Operation Rah e Nijat (path to deliverance in Urdu) is the latest attempt of Pakistan army to inflict a final blow upon the Tehrik i Taliban in Pakistan, the group which has terrorized Pakistan. The buildup for this operation started when the Pakistan army recovered the Swat Valley area from the Taliban militants back in June 2009. On 19th of June Pak army started the gathering of forces on the border of South Waziristan. After three months of blockade and minor skirmishes with the Taliban eventually the army launched a full scale ground assault on the 19th of October 2009. The Pakistan army has a total of 28000 troops and 500 special commandos on their side while the Taliban have 10 to 15,000 troops and 1500 foreign fighters. The fighting is intense and arduous and each day brings reports of the Pakistan army inching forward another few steps deep into a very difficult and dangerous terrain.
Ahsan Waheed at Pakistanpal gives credence to the difficult terrains of South Waziristan:
We could see in the distance the regions where al-Qaeda has taken refuge. It’s an almost lunar landscape of dry, trackless peaks with a sparse stubble of trees along the ridges. If you were looking for a place to hide, so rugged and inhospitable that outsiders would tremble at entering, Waziristan would be it. In the days of the Raj, maps of Waziristan were mostly blank; even the intrepid British explorers usually stayed away.
Great Satans Girlfriend gives importance to mobilizing the masses for this operation:
“The death of hope must never be allowed to cast its shadow, and that will only be prevented if the state pools all its resources to energize the masses against terrorism.”
My take though is that there is too much at stake in Waziristan. Principally, TTP cadres may be able to trickle into settled areas to avoid a traumatic fate or to live for another day … but that luxury is not available to their “guests”. The Uzbeks, Chechens and Arabs etc will have to fight it out because if they are caught, they’ll be sent home on the first available flight and in a country like Uzbekistan, they’ll be sent straight to a firing squad.
Mustufa Qadri at Newmatilda feels that Pakistan is impossible to defend against militants:
The inconvenient truths of this narrative make for sobering reading. A spate of terrorist attacks in Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar have reminded us that while it is very difficult to protect every square inch of a country beset by an insurgency, it is next to impossible to do so in Pakistan, where disposable young men with explosives strapped to their chest are all too readily recruited.
The above statement is all too true as fallout from operation Rahe-e-Nijat has been direct counterattacks on civil society aka suicide bombing as well as the spread of fear and panic in the whole country. This lead to the closure of all education institutes and putting in place heightened security all over the streets of this country. We wake up daily to reports of not just war on the Waziristan front but shocking details of how it is being fought out on our very streets as well.
Brig (r) Junaid Zaman at “Pakistan Spectator” writes about the futility of closing schools in Pakistan:
We need not to panic and we need not to make our children coward and fearful. We need to talk to our girls and boys, let them know about the threat, ask them to keep vigil, make them understand the danger our country is in and about the menace of terrorism. Make them strong and bold and make them learn to live in the tough times. When they will emerge from these times, they will be far ahead to face the life as compared to other kids of this world.
On Taragana Zarrar khan speaks of a part of public perception that blames other players for these attacks on civilians:
Many students did not accept that militants were responsible for the attack and instead blamed shadowy forces out to discredit Islam or weaken Pakistan — variations of conspiracy theories that are often heard here after bombings.
Glenda at Berry picker reflects on the will of a society still carrying on in spite of the terror citing an example from a concert in Islamabad:
They didn't have to stop Thursday night. For at least one hour, Arieb Azhar and his band of four asserted the power of music's universality, diversity and tolerance in a city that only four days before had once again felt the power of terror to subdue the human will to fight for what is true and beautiful in life.
Bilquis puts it all in perspective at CHUP (Changing Up Pakistan):
Many scholars and politicians, particularly Imran Khan, have argued that the people in these areas have lived in traditionally lawless societies for centuries. Given this ground reality, they say, we must respect their traditions and work within this context. I disagree. As T.S Elliot aptly noted, “A tradition without intelligence is not worth having.” These traditions ignore issues that have allowed a zealous ideology to mushroom all across Pakistan, especially in rural Punjab. Take the the young girl who was flogged by the Taliban in Swat, for example. Do we want these traditions? Do we want men/women/girls being bartered to resolve disputes? Do we want our people to see a continuously distorted narrow vision of what the world is? I certainly don’t.
So here we are, hopeful but terror stricken, our schools closed and our future uncertain but we will not give up. We have to fight not just the menace on the ground with our army but the silent infestation of the Taliban ideology among our societies. I just hope the world is behind us, because if we fail its your turn next.