Pakistani army set for long haul in northwest: Editorial

June 6th, 2009 - 3:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, June 6 (IANS) The Pakistani army might have the Taliban on the run in the country’s restive northwest but it is in for a long haul as the true battle will begin once peace is restored, an editorial in a leading English daily said Saturday.
Another editorial maintained that the “damage done by past blunders can be rectified to some extent if the tasks at hand are performed with diligence and planning”.

“The army is going to have to stay in the area if any sort of peace is to be guaranteed, and having taken the land it now has to hold it. A premature return to barracks is just what we do not need,” The News said in an editorial headlined “Too soon to say?”

The headline was in reaction to army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s statement Thursday that the “tide is turning” in favour of the security forces in the Swat district of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), which is now the focus of the anti-Taliban operations launched April 26.

The News noted that the civil administration of Swat - and elsewhere - “is going to take months to reconstitute itself and will need protection while it does so”.

This apart, up to three million “vulnerable people” displaced by the fighting in Swat and two other NWFP districts “are going to want to go home - they need protecting while they do that and protection in the period after their return if we are not to see ourselves faced with having to do the job all over again in six months or a year”, the editorial maintained.

Noting that civilian officials were talking of a need for an army presence of six months to a year, “which sounds a not-unreasonable time frame”, the editorial said: “The military phase of this operation is but a part of the whole, and that if the Taliban are to be truly defeated it will only be after the construction of an alternative narrative, a narrative that negates that of extremism.

“Our army has fought bravely and well, but we would not want to have to send them to war again because we made the mistake of counting our chickens before they were hatched,” The News maintained.

Dawn wrote in similar vein, saying: “The damage done by past blunders can be rectified to some extent if the tasks at hand are performed with diligence and planning.”

The reference was to a statement from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) that Wednesday maintained that “the intensity of a full-fledged military operation could have been avoided if the militants had been confronted, discouraged, deported and captured earlier”.

The armed forces had gone into action after the Taliban reneged on a controversial peace deal with the NWFP government and instead moved south from their Swat headquarters and instead occupied Buner, which is just 100 km from Islamabad.

The operations had begun in Lower Dir, the home district of Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Muhammad who had brokered the peace deal and who is the father-in-law of Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah, and later spread to Buner and Swat.

The military says a little over 1,300 militants have so far been killed in the operations, while the security forces have lost some 85 personnel.

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