IS MILITARY OPERATION A PANACEA?
August 26, 2011
In the end, military operation seems to be the last resort to rescue the violence-stricken Karachiites as the city continues to bleed despite all trumpet blowing by the government to maintain law and order. But the million-dollar question is whether the proposed military operation would be a panacea to the bleeding city or further mess up the already bizarre situation?
Calling out army is not a big deal, but sending them back, too, is not a walk in the park. The history of martial laws and partial martial laws, like the one imposed in 1953 in Lahore to crush the anti-Qadiyanis movement, shows that the army actions, in long run, have turned out to be counter productive.
Defence and security experts, by and large, agree that the military actions can be beneficial only in short term, but in long term, they leave societies with a jumble of problems. Keeping the four full-fledged martial laws aside, the military operations and actions have proved this contention.
The results of military operations in Balochistan vindicate the fact that they are no solution, but further exacerbate the problem. Insurgency in the minerals-rich province began with the first military operation, which was carried out in 1948, just a year after independence, sending a message to Balochs that there was no independence for them. It was just change of faces.
The successive military operations, in 1958, 74, and the ongoing operation, have left moderate Baloch politicians and workers with no other option, but to say goodbye to parliamentary politics and join hands with militants. Bullet-riddled bodies with torture marks of political workers, who trusted in political struggle, are being found on roadsides in various parts of Balochistan, putting a blot on armed forces. There could be some other players behind this phenomenon, but the presence of army in the province has eclipsed that possibility.
Ongoing military operations in restive South Waziristan and the scenic valley of Swat are no different. Though, the army claims to have successfully completed its operations in Swat against militants loyal to outlawed Tehrik Nifaz-e-Sharia’h Muhammadi (TNSM), there is no possibility of civilian control there, not at least in near future.
This is simply because the military operations always lack political solutions. Similarly, Army entered into South Waziristan two years back to flush out Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but it is still at loss to find out a way out.
The flashbacks of 1992 military operation in Karachi are still fresh in the memories of citizens.
The slain prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, very rightly figured out that fact that the military operation was actually converting the “tyrant” into “victim”. She withdrew army from Karachi, and handed over the law and order responsibility to rangers and police. The then team of law-enforcement agencies led by some brave and competent police and rangers officials effectively controlled the situation within a year.
No doubt, there is some weight in the contention of those, including Ulema, lawyers, and politicians, who support the military operation in the city, keeping the all-time low morale of the police in mind.
Brutal murder of around 80 police officials who were part of that team, which controlled law and order in the city in mid 1990s, has badly affected the police morale. One may agree with the supporters of army operation at this point, but the consequences of another army-led action in the city will be of no good.
Armed forces are basically trained to fight a full-fledged war on borders, in the sea and in the air. They are always at receiving point in case of a civil war or an operation within the country. No matter how much they avoid, but the issue of human rights violations is always there to tarnish their image and efforts.
Assigning them the law and order responsibility in Karachi in current circumstances will be an additional burden on the army, which is already stuck with operations in the northern tribal belt, Balochistan and Swat. Besides, a large number of troops are also engaged in relief and rescue activities in rain-hit areas of Sindh and Punjab.
Provision of resources will also be a major issue. The country’s already dismal economy cannot afford another military operation, as the ongoing actions have already been sucking a huge amount of resources.
Another consequence will be the ethnic divide. A majority of low-ranking army personnel belong to Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa (KP) provinces. In no time, the military operation will be given an ethnic colour.
In some case, this seems to be true. A common trooper is not trained to deal with ordinary citizens. One does not need to pull something extra out of his bag to figure out the feeling of common citizens when they will be misbehaved or rudely tackled by an Jawan detailed on a roadside.
It will rather help the criminals and target killers, who, in the name of ethnicity, can easily exploit the situation.
There is no doubt that the low morale of police is a big hurdle in an effective action against criminals and target killers, but rangers are very much there to back the police. This combination is well tested. There is no dearth of competent and brave police officers, who still can handle the situation, but the prime requirement for that will be a free hand and no political pressures.
The situation is far sensitive than it was in 1990s as far as the specter of ethnicity is concerned. A little mistake or negligence can make mountain out of a mole. There should no ethnic factor whatsoever, and all the criminals be dealt with iron hand across the board.
If action is taken only against MQM, and the armed militants within Lyari Amn Committee and the ANP are spared, then it would not only ruin the entire efforts, but further strengthen the already growing specter of ethnicity.
An across the board action against criminals, while giving a free hand to police and rangers is the only solution to this perpetual spree of terrorism in the country’s commercial hub.