By Yasmeen Ali

A tribal Jirga in session North Waziristan

There is no question that terrorism must be curbed. A fact bought sharply in focus, by the Faisal Shahzad case. There is tremendous pressure on Pakistan by USA to have it’s army initiate a ground offensive against the terrorists in North Waziristan. The questions this demand raises are many. They must be weighed carefully before jumping head on in yet another front.

North Waziristan is a place where al-Qaida and its Afghan and Pakistani allies can train fighters, store explosives and rest from the strain of war. Much of North Waziristan is a wasteland dotted with small clusters of sun-baked mud houses that seem to blend into the dusty brown landscape. Outside the towns, there are few signs of modern life __ no power lines or telephone poles.

Pakistan’s forces are already overstretched, battling against Taliban against thousands of stretches of land. Can they afford to open a new front without first clearing out what they started earlier? Thousands of Pakistani soldiers have already been killed in this War against Terrorism. “Collateral damage” of civilians owing to drone strikes has anti American sentiments on the rise.

The second question that needs to be answered is, will the offensive ensure the curbing an end to terrorism? In the recent past, we have seen, the offensive in FATA and NWFP led to a spillover effect in South Waziristan and then Punjab. Now, it is North Waziristan. Will the terrorists sit like a lame duck to be shot at or will they seek refuge elsewhere and regroup? Will this be the end or the beginning to yet another spillover?

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Another most crucial consideration must be the cost of the war. Can we afford the war in a case where the payments in terms of help under the Kerry Lugar Bill are delayed? Overdue payments amounting to millions of US dollars is expected to reach Pakistan in September.

And then there is the question of a minor thing known as “Principle”.

Do we attack when told to attack, by an alien power, or does the Pakistan Government has a right in terms of evaluating the ground realities and then taking a decision in light of this. It is a fact that we, know our geography and people better than do the Americans.

Yes the terrorists pose a threat to life, livelihood of the people of Pakistan, they do pose a threat to the integrity of Pakistan and the standing of the country in the international comity of nations. However, we cannot and must not ignore the ground realities. Without good intelligence on ground, an in-house offensive is bound to meet with less than success.

The West needs to get out of ad hominem that since Faisal Shahzad purportedly received training in North Waziristan to try carry out an attack at Times Square, the whole of North Waziristan is swarming with terrorists. The Muslim world is not attacking the USA. It’s the 400 years of West’s colonisations of the Muslim world and now the thrusting of foreign Jews on top of Palestinians and various invasion, occupations and threats invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan that are the causal factors.

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Unfortunately, these situations have nonetheless unleashed a genie that threatens to devour all.

It took Sri Lanka 26 years to handle and curb terrorism. Nations must realize that Pakistan is not fighting a normal war. Pakistan is not fighting an alien aggressor. Pakistan is fighting pockets of people hidden within, a war thrust upon us with a brute force and cunning deceit. More or less Pakistan has a faceless enemy within it’s folds. It is this that makes the need for good intelligence great.

Wars like these are long drawn out wars. Events cannot be rushed through to suit some. Nations need to understand the nature of the conflict. Every step must be weighed carefully. Let us not forget, it is the Pakistani People who are paying the heaviest price.

The writer is a lawyer and teaches at Beacon House National University Lahore. She also owns and operates her own blogs. Yasmeen Ali is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.