Thursday, March 4, 2010

Operation in North Waziristan?

Editorial -- Express Tribune (paper coming out soon)

The possibility of an army operation in North Waziristan seem to be gaining credence with reports indicating the arrival of several battle tanks in the main town Miramshah. The reports quoted an unnamed security official as saying that the military hardware had been sent after a day of clashes with local Taliban and security forces and that their arrival was meant as a “show of force”. On March 1, there was an attack on FC soldiers in the town’s main bazaar as a result of which two of the men lost their lives. Other than the deployment of the tanks, local people have also reported the distribution of pamphlets by the military calling the Taliban agents of Israel and India – thereby only adding to the speculation that an operation against the militants is imminent.
If the operation were in fact to happen, it would suggest a turnaround in Pakistan’s policy on fighting the Taliban – in particular the distinction between those who are ‘bad’ and those deemed ‘good’ – and also with regard to its strategies for engaging Afghanistan. For all intents and purposes, large chunks of North Waziristan are controlled by a handful of Taliban commanders, among them Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani (and increasingly his son Sirajuddin). The latter has often been accused by the Americans of masterminding much of the violence in the adjacent Afghan provinces of Paktika, Paktia and Khost. Sirajuddin Haqqani was also alleged to be behind the attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul last year and a brazen attempt to assassinate Hamid Karzai during a military parade – also last year. Consequently, since long both Kabul and Washington have been asking Islamabad to take decisive action against the Haqqani network in particular to deprive it of its sanctuary in North Wazirstan; and for the longest time, Islamabad had been resisting. So if it were to finally commit to an operation in the agency to rid it of militants that would be good on several counts. Other than making the Americans and Afghans happy, it would benefit Pakistan’s internal security because of the close nexus between the Taliban operating in Afghanistan and those carrying out terrorist activities inside Pakistan.

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