One may wonder what does the COAS mean by “entering most difficult phase of operation”?
The answer is simple. COAS has stated the obvious. Sanctuaries of terrorists in FATA have been practically eliminated and what now has been left of TTP is mainly consists of sleeper cells which work in coordination with group’s top command hiding in Afghanistan. Tracking these sleeper cells in urban centers, eliminating the TTP’s top brass is critical for the final success against TTP.
This is a slow process as now most of the results will be only possible after very well-coordinated intelligence based operations (IBOs) and this is not an easy task by any measurement. This is a known fact that there is disconnect between Pakistani Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) due to which NACTA is not functional. Intelligence development is the missing link in operational strategy of Pakistan against TTP.
But this is not the whole problem. There are other aspects of operations which are far more complex to deal like financing of TTP, political support base and link between Karachi operation and Zarb-e-Azb. Financial terrorism is far more complex issue right now which cannot be sorted out through kinetic means. This needs far greater cooperation and input from the civilian side of establishment.
Apart from civil-military cooperation there is a very subtle political repercussion aspect which is making the progress in operation difficult and dangerous. Remember Zardari’s statements about army when Dr. Asim was arrested? He almost practically declared war against Pakistan Army in that speech. But that was not the only thing Zardari did. According to Dr. Shahid Masood, Zardari actually asked Dr. Ashraf Ghani, (Afghan President) to pressurize Pakistan to curb Haqqani network and not to negotiate with Taliban. Dr. Shahid revealed this in his program on 18/6/15, and it was also after Zardari’s visit when a secret letter from Ashraf Ghani to PM Nawaz was written demanding action against Haqqani Network.
PPP was marginalized as a provincial party in 2013 elections and that too in rural Sindh while in Urban Sindh MQM is in power. Both have similar views about Karachi operation. If Army presses these two without political backing of PMLN any further, there is a clear possibility that both PPP and MQM would go to violent agitation which will deteriorate law and order situation further in Karachi and other parts of Pakistan.
In National Action Plan (NAP), only 3 points are directly related to Army; other 17 were to be implemented by civilian govt. Unfortunately, nothing has been done on ground. Return of TDPs, funding for NACTA, presenting Counter Narrative, FATA Reforms, curbing terror financing and enhancing police all were to be delivered by the civilian government. In absence of all these measures, there is a very clear possibility that all the gains of operation Zarb-e-Azb will be lost along with nation’s war against terrorism.
PMLN must understand that after attacks on APS Peshawar and Bacha Khan University, Charsada, terrorism has emerged as the biggest concern for Pakistani masses. And if PMLN continues to push its politics of optics which revolves around constructing Motorways, Metros and Orange Trains, its fate will be no different in 2018 elections than what PPP faced in 2013!
Pakistani state is on a self-correction mode. Policies of 1980s and 1990s are no longer applicable in today’s complex “self-help” world which is interconnected and interdependent.