The situation in NWFP is gradually slipping away from the control of government in the face of mounting militant’s attacks in the province and FATA. Amid the fears that the Peshawar too could fall to the militants, authorities have launched an operation in the neighboring Khyber Agency against a militant organization Lashkar-e-Islam (LI), which had established its sway over the agency and was also using it as a launching pad to attack Peshawar.
The photo above shows tanks parked in a Government installation at Hayatabad, Peshawar. Photo by Riaz Anjum at APP
The operation launched against the LI signifies a turning point in the coalition government policy towards FATA and NWFP, initially aimed at pacifying the troubled areas through dialogue despite intense US and NATO pressure.
The situation in the other parts of the province and tribal areas is also far from satisfactory and the flames of militancy are spreading in every direction.
The violence is escalating in the scenic tourist resort of Swat, where Awami National Party (ANP) led coalition government of NWFP has signed a 15-points peace deal with the militants on May 21, and attacks on girls’ schools have recorded a surge in the Upper and Lower Dir districts, sharing borders with Swat.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a loose conglomerate of militants fighting the security forces, announced to suspend peace talks with the federal government, citing operation in some areas as a breach of the electoral promises of the ruling coalition.
Earlier, TTP militants kidnapped more than two dozens local ‘amn’ (Peace) Committee members in the Southern district Tank and their bullet ridden bodies were found a day back.
The sectarian clashes in the Kurram and Aurakzai agencies also recorded an increase and government efforts to curb this menace have failed so far.
As the peace talks were progressing at a snail pace, militant’s activities recorded a surge around Peshawar and even police stopped night patrols in the rural circle of the city, after militants attacked one its vehicles and killed three policemen.
LI, which has weed out its rival group Ansarul Islam (AI) from large swaths of territory in Khyber Agency had started to tighten its noose around Peshawar, and in a most bizarre incident they abducted around 16 Christians from the Academy Town area of Peshawar for a brief period.
In the backdrop of these developments, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) Ameer Maulana Fazlur Rehman, while speaking in National Assembly cautioned that it was a matter of months until the NWFP was no longer part of the country. Sensing the gravity of situation, the next day prime minister authorized army chief to conduct operations in FATA.
Government was quick to take action against the new wave of violence and fears about the fall of Peshawar, despite the peace overtures with militants, which were going on since the coalition government took over some months back.
At present the government is at the horns of dilemma, as if peace process fails and military action begins against the Taliban, they could again start suicide bombing across the country and Baitullah Mehsood has said that this time the war would be fought in Sindh and Pubjab.
On the other hand if the government did not takes action against the growing militancy, it would result into loss of more territory, as the militants are extending their influence into new horizons.
The political moves made by the government so far have backed fired as it turned over the authority to use force in FATA to army chief, backtracking from the plan announced by prime minister in his maiden speech.
This has pushed the ANP-led NWFP of government into a tight corner, as it came to the power on the name of peace and now badly trapped in the face of growing militancy and politics of peace process and desperately trying to save Swat peace deal at any cost, despite the militants’ somersaults.
The government strategy of tackling militancy through dialogue has fizzled out in the face of growing violence and NATO and Americans pressure for strict actions against the militant hideouts in the tribal areas and to stop the cross border terrorism.
The US has at time attacked targets inside Pakistani territory and on June 10, a US drone killed 12 Pakistani soldiers in Mohmand Agency and now the Afghan President Hamid Karzai is also threatening of pursuing militants inside Pakistani territory.
In reality, the history of peace deals concluded in Waziristan with militants since 2004 and Swat in May 2007 reveal that these deals have been fragile and ended on slight provocations, and that there are no quick fixes to the NWFP quagmire, as it is a result of more than 30 years long Afghan war.
The American presence in the region and multilateral interests have also complicated the issues, while at the same time international community expects Pakistan to rein the rouge elements from crossing into Afghanistan.
ATP Note: While Manzoor Ali Shah has pretty much laid out the current picture of NWFP above, we would like to hear your opinion. Will ‘Carrot and Stick’ work as being touted in the news lately?