Saturday, April 25, 2009

As the Army watches -Mardan, Swabi, Haripur are Infiltrated by the Taliban !

(Click on the map to increase size)

Grapewine has it that Nawaz Sharif is willing to play ball with the US State Department. Zardari's graph has gone down hill after the Swat Peace deal. Mid-term elections might be held after the situation subsides. Secret meetings were held in Dubai between Hillary's aides and Zardari on the luke warm response on the Taliban take over of 4 districts and Swat peace deal. Army Chief Kiyani had a meeting on USS Abraham in the Arabian Sea with US Army General Patrias. Core Commanders are on board. A sigh of relief for Pakistan - the much awaited anti-Taliban operation is about to begin.

Army is waiting for a consensus of the political parties before it starts a military operation. This is a first for the Army to wait for the civilian 'go-ahead'. The political parties except the (Secular) MQM took their time to get on board for a consensus on an anti-Taliban operation. It was not till the (Ultra Right)JI started to harp on the tune and called the Sufi's in Swat 'Kafirs'. (Secular) PPP waited for (Center Right) PML-N to say 'yes'. Nawaz Sharif finally showed his concern in an interview with a foreign newspaper.
PPP's delayed move is very calculated as it does not want to run ANP out of the coalition in NWFP. But (Secular-Left) ANP has given a tactical yes to the operation. Casualties will be high and ANP's reluctance to the operation is obvious.

Tarbela Dam and KKH are at an arms length from the Talibans reach ! Tarbela dam touches Shangla and KKH starts at Mansehra. The 8 lane Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway is not too far.

More Districts fall to Taliban !

WITH districts around Swat seemingly falling like ninepins, the state has been shockingly ambivalent about it plans to restore its writ in northern Pakistan. But yesterday it appeared that the Pakistan Army has finally awoken from its slumber. The message from the chief himself, Gen Kayani: the militants will not be allowed to run amok and order will be restored. So far the army’s wait-and-watch policy in Malakand division has had dangerous consequences. Buner is now in the militants’ hands and IDPs are pouring into neighbouring districts, especially Swabi, Mardan and Haripur. Meanwhile, Shangla has been penetrated by the militants and Swabi and Mardan are the next likely targets. Shrewdly taking advantage of the cessation in hostilities in the valley, militants from Swat fanned out into neighbouring areas, expanding the theatre in which they will have to be taken on and ensuring that an even messier fight lies ahead.

Why has the army waited? It claims the ‘operational pause’ was meant to give a chance to the forces of reconciliation and not as a concession to the militants. Now that the army has sensed the panic among the people and seen the militants’ determination to expand their territorial control, it has pledged to achieve ‘victory’ against terrorism and militancy ‘at all costs.’ We hope this resolve will not melt in the days ahead. But two points regarding the overall war against militancy need to be flagged. One, the army has been particularly agitated by the recent spate of foreign comments that Pakistan is on the verge of collapse and that the army is unwilling or unable to defeat militancy. Gen Kayani’s forceful statement that the army ‘never has and never will hesitate to sacrifice, whatever it may take, to ensure [the] safety and well-being’ of Pakistan’s people and its territorial integrity should be noted in foreign capitals. Whatever the suspicions, the Pakistan Army is an indispensable element in any successful strategy against militancy in Pakistan and the region generally, and riling the army high command to score a few public points cannot be part of a sound strategy.

The second point concerns the political component here in Pakistan. While the Pakistan Army isn’t under the full control of the civilians, it has made it clear that it will only fight when there is a political consensus for it to do so. Thus far the politicians have been woefully divided; whether the dissenters blame America as the root cause of militancy or harp on about fuzzy ideas of dialogue, they have not been able to unite on the need to take on the militants militarily. That discord may finally be changing. The PML-N, the PML-Q and the religious parties have voiced concerns about militants on the march, while the MQM has come out as the foremost critic of the peace deal in Swat. It is not clear yet whether they will support the military option, but the army cannot fail to note that the politicians are at last beginning to agree on the seriousness of the threat of militancy.