Tough battle ahead against Taliban: Pakistani editorial

May 9th, 2009 - 6:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 9 (IANS) A tough battle lies ahead against the Taliban, an editorial in a leading English daily said Saturday, while another called for devising a long-term strategy to complement the military action against the militants.
A third editorial termed a “good development” the religious reaction that had emerged against the Taliban in large parts of Pakistan.

“There should be no doubt that a tough battle lies ahead,” Dawn said in an editorial headlined “The state finally acts”.

It noted that eventually, the army “will have to sweep through Swat on foot to clear and hold the area, and at that stage it must be careful to not use heavy-handed tactics or allow its soldiers to be trigger-happy.

“Losing the support of the local population would all but guarantee that the counter-insurgency plan under way will end in defeat,” the editorial maintained.

In this context, it noted that early reports from Swat suggest that the armed forces are attacking the Taliban’s training camps and strongholds “with more precision than before.

“If that is indeed the case, then it would appear that the army has studied its previous tactics and adjusted them to the situation on the ground in Swat.

“This would be welcome news, for high civilian casualties and collateral damage have undermined the armed forces’ legitimacy in the area in the past,” the editorial contended.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced Thursday the military had launched its final “decisive” operations against the Taliban in Swat and two other districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) after they violated a controversial peace accord.

The operation had begun April 26 after the militants, instead of laying down their arms under the peace accord, moved out of their Swat headquarters and occupied Buner district just 100 km from Islamabad.

The Pakistani army has reported considerable success in the operations, saying more than 300 militants have been killed so far.

The News said that with the pledge being taken to wipe out the militants, “there is a need to also ensure that good planning and the devising of a longer-term strategy goes along with the immediate flurry of action on the ground”.

The editorial was headlined “The prime minister’s plain words”.

What was needed, it said, “is some clear thinking” on how the Taliban’s influence “can be gradually eradicated, through education, through action against top leaders and through the offering of opportunities to people who because of a lack of choice have, in many cases, opted to align themselves with the Taliban”.

As the military action would bring with it inevitable death and destruction, there was need to build the popular opinion that is vital to victory in any war - especially one in which troops are forced to kill their own people, the editorial contended.

“Such situations, coupled with criticism of the operation which will come, may lead swiftly to demoralization and de-motivation. To counter it, a nationwide effort is needed, incorporating the media, popular musicians, clerics, writers, sportsmen and indeed all others who have influence in our society, The News maintained.

According to Daily Times, “a religious reaction against the Taliban has emerged in the rest of Pakistan”.

“It is a good development provided it is not allowed to assume the shape of an anti-Taliban jihadi militia with unpredictable consequences for civil society in the future,” said the editorial, headlined “Pakistan goes to war in Swat”.

Noting that some mosques in Punjab province were “sounding objections” to the conduct of the Taliban and their local supporters, it said “this trend will die down unless the government also takes action against the old jihadis who have now joined the Al Qaeda-Taliban combine”.

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