1. Should there be a war on Taliban?
Yes, there should be. Taliban are a decease that can only be eradicated militantly, as we all know. Despite, Taliban have not acceded others the courtesy to declare war. They have done so already. Now that the war is on and the negotiations have failed, and such attempts are bound to fail again in future, repeatedly due the fault whoever, the opposition to Taliban is left with two options: fight or surrender. Let’s be clear on that. And surrender to Taliban is not an option, in my view.
2. What is the position of the Pakistan Army on Taliban?
The neo-colonial Army of Pakistan continues to play the “double game” of supporting the Afghan Taliban at one end (against India and for many other objectives) and fighting against the Pakistani Taliban and the Al-Qaeda at the other end. This is contradictory policy and, at one level, may represent two trends in the Army that tolerate each other to maintain organizational unity. The position of Pakistan Army on the menace of religious extremism is that of vacillation and contradiction.
3. Can the Pakistan Army wage a war against Taliban?
It depends. The conservatives in the Army are willing to fight against the Taliban, and the reactionaries are hell-bent to sabotage the war effort. The question of which side in the Pakistan Army will dominate will depend on a number of factors, including which side will get the political and foreign support. People are Hameed Gul, JI, and the Ex-Servicemen are busy in activism for a reason: they are counting of their protégés in the Pakistan Army.
All in all, the efficacy of the Army’s actions against Taliban are depends highly on the internal dynamics of the institution.
Moreover, the neo-colonial Army is a blunt weapon that must be kept under close sight. Political and social efforts has to (read with emphasis) accompany the military effort to corner the Taliban from all sides.
4. Should there be democratic oversight over the military operations?
Yes, definitely. Since Army is an institution that is conservative at best, it cannot be given the complete authority to carry the operations. As the conflict in tribal areas is also carried out in the political arena, with religious reactionaries lining up against the parliamentary parties, it is important for the parliamentary actors and the people of Pakistan to have access to critical information. A democratic over-sight, in my view, is highly necessary and must be demanded.
5. What is the local support of the parties in the war?
The support of the various parties engaged in the parts appear to be divided on the tribal lines. There are tribes that treat Taliban and even Al-Qaeda as their hosts and are aligned with them. There are tribes, like Salarzai at the Upper Dir, who have been at the forefront of raising lashkars against the Taliban. Interestingly, the anti-Taliban lashkars have pledged complete support for the government (they know well that one cannot argue for long in the combat zone. Therefore, it appears to be that there are locals on both sides.
There are reports that important members of the Awami National Party (ANP) are being targeted on daily basis. The law enforcement agencies having failed to protect the leaders of ANP, the Party has decided to organize lashkars headed by peace committees in order to defend themselves against the threat of Taliban. The entrance of ANP in the active conflict is a decisive factor in determining where the local support lies in FATA.
6. What should be the stand regarding the military operations?
The stance on the military operations is highly reliant on the characteristic of the Army. We cannot call for stopping the operations. This is not only surrender to the Taliban (who have only regrouped and reorganized in the times of peace), but also the dream-wish of reactionaries in the Pakistan Army and the political supporters outside the institution. At the same time, we cannot also give a blank check to the Pakistan Army. Just like any bourgeois institution, it has its vacillations and, over that, it’s a conservative institution at best.
In view of the above observations, I propose:
a) Grant conditional support to operations against the Taliban: there must be strong criticism of the vacillation of the Army and the sabotage conducted by the reactionaries.
b) Demand that the local lashkars, particularly those under the leadership of ANP, which is threatened the most, be provided with logistical and material support. These armed groups must be defended at all costs.
c) Relentlessly criticize and deface the reactionary propaganda against the war by people like Hameed Gul and his kin.
d) Demand the parliamentary over-sight of the military operations so that the sabotage of the reactionary wing of the Army comes to limelight.