Analysis: Time to retaliate with full force

A man cries over the death of his relative, who was killed in a bomb blast, at a hospital in Peshawar September 29, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

A man cries over the death of his relative, who was killed in a bomb blast, at a hospital in Peshawar September 29, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: The terrorists have struck again. The blast in Kissa Khawani bazaar is the third major terrorist attack in the last week. Should the current trend continue and our government remains as indecisive, wavering and hesitant, we may see many more innocent lives lost at the hands of these terrorists.

There are only two real alternatives to the war that we fight against terror, both of which are unpleasant. Negotiate with these terrorists, who continue to murder innocents and refuse to renounce violence, or wage an all-out war against them.

Talking peace with the Taliban has taken us nowhere. All serious security analyses validate the bankruptcy of negotiating peace with Taliban as the favoured option of our state. The benchmark for those against peace talks with the Taliban is the failure of several such efforts in the past. Those still optimistic about negotiations should look at the seriousness with which these terrorists have responded to the government’s desire for peace from an all-encompassing political front – the all parties conference.

As far as waging an all-out war against the terrorists is concerned, our security establishment seems to consider it as an irresponsible choice, which entails killing our own countrymen. But are these terrorists not taking lives of innocent people, our own people on a daily basis? Where is the state response? Why is the state so reluctant to make a choice? Is it the cost and fear of implementing a high risk political and military strategy that ties our hands?

It’s time we stopped appeasing and misguiding the people of this country by our procrastinated acts of policy formulation. It’s time for policy implementation. If there was any seriousness in our approach to the national security, our anti-terrorism policy should have been on the table by now, jumpstarting the state’s response against the murderers of our people.

The army may also exercise restraint to a point. It cannot wait eternally for the democratically elected government to seek a ‘responsible end’ to this war. Although the army has pursued peace talks in the past, it realises now that this policy has failed.

The army understands that the Taliban and its many factions don’t understand the language of peace. It has for long believed that these ideological crusaders, emboldened by the reluctance of our political leadership to own this war, have in their minds the grand design of state control.

The fact that the Taliban remain resurgent, that the army has suffered huge losses in this war and that it cannot pull out its troops deployed on the western frontier means that there can only be one responsible end to this war and that is taking the war to the militants. The army knows that history will eventually judge it not for how it practised neutrality as democracy took root in the country but for how it fought when national security was threatened. The onus of responsibility on the army becomes ever enlarged when it knows that the tragedy that this nation suffers has got everything to do with the blatant mistakes committed by its own military leaders in the past.

The army’s current strategy for fighting terrorists is to keep hardening their targets while they select new soft ones. A decade of disjointed civil-military effort has only allowed terrorists to hammer us at will at times and places of their choosing. It is almost as if they are sure that the state would do nothing beyond fighting this as a defensive war.

Our preventive measures, no matter how secure, will never stop the determined terrorists. There are too many targets and there is too less money to harden all of them. Mosques, churches, hotels, schools, military establishments – we have tried to safely protect all of them. Yet the terrorists keep shifting to new targets.

We need to make a choice and make it now. Terrorists must be deterred through the fear of state retaliation and punishment.

Source: The Express Tribune

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