The Asian country is right to send its army to fight against extremists—but it is only buying timeby Anatol Lieven / July 17, 2014 / Leave a comment
The military offensive this summer against the Pakistani Taliban in their stronghold of North Waziristan demonstrates yet again the resilience of Pakistan’s state and army. The Taliban rebels have been defeated in the field and split internally. But rather than capitalising on this success, Pakistan’s political elites and military leaders appear to be stumbling towards yet another political crisis.
If so, this will be a tragedy, because the example of the fight against the Taliban demonstrates that progress in Pakistan is possible. I was in South Waziristan in April, and witnessed not only the determination of the military to fight against the Pakistani Taliban but also their ability to back up counter-insurgency with successful development that helps the local population.
This shows, in my view, that Pakistan’s government is right in its decision—hugely controversial with the public—to avoid peace negotiations with the Taliban. In Afghanistan, there is no option but to broker a peace deal with them, but in Pakistan the army is having real success in pushing back the local Taliban and quelling their threat to national government.
Nonetheless, that can only buy time for the deep social and economic reforms which Pakistan badly needs. Without these reforms, the nation’s long-term future will not be secure—and despite the election last year of a government with an agenda of economic reform and a strong democratic mandate, reforms are not taking place with the speed and determination necessary.
It is important, when discussing Pakistan, not to confuse insurgency and terrorism. Terrorist attacks will continue for the foreseeable future, and some of them—such as the attack on Karachi airport on 8th June, which left 28 dead—will be very serious. The appalling Pakistani death toll from terrorism and counter-terrorist military responses is now approaching 50,000 since the insurgency began in 2004. The terror campaign has helped reduce foreign investment in Pakistan to historic lows. What’s more, Pakistani-based terrorist groups pose a severe threat to Britain, through troubled members of the large Pakistani diaspora in this country. This is a danger that…