The domestic and regional landscapes hold promise of a healthy change
RAWALPINDI: The US might have been right with its ‘do more’ mantra, but Pakistan’s hesitations were also rational. A US delegation once called on then Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governor Owais Ghani and told him, “Governor, you are not playing straight.” Ghani replied, “Are you?” They had no answer. General (retd) Pervez Musharraf threw his lot in with the US in its war on terror. His U-turn and precipitous offensive in Waziristan infuriated the Taliban, and some, but not all, turned against Pakistan.
Initially, the allies’ offensive met with success, but before it got tough, the US cultivated its own faction of friendly Taliban. Funds poured in for the Taliban from friends and foes alike, all using them to advance their own agendas. At the same time, terror atrocities in Pakistan began to assume alarming proportions. The global war on terror was turned into Pakistan’s war on terror. The Americans’ newfound love for India played the role of spoiler. RAW’s outposts in Kandahar, Jalalabad and elsewhere started fomenting trouble in Pakistan. That should have served as a warning to General Musharraf, but duplicity became diplomacy.
General Ali Jan Aurakzai, as K-P governor, saw dialogue as the only answer to the problem. He felt confident that he would be able to convert the Americans and Afghans to his point of view. His soft corner for the Taliban helped them to emerge as much stronger during his governorship. The military stayed in Waziristan and Swat, sustaining continued casualties in the absence of firm orders and rules of engagement. General Musharraf’s lassitude and General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s ambivalence impacted the military’s morale. Despite this background, when the operations in Swat and South Waziristan were launched, the military responded with its traditional zeal. General Kayani can claim credit for those operations but that is where he ran out of steam. His passive appraisal of extending operations to North Waziristan could not have spurred any civilian leadership into action.
Then came General Raheel Sharif. An underdog that he was, he must have watched the military’s policy and operations from the fence, the best place for a cool-headed appreciation and rational deduction. He took over with a clear mind. Nothing could deter him from his resolve. His sincerity and forthrightness impressed the Americans. Now the Americans, Afghans, the Pakistani nation, the political elite and the international community at large seem to have all put their money on him. The Peshawar mayhem shook the nation and reinvigorated an already committed Raheel Sharif. The domestic and regional landscapes hold promise of a healthy change. The narrative of the antagonists of the military now sounds shallow and toothless. India will have to revise its propaganda themes as well because its past mantra is failing badly. General Raheel is changing the game.
Major General (retd) Askari Raza Malik
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2015.
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