United we stand! 

Gen Raheel SharifBy Qudsia Farhat 

A nation in a state of war, must muster all its resources to combat the enemy effectively. Victory can be ensured through preparedness and unity of its people. One of the aims of the adversary is to divide its opponent and destabilize it so that it can achieve its odious aims through treachery, deceit and guile. Pakistan has been engaged in a war on terror since 9/11, when New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon building in Washington DC were struck, US forces retaliated with full might and the government of Pakistan decided to ally itself with the US in its invasion of Afghanistan. The fallout on Pakistan resulted in an outbreak of terror attacks but the nation appeared divided in combating the menace since some people did not consider it Pakistan’s war. Thirteen years down the line and having lost over fifty thousand people, there is no doubt whose war is it. After successful operations against the miscreants in Swat and Southern Waziristan in 2009, Pakistan was being pressurized to launch an operation against the terrorists hiding in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) but executing terror attacks with impunity on both sides of the Durand Line. The government of Pakistan resisted launching a full fledged operation in NWA as the Pakistan military was already overstretched in the other two theatres of war, while the eastern front was also active.

The election of the new government in Pakistan in 2013 saw concerted efforts to draw the miscreants to the negotiation table to convince them to cease their terror attacks and hostile activities. Unfortunately, the miscreants were not serious in discontinuing their assaults and were only looking to gain time. The respite, however, allowed the government the opportunity to reach out to the US, UK and other NATO members to present its case for both peace and military operation. Mian Nawaz Sharif’s outreach to his new counterpart in India also brings to fore the possibility of India desisting the temptation of accelerating hostilities against Pakistan, taking advantage of its engagements on the western front.

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Having secured its flanks, the government decided to launch a military operation against militants in NWA, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took the nation into confidence through the parliament asserting that Pakistan will not be allowed to become a safe haven for terrorists. The PM asserted that military operation will continue till the achievement of its ultimate objectives. Earlier on Pakistan Army through the ISPR Directorate informed that operation in NWA has been launched as sanctioned by the Government. The COAS General Raheel Sharif while addressing the participants of the National Defence University declared that operation Zarb-e-Azb has been launched with the objectives of rooting out terrorists, eliminate their sanctuaries in NWA and rid the country of terrorism. This nails the lie being propagated by naysayers that the Government and Army were not on the same page in tackling with militancy.

The media, all political parties apart from JI and JUI (F), civil society and all segments of society fully supported the Government’s decision to launch military operation in NWA to eliminate the menace of terrorism. Unfortunately certain political parties and religious groups in pursuance of their individual political agenda appear to have lost sight of collective national goals of eliminating the scourge of terrorism.

It needs to be understood that a major effort and broad based operation has been launched to smash the terrorists’ safe havens in NWA and flush out all militants from Pakistani soil. This envisages provision of consummating public support, backing by political parties, media and civil society. The Government has to maintain its resolve to eliminate terrorism using assorted counter terrorism strategy whereas politicians must maintain order by postponing rallies, train marches, relegating politics of protest and deferring party programs to hold political meetings.

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At the commencement of the government sanctioned military operation Zarb-e-Azb, the violent brawls between Punjab Police and members of Pakistan Awami Tehreek in Lahore leading to live firing and killing innocent people including women is absolutely deplorable and inappropriate. The newly created bonhomie and camaraderie between the government and opposition dissipated in the Lahore Model Town bloody carnage. Good sense must prevail and the need of the hour is to remain peaceful and rally support to the Government to meet the onslaught of the miscreants head on. Conflict, chaos and disunity amongst us will only further the enemy’s plan to cause disarray and ruin our chances of success against the hostile forces inimical to Pakistan.

The military, the media, the people and political forces must remain united and if the opposition has any plans to dislodge the current political dispensation in the corridors of power, it should shelve it till the demon of terrorism has been slain.

Media is the lynchpin in this effort. Relegating its own biases for or against the government, the media has to play a mature role of cementing the bonds between the political parties and the people, ensuring that focus remains on combating the common enemy of terrorism. The battle to eliminate terrorism is not a conventional conflict. Neither the battle line is clearly demarcated, nor is the enemy distinctly identified. The enemy has infiltrated our homes and hearth, taking the garb of innocent civilians. He dwells amidst us, waiting for a chance to pounce on us when the opportunity arises. The media has to urge the people to maintain vigilance, identify the infiltrators and expose their visage to the law enforcing agencies. If the people of Pakistan unite and depict cohesiveness to become a solid edifice to combat terror, then the ten headed Hydra of terrorism can be defeated.

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An aftermath of Operation Zarb-e-Azb is the IDPs, who must be accommodated and those trapped in war zone be rescued by bringing them to safe areas. Government must reach out to the people of NWA with a sense of compassion.

The nation must remain cohesive as the military operation continues against terrorists in NWA for our very survival is at stake. United we stand, divided we fall!

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