At the same time, General Bajwa, commissioned in the 16 Baloch Regiment in October 2016 and a graduate of the Canadian Forces Command and Staff College in Canada, and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, gradually developed his competence, keeping at bay the medieval and feudal-military mindset of most of his predecessors, handed down by the colonial legacy. Which is why expectations are high among Pak civilians and democracy-loving elite that he would innovatively work towards civil- military relationship for evolution of a modern and democratic Pakistan. However, seasoned diplomats prefer to keep up a cautious attitude as the traditional mindset of Pak army still remains. Among Bajwa’s first comments after taking over the reins was his stress on regional stability that needs a resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Reading between lines, one finds a new pragmatism that calls for shunning avoidable bad blood between the two countries. His words towards Indian politicians reflect a mix of diplomacy and stratagem

For the first time, Pakistan Tehreek-s-Insaf (PTI) chairperson Imran Khan came out openly in support of the Pak army’s strong-arm stance towards extremists. He stated unequivocally as never in the past. 'I want to make it clear to India that taking our policy of constraint and patience as any sign of weakness will prove dangerous for itself. No extremist organisation should be allowed to operate in the country,” said Imran, while addressing a press conference in Islamabad last week Endorsing the alternative of dealing with the extremists who put on the ‘false robe of Islam and causing severance of their link with a section of intellectuals who have discreet understanding with some essentially regional parties , he said. “We need to change policies which previously allowed such organisations to operate,” However. the PTI supremo maintains his enmity towards India and criticised new turn in Pak-Afghan diplomacy. Afghanistan, he thinks, is now speaking the language of India, which is lamentable for Pakistan. “President Ashraf Ghani has now taken a similar tone as that of his predecessor Hamid Karzai which is a big failure on Pakistan’s part

The head-on-collusion between the extremists and the state, its polity, took an ugly turn with the announcement about the launch of a video 'Operation Ghazi' on 13 February this year synchronising with a suicide bombing at a mall in Lahore killing 12 civilians and six police officers. Named after Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, killed inside Lal Masjid a decade ago, the video made no bones that the terrorist outfit’s future target would be the legislative bodies, Pakistan Army, intelligence agencies and its supporting institutions, interest-based economic institutions, NGOs and the civil society organisations involved in the advocacy of human rights, women rights and community awareness campaigns and liberal writers and liberal political leaders and workers, journalists and the like .

Retaliation came on 22 February last when the Pak Army launched Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad ( meaning 'Elimination of Discord'), sending a message across directly that the State is determined to discriminately eliminate residual threat of terrorism and consolidating gains of operations. Significantly, China supported Pak army on this internal strategy. “China understands and supports necessary measures taken by Pakistan to consolidate its position in counter-terrorism operations and maintain domestic security for the safety of its people,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said during a press briefing.

One of the elements of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad is “Broad Spectrum Security/Counter Terrorism operation”, which , according to the editor of prestigious radical weekly, The Friday Times, Nazam Shetty means will not be confined to Fata and Karachi, unlike in the past, but will be conducted across the country .In earlier operations, Shetty wrote in his regular column, “the Pakistani Taliban in Fata and the criminal terrorising cadres of the Mutahida Qaumi Movement in Karachi were targeted. Of late attempts were made to eliminate a handful of leading sectarian elements in the Punjab through police encounters but no systematic attempt was made to uproot the sectarian organisations spread across Southern Punjab. In other words, the actions were discriminatory. One reason may have had to do with the political affiliations of such elements with mainstream parties that stayed the hand of the local administrations”.

However, the veteran editor reminded once again that combating terrorism neither juridical nor administrative .The roots of sectarian theology are linked to the “narrative of ‘Islamic ideology’ that underpins state and society in Pakistan and permeates the political parties, state institutions, education system and media. How on earth are we going to depoliticize Pakistan’s version of Islam in a few years when we have taken six decades to enshrine it as the be-all and end-all, and what it means to be a true Pakistani soaked in this ideology? Operation Radd-ul-Fassad may rid us of a score or two of potent sectarian troublemakers but it will not make a dent in the system that gives birth to and nurtures tens of thousands of such people every year in the bowels of its madrassahs.”

The tragedy of history is that the Pakistan Muslim League, Pakistan People’s Party, PTI and MQM remained deceptively mum when terrorists were devastating the entire Pakistan. The only party that consistently has been up against the terrorists is the Awami National Party whose hundreds of cadres and leaders were killed. But in terms of parliamentary strength, ANP has been continuously decimated and reduced to insignificance. The extremists seem ‘ideologically unnerved’. ANP’s senior vice-president and an intellectual Bushra Gohar stated last year firmly, “Despite serious threats the ANP has remained firmly on the ground and on the forefront of the struggle against terrorism. “It is not surprising that the Taliban and their supporters see the ANP as a strong force to contend with and continue to target its leaders and members.” She maintained that ANP would continue to own the struggle for peace, knowing full well that this stand would make the party the main target of anti-peace and pro-Taliban forces. The party has not just been paying a price for what Bushra Gohar termed as its “well-articulated position nationally and internationally against terrorism”. The ANP has been run into the ground in Karachi where they were systematically targeted. “We lost more than 100 workers in West Karachi alone,” stated ANP Abdul Malik Achakzai.

Now with the terrorists having declared war on the PPP, MQM, PTI, these parties lately realised the compulsion to come out against the terrorists. But Military operations are at the most a palliative, as Shetty noted. The social roots of terrorism need to be demolished in a concerted way. (IPA Service)