP will have to cater for the inherent extra-constitutional sovereign authority under a higher law of self-preservation not subject to normal judicial review. Judicial oversight will have to limit itself to legal questions. A selected judicial cadre could be co-opted with twin objectives to deal with questions of law related to security and to act as surrogates for public and fundamental human rights. This would ensure credible legislative and judicial oversight. Under the ‘political question doctrine’, judges will have to avoid jurisdiction over intelligence controversies, allowing resolution of national security disputes to the government and its select parliamentary committees.

Thirdly, absence of a foreign minister is damning; the interior ministry also appears to be out of the loop. The synergy to counter terrorism operation warrants a powerful central authority with its tiers in provinces and districts. You have to think on lines of National and Provincial Strategic Command Centres to direct and control the operations. The fiasco at Karachi airport and massacre at Model Town Lahore should form respective case studies on how to use force and how not to encourage outlawry. Together, the exercise should result in detailed standing operating procedures for judicious and timely employment of force.

Fourthly, the counter terrorism operation sanctioned in North Waziristan must meet logical ends in elimination of terrorists’ and criminal sanctuaries in Punjab and Karachi. The approach has to be even handed and consistent. This is homework you accepted on becoming the Prime Minister and please do not leave it for others.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email and twitter:


June 17, 2014

Commentary 3. Waziristan Operations

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 4:29 pm

Militants in NWA are melting away without much resistance. LEAs destroyed an IED manufacturing facility. Over 25 militants were killed. Cooperation of locals is proving useful. Operations are progressing rapidly with minimum collateral damage.

The PTI led KPK government has been prompt in management of IDP camps in Bannu.  Name a facility and it is there. More details will be communicated tomorrow.

As feared in yesterday’s hand-out, the worst happened today. Punjab police perpetuated a rain of bullets outside the premises of a University run by a political rival killing 8 including two women and wounding over 80. A police tout and member of PMLN was seen damaging vehicles under police patronage. It appears that some elements in PMLN government decided to exploit the situation for political mileage. It has misfired and is a blow to creating synergy in anti-terrorism operations. Opposition parties are weary of the intentions of the government. It is rumoured that the next phase of this mayhem could be launched in vicinity of Faisal Town Police station.

Within 24 hours of sanctioning the Waziristan Operation, the Prime Minister is in Dushanbe. COAS General Raheel Sharif in contrast has cancelled his visit to Sri Lanka.

Just to remind, the notorious Indian air force base called Ayni is also in this city. India spent over 170 million dollars in rebuilding it. India regularly flies high altitude surveillance missions on Pak-Afghan border and allegedly provides real time intelligence to TTP groups handled by Afghan National Intelligence and Army. Dushanbe is also the weekend resort of Abdullah Abdullah who coordinates infiltration of central Asian militants into Pakistan. 

June 16, 2014

Commentary 2. Waziristan Operations

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 4:55 pm

As per latest communication intercepts, TTP and foreign militants have suffered heavy damages in NWA due to air strikes. This has forced them to re- evaluate their tactics and organisation. A new Askari Committee is being formed under the leadership of TT Swat Fateh Ustad. TTP is vacating Miran Shah. They are concentrating around Shawal for their next move. Shawal is under constant military surveillance. Sleeper cells in urban areas have open ended orders.

Militants have suffered over 187 dead. They took to sniping and planting booby traps around the main lines of communications. 8 soldiers were martyred in a landmine explosion near Pak-Afghan border.

The LEAs have sealed major towns like Miran Shah, Mir Ali and Machis. There is night time curfew. Tribal Maliks are cooperating.
LEAs have been deployed on high alert in major cities. Those with Reason and not the Gun have sheepishly handed over security of Chief Minister Punjab to the Army.

Meanwhile PTI has come out with a delayed response. It seems the core committee was swept by time and tide. PTI with reference to KPK was in a position to play a pivotal role but foolish statements of its ill-informed leaders distanced it from the military planners. A political party aspiring to assume power in future ought to have been more responsible and riding the crises rather than be reactive.

PTI now needs to get back to the drawing board. The chairman needs to form a new advisory council that should comprise professional people who have no personal political ambitions. Their sole focus should be Pakistan. This secretariat should work like a Strategic command brief the chairman on daily basis with its situational reports and recommendations.

The party leaders would also do well to rethink many of the bullets and banners they have created so that youngsters stop seeing the armed forces in dark grey.

Commentary 1. North Waziristan Operations

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:29 am

Military Operations against Al Qaeda and their affiliates like some factions of TTP, foreign militants mainly Uzbeks, Chechens, Arabs, Turkmen and Punjabi Taliban have begun. A good number of them had already been airlifted to Iraq and Syria to strengthen ISIS. The time for a final strike against a crumbling redoubt was crucial.

