Will Counterterrorism Operations Succeed Without A Change In Afghanistan Policy? | News Analysis

Will Counterterrorism Operations Succeed Without A Change In Afghanistan Policy? | News Analysis

A day after the deadly suicide bombing in a Peshawar mosque claimed 100 lives, defence minister Khawaja Asif hinted at an operation against terrorism while addressing a session of the National Assembly on 31 January. He stressed on the need for a national consensus to end terrorism.

In a chain of events the same day, President Arif Alvi summoned a joint session of the parliament on 8 February, and at the 255th Corps Commanders’ Conference at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi presided over by COAS General Syed Asim Munir, the army top brass vowed to bring the perpetrators responsible for the suicide attack to exemplary justice.

It has taken 100 deaths for the state to promise, once again in a span of a few weeks, to "resolutely" fight the menace of terrorism. It took 150 deaths in the APS attack in 2014 for the state to initiate the National Action Plan to root out terrorism. Before the APS attack, and after Karachi’s Jinnah airport attack, we saw the Zarb-e-Azb operation take shape, and three years later, the Radd-ul-Fasaad operation followed in 2017 – with the same promise to “eliminate discord”. It’s time the promise is implemented, for nothing else will do this time.

Reacting to the defence minister's calls for a national consensus to kick off anti-terror operation, Manzoor Pashteen, head of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), said on Twitter:

“The baffling tale of minting dollars: Get some people to carryout bombings to get foreign aid in the name of operation, and domestic power, and usurping of Pashtun's resources. The resultant: islands and Papa Jones for them, and a destroyed country, orphans, widows, blood, and tears for us. This is the result of the 20 years of operations.”


But now, defence minister is acknowledging that Pakistan needs to put the house in order. Does the state have a plan to fight the new surge in terrorism? Does it have all stakeholders onboard? Is the cash strapped government seriously willing to spend on another operation to fight terrorism? According to Maria Saifuddin Effendi, the Zarb-e-Azb military operation in North Waziristan Agency against militants cost $1.9 billion.

Commenting on Naya Daur’s programme Khabar Sey Aagay, columnist Muzamal Suharwardy said that a national consensus has been developed for an operation against terrorists, and the National Assembly is also expected to pass a resolution to that effect.

Analysts participating in the programme recalled Interior Minister Rana Sanullah’s statement issued after a recent National Security Committee (NSC) meeting, that Pakistan wanted the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to surrender, and efforts were underway to bring the militant group to the negotiating table. Murtaza Solangi said that the military could eliminate terrorists, but not terrorism. To do so, he stressed, “we need a combined role of police, intelligence agencies, and people”.

Pashtun leaders have been warning the state about the return of militants in their area and have campaigned for local people’s rights to life. Khushal Khan, a member of the National Democratic Movement (NDM), said on Twitter that Pashtun nationalist parties stand against terrorism. “They are adamant to struggle against terrorism. Not doing anything is not a solution for us. We get killed for doing something for peace. We get killed for doing nothing for peace as well. So, why not do something to fight terrorism.”

Analysts agree that a change in the country’s Afghan policy is necessary to begin eliminating terrorism. In the quest for strategic depth in Afghanistan, Pakistan has compromised on its own strategic depth, according to Mohsin Dawar, MNA from North Waziristan and NDM Central Chairman. “After the Afghanistan takeover, in negotiations with the Haqqani Network and TTP, assurances were given to them that the FATA merger would be undone. The narrative build here was that they would lay down their arms and they would follow the law,” reported Aaj News.

“I see this as an Afghanistan action replay,” he added.