Kiran Omar


The Pakistan military’s campaign against the Taliban gave people a much needed respite. However, the Taliban are still considered by a substantial section of the population as fighters against foreign interference. The US drone attacks generate public anger against the US and the Pakistani civilian regime. The government’s inability to win public support has made Pakistan a nation of nebulous and uncertain identity.


The Pakistan Army’s military campaign to flush out the Taliban and their supporters in the Northern valley of Swat, succeeded in forcing them to flee, disperse and temporarily fragment. The death of some top leaders like Baitullah Mehsud, resulted in weakening and destabilizing the organisation, and confusion and uncertainty prevailed, underpinned by internal power struggles. A brief period of uneasy peace followed, giving people a much needed respite from the almost daily bomb threats, suicide bombings, school burnings and other violent assaults on public security and peace.


However the hiatus was a short-lived fragile thing, abruptly ending with the commencement of military action against the Taliban in South Waziristan. An upsurge in violent suicide bombings, militant attacks and pitched battles in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Peshawar, coincided with this new military campaign including the fatal bombing of the Islamic University in Islamabad. The suicide bombing of the Islamic University is intriguing since the Taliban claim to be fighting to establish  proper Islamic governance and state in Pakistan, yet they chose to bomb the very symbol of Islamic teachings and thought.


In all this mayhem, senseless destruction and loss of precious lives what seems curiously missing is vocal and vociferous public outrage against the Taliban and their ilk. The mainstream Pakistani media appears subdued and hesitant and almost reluctant to clearly name the perpetrators of these vicious acts of violence. Public opinion is deeply divided on firmly placing the onus on the Taliban, who are still regarded in many quarters as waging a war against foreign interference and seek to establish a “Muslim” way of life as they interpret it.


The constant and relentless US drone attacks that inflict heavy collateral damage of civilian life and property does not help in drumming up strong support against the Taliban, in fact it fuels the festering hatred and anger against the US policies of interference and blatant use of Pakistani airspace, flaunting the nation’s sovereignty and independence. Indeed, to many, and rightly so, it appears that the State has abdicated its authority and right to manage the defence policies of the country, and has subjugated them to fall in line with US aspirations and objectives in the region. Indeed during her recent whirlwind tour of South Asia, including a brief stop in Pakistan, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton strongly hinted that “more” needed to be done to contain the Taliban and their insurgencies, and that the war against Al Qaida and the Taliban remained high on the US list of priorities in the Region. A war that is increasingly being viewed by most mainstream Pakistanis as a foreign war being waged on their soil, taking a heavy toll of Pakistani, not American,  civilian and military lives.


The US looks towards the leadership to provide the political and practical cooperation in waging this war. A leadership that is increasingly put on the defensive and pressured into according even greater concessions such as the continued Drone operations and logistical positioning of US army and intelligence personal within the country. The Zardari/Gilani leadership, left with dwindling options, regularly expresses its “outrage” and “deplores the heinous acts of terror” in the media, however sincere resolve and determination to route out the perpetrators is missing, as there is a serious disconnect between the policies of the government and public opinion.


The government’s inability to engage positively, the public in debate and dialogue, to enlist public opinion towards cohesive action against these non-state actors waging their relentless war of terror, is clearly undermining its capability and resolve to extend the necessary security assurances that is expected from them. At this time there is a critical need for involving the public to take a unified stand against the Taliban forces, both external and within. Taking the public into confidence and being perceived as proactive in their efforts to stem the terrorist menace, would go a long way towards restoring the credibility of the Zardari/Gilani government. The prevailing apathy and apparent near paralysis has embittered an already embattled and wearied nation, struggling with coping with harsh economic realities and escalating violence.


The country needs to acknowledge the reality of home-grown terrorist organisations that are steadily gaining ground in Punjab. It needs to accept that myriad conspiracy theories of “foreign hands” do little to mask the indigenous nature of militant groups that are being created due to deep seated inequities that desperately need to be redressed. It needs to acknowledge the need to clarify issues of national identity, the lack of which creates confusion and imbalance.


Is Pakistan to remain a nation of nebulous and uncertain identity, torn apart by sectarian and religious strife? Or will it take its place in the community of nations striving to improve the future of their people and redress their problems with justice and impartiality, and place itself on the path of economic advancement and creating a just society. These questions and more should form the agenda of any leadership that hopes to pull back the country from the abyss of self-annihilation and implosion.

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