By Mehr F Husain
11 October 2013
The whispers for war against the Taliban are rising amongst the educated and enlightened.
Let's assume that war is the answer and a full-force military operation is conducted. Civil war breaks out because it is not just the northern regions that will be attacked - given that the Taliban has pockets across the country, destruction is bound to take place all over.
Like the situation in Swat, where the military was able to reclaim areas and clear away militants, in this hypothetical situation the military is able to successfully clear away militants and then what next?
Physically, the Taliban may be swept away, but the mindset may still be violent - resulting in attacks on innocents similar to the one carried out on Malala Yousafzai.
While dialogue may be difficult to conduct with an organisation which is fragmented and has tricky conditions - such as asking that drone attacks be stopped (risking US Pakistan relations) - one has to ask what is the State and the military doing to offer something appealing to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to even want to consider other options apart from violence as a means of existence?
What can the State and the military do to ensure that Pakistan does not become another Afghanistan?
Even if talks fail, and war is pursued as last resort, does the government have any socio-economic plans drawn up as a means of readjustment to normal life and prevent further insurgency?
If one was to label the TTP as a terrorist organisation that would not be incorrect. But if one were to say that the TTP is an organisation that works solely by itself and is completely responsible for the destruction it has wreaked across Pakistan, then that would not be correct.
While the All Saints Church suicide blasts were no less than extremely horrific cases of terrorism, the TTP has been keen to point out the role of foreigners in the attacks.
And this is where the government needs to step in and ensure all security forces are held accountable for the presence of foreign elements, western and regional, and also control the flow of funds and arms for they are all detrimental to any form of stability in the country.
For if the TTP asks for a ceasefire, which involves withdrawing the military, and yet random terrorist attacks continue to take place, then it is the State's responsibility to act against such elements using the assistance of the military regardless of the whether the TTP are present or not.
And that can mean attacking the TTP as a form of retaliation - which of course becomes a vicious cycle since revenge is something that the TTP thrives upon.
So how does one deal with such a volatile situation? Despite having a majority, the government seems to appear the weaker one of the two, with the TTP calling the shots and making demands.
If talks are to take place and a war to be avoided, then the PM must remain strong and effective to act in the interest of the state and its citizens.
This requires him to keep well informed, heed information and resist any form of self-deception about the strategies concerning the TTP. And this is where the problem lies.
Does the government know enough about the issues surrounding the TTP and those who influence them or mimic them?
There is no denying the role of Saudi clerics and Afghan militants in the terrorist acts as a means of ensuring peace does not prevail. So would it not make sense that if the government at least ensures the environment within which the talks are to take place are cleansed of elements that threaten to destabilise any form of progress?
Supporters of war point to the experience in Swat as a prime example of where talks have failed. In Swat, those talks took place between the militants and the Pakistan military. This time, despite attacks on high profile individuals in the military, the Pakistan army has not taken any action nor has the government ordered it too.
If anything, total dedication to the offensive must not take precedent before conducting talks and for that the government must be in a position of strength by investing in intelligence agencies and police forces who will be ensured with the task of providing information and controlling security so that any preconceived notions are not the only ones deciding the fate of how the TTP is dealt with.
War does not hold the solution. And why should the civilian government invest all skills and resources in fighting against the TTP to ensure armed superiority - (even though there is no guarantee that will last because of lack of control over foreign influence) - and not in a constructive national security system that can support the anti-terrorism strategy?
The TTP offer a future that has no fixed purpose, no constructive basis except to create chaos, confusion and utter discontent only to offer Sharia as the sole solution to all problems.
The Pakistan government must not fall into the same line of thought and instead provide an alternative where it proves that objectives can be achieved and won by adjustment and constructive actions. Just like Malala.