“Only in the desperate days and weeks after those celebrations of mid-August did the horrors of Partition’s impact begin to emerge. No viceregal time had been wasted in planning for the feeding and housing and medical needs of ten million refugees. No British officers or troops remained to keep the peace in shattered Punjab, or in Bengal, nor in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, left in deadly limbo to become the source of increasingly violent conflicts between India and Pakistan, the cause of three wars to be waged between them over the next fifty-five years.” – Stanley Wolpert, Shameful Flight.
There are many similarities in the events of yesteryear and today. The difference is that the British had an escape route, we dont !
The images of displacement of a million people this week horrifies me to think of its repercussions. While the government’s rhetoric is of a united counter insurgency attack which requires support of all stakeholders (political parties, public and foreign countries) involved, I fail to see any real strategy laid out by those in charge. Again, today’s speech by the PM in the National Assembly was demoralizing to say the least, apparently, the PM has no backup plan if things go wrong. The point that strengthening the armed forces and utilizing foreign aid on the military offensive will bring success is a narrowly viewed idea.
First of all, the enemy is not clearly defined for both tactical and operational levels. The Talibans are like a conglomerate of multiple factions with similar tactics but not necessarily the same set of motives and sponsors. They comprise of the Afghan Talibans, the Pakistani Talibans, the Mohammad Sufi’s men, the Mullah Umar’s Talibans and the like. Defining a single attack as a strategy will most definitely lead to highly construed results.
Secondly, there is no declared plan to track and trace the talibans appearing as refugees. This would allow them to disperse into the heartlands of Pakistan and regroup as a unit anytime in the near future. Without a clearly defined enemy, the Army is risking a high casualty rate which will put the Army to be indirectly accountable for it the future in the form of ‘revengeful’ insurgency. A displaced boy who loses his father by Army attacks will have the greatest propensity to become the next generation insurgent.
Without a well defined and practiced rehabilitation program for the refugees, it is impossible to curb Talibanization in all its manifestations. This seems like a Utopian idea at the moment considering the fact that there hasnt been any proactive preparation of refugee camps and as of now, no strategy for refugee integration has been laid out by the government.
While the President is in the US, begging for foreign aid which has never seen the light of day at the end of the tunnel, the social aspects of integration of the refugees in provinces like Sindh and Baluchistan are catastrophic. The separatist plots in Baluchistan and the ethnic tension between the Pashtuns and Muhajir masses will force the Army to contain the refugees within NWFP.
Only depending on the military strategy within NWFP beyond the current Swat operation, the stationing, servicing and rehab of refugees can be planned out. With only NGO’s tackling these issues on public donations for the time being, it becomes further complicated to mobilize the volunteer workforces, allowing them greater access to areas, especially under moving curfew locations. Access to resources and lack of infrastructure including roads makes it a highly challenging obstacle bound to failure.
It becomes highly difficult to budget for funding these operations especially when there is no set time frame for succeeding in the operation. According to the President’s statement in the US, the strategy is to kill as many Taliban as possible while letting the rest flee the country. To where exactly? It is highly unlikely that Afghanistan and the US will allow a safe route to the Taliban who ultimately have to be confronted in a heavy casualty battle with the Pakistan Army. The amount of civilians caught in the crossfire is another major concern on the tables. The success of the operation and the war at large thus, remains an open mystery.
The government has to take immediate drastic measures to establish policies to cater to each individual issue and to execute strategies for social, political, provincial and economical and not just the military perspectives of the war.