Appears the PMLN government has taken the belated decision as expediency. From their angle, it appeases the army and provides grounds for denying justification to protests by PTI and TUQ. I had unfolded these plans in a mail to leaders on 2 June 2014 and my articles in Nation dated 6 and 13 June 2014. In addition, the events could either eclipse the massive load shedding or result in parallel street agitation that TUQ could exploit. In the worst case, essentials of integrity and common unrest could be a worst case scenario.

Against common belief, the operations have the full backing of Utmanzai Wazir and Dawar tribesmen led by Mirza Haji Sher Mohammad, the grandson of Fakir Ipi. They are not only evicting terrorists but also pointing out targets and aiding civil administration to regain capacity. The army has already secured safe zones and development activity continues in tandem. In my view, bulk of task would be completed before Ramzan.

Cooperation from ISAF-NATO and ANI in Afghanistan will be crucial. Elimination of hideouts in Kunar, Paktia and Paktika as complementary operations is important. Afghan Taliban and most of Haqqani Group are on board. Major propaganda will be from TTP, anti-military lobby and peace doves who will align to call it a war for US dollars etc. The facts are to the contrary.

We need to realise that the force operating in Syria and Iraq comprise bulk of Pakistani militants and mercenaries who have been bankrolled by KSA and Bahrain. Estimates suggest about 7,000 Pakistan origin fighters. The aim is to establish a Salafist order from Syria to Pakistan to sustain the Arab Kingdoms and contain Iran. This entire force is expected to move to Pakistan once their role is over and storm territories. Military planners decided to pre-empt this.  

Pakistan’s major challenge will be urban areas like Karachi, Islamabad, Quetta, Hyderabad, South Punjab, Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Jang and Rawalpindi. Militants will attempt to target vulnerable points like military installations, dams, grids, power houses, media houses, industry, ports, communication centres, congregations of other sects/religions, assassinations and abductions. This entails vigilance and ready to fight LEA deployments. Constitutional confines and procedures will be a major hindrance to counter terrorism operations in urban areas. With no federal, provincial and district command centres and hazy counter terrorism directives, synergy will be disrupted. Courts known for their shady record in bringing terrorists to book will be a major hindrance. It is likely that this confusion will be used by the government with enough support to impose a constitutionally sanctioned emergency.

But the development is not likely to end here. Strong nationalist forces could force the exit of the government. This depends on how events unfold.

June 14, 2014


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It took a less than an hour for the specialised Rangers Anti Terrorists (RAT) and Airport Security Force with a small contingent of police to kill seven terrorists who had entered Western side of the airport terminal through two entries between Gerry’s Dnata warehouse and Fokker Gate. First, five terrorists broke through in the direction of Fokker Gate. One blew himself killing 5 ASF soldiers on duty. The remaining four entered the premises firing small arms and rockets. ASF detachment led by Colonel Tahir Ali and a small group of RAT led by Brigadier Basit established a blocking position towards the tarmac. Three terrorists were killed instantly. One was wounded who blew himself up. The fighting in this area was over before midnight. The other five terrorists were engaged by RATS and Police and prevented the entry to the tarmac. Four were killed and one blew himself. In terms of time, all terrorists had been eliminated by midnight. By dawn the area was sanitised. The retaliation was swift, effective and lethal. Shooting dead seven terrorists before they blew themselves is a first. There was no damage to any aircraft or logistics facility. It defeated and frustrated the planners and abettors of terrorism.

Whatever happened at Gerry’s Dnata is a sorry tale of incompetence of civilian administration to react in emergencies. Had officials of the cargo handling company, district administration and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) displayed alertness and initiative, much damage to property and human life was preventable. Constant visits by VIPs to the main terminal were disruptive and aggravated the tragedy. Had these officials followed SOPs, the civilian side of the rescue and salvage would have been a different story.

The fact that Rangers and Military swiftly moved into the airport without requisition by the civil administration highlights the initiative in absence of orders. It reflects disconnect and insensitivity of the civilian administration. District, Sindh and federal governments either neglected or forgot to requisition LEAs under Article 245 of the Constitution of Pakistan. Accusations by Sindh government that the federal ministers failed to respond throughout the night raises many doubts. Where were the Ministers of Interior, Defence and Information? What does their mysterious silence imply? Was there a makeshift national command centre to handle a situation that could have isolated Pakistan internationally? A cardinal principal of good governance is ‘each man to his job’. At Karachi Airport that night, this was violated lock stock and barrel.

