Thursday, January 22, 2009 (The News)
At least 60 militants are said to have died within the last 24 hours in Mohmand Agency, as troops continue operations intended to regain control over the tribal territory. In stepped up action, jetfighters and gunship helicopters have pounded what are believed to be militant strongholds. As a result of the action, two civilians have been among those killed. Villages have also been hit and houses destroyed.
The target of the new blitz seems to have been a seminary run by alleged militants, where some key militants may have been present. Operations in Mohmand have been stepped up over the past few days. Other targets too have been hit in the same area. The military seems to have begun a new effort to regain control over the area in response to heightened militant action. We have seen similar efforts before.
The question to be asked is where all this is heading. The problem seems to be the lack of a consistent, well planned scheme of action against the extremists. Many seminaries for instance continue to run unhindered in NWFP. Some amongst them are known to be engaged in the recruitment and training of militants. A tiny handful may also be bringing in new suicide bombers to join the ranks of the teenagers who have blown themselves up for the sake of decimating others. There have been reports that some may have been hired out to those seeking to mask crime as acts of terror. If Pakistan’s seven tribal agencies, all of which have been over-run by militants, are to be re-incorporated into the area of land under the control of the state of Pakistan, we need a more savvy strategy. While occasional operations involving the storming of specific areas take place every now and then, we also hear of stories of close ties between our agencies and the extremists. One account that has appeared in the US press speaks of seminary heads being warned to whisk away key figures ahead of an attack.
We need a uniform approach to the issue. There must be a united will to defeat the terrorists. This must be backed by a planned effort to shut down seminaries, backed by means to offer people alternative effort. Indeed, on a more general level development must be combined with gunfire in these areas, so that along with territory the state also regains the lost loyalties of its citizens.