Dec 14, 2009

The surge might scorch us

By Tasneem Noorani

While the surge in American troops in Afghanistan has yet to happen, the expected rise in terrorism within Pakistan is already happening. The ferocity, ingenuity and the geographical spread of the onslaught does not match the known organisational capabilities of the Waziristan insurgents.

So who is doing this? For starters, the targeting of children in the Park Lane massacre (Rawalpindi) makes it look like the work of affectees of the collateral damage of air force and artillery bombardment. This is despite the fact that press reports suggest that the collateral human damage in the Waziristan operation is minimal, as the people there got an opportunity to move to safer places. The targeting of ordinary people, with special intent to kill women and children, in Moon Market (Lahore) and Meena Bazaar (Peshawar), seems to indicate a tit-for-tat situation.

Law-enforcement agencies appear helpless, despite great diligence and sacrifices being made by them. The two main reasons for this helplessness are their inability to investigate each case to its logical conclusion in order to get the bigger picture and the massive intelligence failure. There seem to be no reports of intelligence penetration into the groups involved. This failure continues despite the best efforts of the intelligence agencies probably because there is no real-time information sharing forum. The access of civil law-enforcement agencies to sophisticated intelligence hardware continues to be limited, despite the reality that this is a war for our survival, where the element of mistrust among state organisations should take a back seat.

Now who could be doing this? The Afghan Taliban have never said a word against Pakistan. They may not have condemned the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but have never openly supported them either; although given the scenario there should be no love lost between them and Pakistan. If the Afghan Taliban were supporting TTP, what is stopping them from going public about it? Rumours regarding Blackwater mercenaries refuse to die down, despite unequivocal denials by the US embassy and the interior minister. One has seen press reports of Americans loitering around in Peshawar freely, though one finds it difficult to believe them. Reports like the recent disclosure by General (r) Shahid Siddiqui that even the corp commanders were not taken into confidence with regard to giving bases to the US, make it that much difficult to believe that reports of Americans getting a wave through at immigration counters are incorrect.

The Indian hand is repeatedly mentioned in the responses of our VIPs. Sadly, so far no concrete proof has been released for public consumption. Why are we so helpless? Why is it that months after this terrorist onslaught, we have still not been able to link the crime to the masterminds ? Why is it that we have not been able to bring to fore substantial evidence against India?

President Obama has deliberated on his Afghan policy long and hard and finally decided that he want to leave Afghanistan. Now the 30,000 extra troops will raise the temperature in the war theatre and there is no way the heat will not affect Pakistan. As a matter of fact, I shudder to think of the impact the American surge will have on us, considering that just its announcement has resulted in mayhem all over the country.

The Americans have been asking us to do more against the Taliban, who are shielding Al Qaeda. But now Mr Karzai wants to talk to the Taliban; the Americans want their allies like the Saudis to open dialogue with the Taliban. So where does that leave Pakistan?.

In all this geopolitical gimmickry, the brave officers of our army, the police and the common man are all being mowed down. We need to acknowledge the sacrifices of the armed forces and police. We need to do whatever is necessary to boost their morale. The media can help, but it is the role of the leadership to keep their spirits up. Unfortunately, our leaders are nowhere to be seen. We are in for the long haul and better conserve our morale and our nerves if we don't want to be overwhelmed.

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