For the media it was time for sensationalism from a standoff. Unaware of what was actually happening; they picked up flashy images with nonstop chatter and yarn spinning, least cognisant that the event warranted responsibility. In the middle of firefights, a senior Rangers officer requested me not to believe the media and that intrusion were eliminated. Long after the last bullet was fired; media kept describing hidden suicide bombers and gun fights. Fake IDs on social media sent out tweets of commandoes entering aircrafts or terrorists hijacking airliners. A reporter of a leading TV Channel was seen arguing with ASF and Rangers officers over the difference between war and a firing incident; alas least appreciative that two of the three had personally led the charge and restored Pakistan’s credibility within 30 minutes of the raid. There was another pseudo expert commenting that the nation had wasted money on ASF at a time when the assailants had already been killed. Remember, this was ASF’s first baptism in fire and they came out with flying colours.

No denying that the incident was an intelligence and security failure. Federal government cannot issue an alert and absolve itself. It is the responsibility of the civilian administration to coordinate with LEAs to convert this information into actionable intelligence and deterrence. Usually, it is the DCOs office and the Home Ministry where such coordination are carried out. My information is that no coordination was planned. Actions taken by Rangers were the result of their own evaluation and the close coordination they had forged with the police.

This apathy leads to two serious reservations. First concerns the role of the federal government and the second, what if the terrorists had succeeded?

CAA operates under the Ministry of Defence and is responsible for efficient operations at airports. Where was the defence minister, and what directives did he give? Broadcasts by the media that night were irresponsible. Where were the information minister and PEMRA to control the unbridled sensationalism? Where was the commander in chief of the Rangers and Police? Was it not obligatory on the interior minister to take stock and command the situation? This criminal neglect could have caused severe damage had the LEAs not exercised initiative in the absence of political directives. In case the government wishes to keep army out of all decision making, it is high time it sets in place a credible mechanism as an alternative. Commands can never be changed in the midst of a conflict.

Secondly, what if the terrorists were also well trained pilots and flew off with an aircraft. It could have gone anywhere or; what if they had managed to destroy the entire fleet on the tarmac. All international traffic to Pakistan would have been shut down indefinitely. Damage to Pakistan’s reputation would have been irreparable. Grace â LEAs, all such scenarios had been brainstormed and discussed. Small squads of RATS, ASF and Police stood as a firewall between the terrorists and the tarmac.  

Due to the multi-dimensional nature of threat it is time that the government establishes a permanent National Strategic Command Centre (NSCC) to act as the nerve centre that evaluates all forms of threat ranging from physical to psychological warfare.

It is also time to enunciate a detailed and actionable counter terrorism policy, to fight, persecute and neutralise the menace of terrorism. NSCC operating under this policy could provide the missing synergy in counter terrorism operations, security of urban areas and warding off threats other than militancy. Maybe a constitutionally sanctioned emergency could be an alternative to this lack of policy.

Last, who raised, supported and finances the Uzbek/Chechen militants and for what purpose? Egypt, Syria and Iraq are latest case studies. The government ought to wake up and stop being a minion to Saudi Arabia. Let Pakistan be for Pakistanis.

Perhaps no country is as fiercely at war within itself as Pakistan. The enemy is us. We are past the beating war drums, under invasion from multiple dimensions under a larger game plan. Peace doves need to grow talons. It is time to ‘make ready your strength to the utmost of your power’. Pakistan is at war it must fight. Otherwise, anarchic-fascism will prevail.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email and twitter:



June 10, 2014

Attack By Terrorist on Karachi Airport Pakistan

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 8:40 am

My Beeper to Times of India

June 7, 2014

Taliban’s crumbling Redoubt. The Last Push


Pakistan’s military commander thinks that some redouts in North Waziristan are the last resistance. The militants are at their weakest in numbers, coordination and local support. They urge an immediate operation like Swat and SWS so that enough time is left for mopping up before the winters set in.  This strategy is divorced from the political initiative of negotiations between no ones with no ones

The tribal areas and frontier regions were created by the British Empire to divide Pashtun Tribes and keep a buffer with the Russians.  Post 1947 they continue to be governed by a colonial legacy of Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR), which allows considerable power to local chieftains willing to meet the needs of the government. Today, even this black law is non-existent. Maliks are either eliminated or in awe of strong militant groups.  Political agents (sometimes corrupt) are ineffective. Administration is non-existent. Pakistan failed to evolve a system through a reformed social contract with the people of the area. Armed forces of Pakistan remain the only arm to curb lawlessness and restore limited normalcy. This limited success is subject to civilian capacity building around empowerment of the people in effective and enduring terms. Neglect in capacity building remains the missing link.

FATA comprises Agencies and Frontier Regions (FRs). The FRs act as a buffer with settled areas. Agencies are controlled through political agents appointed by the federal government. Deputy Commissioners of the adjoining districts represent the governor in administering FRs. Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) are subdivisions designated in the Article 246(b) of the Constitution of Pakistan. The fact that these areas have remained restive indicates poor governance and lack of reforms.

