Winning the War on Terror
For a military Commander there is, perhaps, no better platform to share his wisdom, concerns and anguish than the podium of his Alma Mater and no better audience to express his vision than the impressionable young officers waiting in the wings to march out as commissioned officers. When General Kayani addressed the gathering of young cadets at the Pakistan Military Kakul, on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Independence one could feel the weighty challenges leaning upon the seasoned General.
The loneliness that a soldier on the pinnacle of the chain of command must feel where his under command rank and file are engaged in the entrenched fight against terror, regularly embracing Shahadat in service of their nation, was only too evident. The prognosis was objectively realistic and the pointers to the future were pragmatic and practical. It was an address that candidly explained the obtaining grave situation and called upon the young cadets to gird up their loins for the challenges that awaited them within a short span of time as and when they left gates of the hallowed PMA behind them to enter the realm of practical soldiering.
The address’ message, went beyond the gathering of lithe and smartly turned out gentlemen cadets; manifestly taking into its reach a larger circle of audiences – at home and abroad as well. In a typically direct and soldier like manner the speech summed up the situation succinctly. The loud and clear message was that the mess, which the country found itself mired into, was primarily a sum total of our own making and we alone bore the responsibility of cleaning it up notwithstanding that outside forces were taking advantage of the emerged fault lines and whetting their own subversive ends. Whatever foreign linkages it bore, the war on terror had drawn Pakistan into a situation where a national response - not only a military campaign - was needed to take the threat by the horns. He also explained the difficulties of launching military operations against own people where surgical operations by the military needed to be inevitably followed by a campaign to win hearts and minds of the local population to wean them away from the chimeras surrected by extremists and terrorists. In nutshell the civilian set up – both at political and administrative levels must come forward to take overall charge of the campaign if the war against terrorism has to be won. The message was of reassurance, calm resolve and hope asserting that the Nation must gird up its loins to face the challenge that was threatening it to tear it asunder.
This was a remarkable and pragmatic assessment of the situation, hardly providing any room for disagreement but there started a campaign in sections of media which suggested that the speech was a precursor for launching of the Army Operation in NWA, for which the US civil and military leadership had been insisting for quite some time. The US Defense Secretary also gave a fillip to such a speculative onslaught by saying that Pakistan stood committed to launching of the NWA operation. The categorical assertion by the Army Chief of the need to fight extremism and terrorism tooth and nail as gravest of threats posed to the security of Pakistan was construed by a few as bowing to the external demands by launching an operation in NWA under compulsion. A small minority of poison pens even chose the pretext to indulge in to targeting the Army Chief by raising malicious issues bearing no relevance to the PMA address and indulging in a smear attack with obvious linkages and backing by vested interests. In war or in peace the Army looks to its Chief for inspiration and guidance and such uncalled for slandering insinuations were barely concealed attacks on the institution of the Army itself, stretched full in its fight against terrorism, and nations bulwark against the overbearing threat posed by terrorism.
With entire country bleeding from wounds inflicted by acts of terrorism it is hard to rationalize how could any one interpret action against terrorists motivated by subservience to foreign interests. The war on terror is our own because extremists and terrorists are hell bent upon usurping soul of the Nation in the name of Islam. It is our war because our children , families, soldiers, politicians and entire society without exception is bearing the brunt of this brutal no holds barred bloody onslaught. Schools, mosques, shrines, bus stands, bazaars are all fair game for the terrorists who hold the Nation ransom whenever their strong holds are in threat. It is blood of soldiers and civilians of the Pakistani Nation that is being spilled by the extremist-terrorist nexus; how could this blood be traded for serving foreign interests and diktat, is simply incomprehensible. Pakistan Army is the only institution that stands in between this pestilence and the peace loving people and is hence terrorists’ primary target. Agreed that this war was not started by the Nation and is fallout of the US gung-ho tactics in Afghanistan and FATA yet this now faces us squarely in the face and we have to tackle this threat head on if we wish to live the life envisaged for us by our fore fathers.
The NWA has veritably become a network of terrorist strong holds from where the attacks are being planned and launched into country’s hinterland. Pakistan Army has already undertaken operations to neutralize some of the most vicious of these terror nodes yet the need a major search and destroy operation is lurking around the corner. Even as the NWA operation, if and when undertaken, is dictated by purely indigenous considerations, has become the rallying point of Pakistan’s detractors at home and abroad. If its operational necessity is being insisted upon by the US at all levels of political and military leadership, then it is coincidental without overriding national priorities. The decision to launch operations into NWA will be taken by the Government of Pakistan and not Army alone and after evolving a national consensus. The interpretation of General Kayani’s address at Kakul by some writers as an indication of an imminent change in Pakistan Army’s strategy in the war on terror, at behest of the US, is plainly out of touch with reality and possibly driven by motives to appease vested interests. The large scale infusion of funds among certain media quarters may not, after all , be a thesis far fetched from reality.