Traditionally, the most restive area is NWA. Mirza Ali Khan known as the Faqir of Ipi, from NWA conducted his guerrilla warfare against the British throughout the 1930s and 1940s. The creation of Pakistan in 1947 significantly diluted the movement till the surrender of his Commander Mehar Dil in 1954. NWS became a major base of operations during the Soviet occupation.

The influx of CIA-ISI sponsored mujahedeen and foreigners against USSR changed the fragile balance. The control of the area passed from maliks to local and foreign militant commanders. The region transformed from an imperial buffer to a launching area for operations against USSR. After the withdrawal of Soviet Union, the condition lured most foreign militants into Afghanistan who made their sanctuaries around Kandahar, Kunar, Nangarhar, Paktia, Khost and Paktika in Afghanistan. These sanctuaries were also used by Pakistani militant groups and sectarian outfits. In an ironic twist, these bases are now used against Pakistan.

In the interim, OBL used his financial clout to gel all such groups around his organisation. NWA continued to be the base strengthened through local customs called Rawaj. Foreign militants comprising Arabs, Uzbeks, Chechens and Uighur Turkmen created a strong connection in NWS through money, marriages and elimination of local Maliks. They gradually seized control of the area after the US-ISAF occupation of Afghanistan.

Pakistan got sucked into this quagmire for multiple reasons.

Pakistan never made efforts toward socio-economic development of the area. Better education, health facilities, agriculture, communication infrastructure, mining, industrialisation and tourism would have had the indirect effect of empowerment. The only doors left open for modernisation were exclusive to rich; through smuggling, drug trafficking, gun running and migration to urban centres. A criminal culture that justified wrong also justified the mind-set. The issue was exasperated by the politics that ignored the people. People who had shown love for the country in repeated surveys were left at the mercy of the notorious.

This imbalance contributed to Pakistan’s inability to block the entry of foreign militants once US-ISAF forces pushed them South. Also, during this crucial period, Pakistan’s reaction to Indian bluff through redeployments on the eastern borders may have made it easier for many fugitives to slip in. Pakistan’s Brigade at Tall managed to arrest most fugitives from Tora Bora, but much more was left undone.

All efforts by the government and army to get foreigners registered with local authorities met stiff resistance. Cognisant of its international obligations, the government of Pakistan held parleys and signed over 18 agreements with Tribal Maliks, ulema and local militant groups to evict or register foreign militants. Each agreement was flouted the moment it was signed. Truces were of mutual convenience. Desperate, the government decided to enforce its writ through flag marches by the Army and Frontier Corps. The first flag march in 2004 was greeted with heavy fire from local and foreign militants. Limited military actions and negotiations continued in tandem till 2008. The present situation is that foreign militants and their proxies control the area, live in highly fortified rented compounds and hold the local economy hostage. Warlords are paid for their services in dollars.

But there is progress. Slowly but surely, the military has been at work despite massive international and domestic propaganda. Except NWA, all agencies and FRs are under control. Militants from SWA, Orakzai, Kurram and Tirah are almost flushed out. This manoeuvre effectively seals and isolates NWA. IDPs cannot be resettled in SWA till NWA is not sanitised. The army could have cleared NWA immediately after Swat and SWS Operations. There could be analysis and debate on why it was not done.  Locals led by new and young Utmanzai Maliks are standing up against militants and prepared to play a leading role as stakeholders in the system.

The flow of accurate information has increased facilitating targeting. Strikes on three Uzbek Hotels in Mir Ali and five fortified compounds in Machi could never have been possible without local assistance. An attempt to gel militants under the leadership of Swati Talibans hiding in Kunar has backfired. Cracks are widening each day. The only hurdles left are foreigners, sectarian outfits and their hosts.

These militants have spread into many urban areas of Pakistan and it is here that their bloodiest backlash could come. A measure of it was seen on 4 June when two officers were killed in Rawalpindi in a suicide attack. Time is against delay and complacency. A comprehensive counter terrorism policy has to be approved quickly. The LEAs have to soften and eliminate isolated and cornered militants with precision and least collateral damage. As militancy gets weaker, more people will rally behind the LEAs to telling effect.

It will take time and missionary zeal to rebuild infrastructure, modernise agriculture and livestock, explore rare minerals and set up value addition industry. Indeed FATA has the potential to become the richest region of Pakistan, only if all of us decide to become ONLY PAKISTANIS. This is where the federal government will be required to lead the passion. Military’s capacity in national development will also be tested.

The man who has perceived and is overseeing this for ten years, smiled and remarked, ‘who says we are fighting America’s War?’ I retorted, ‘your major test will be capacity building of the civilian institutions. Then you win the war’.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email and twitter:

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