Deal or no deal?
By Imtiaz Gul
The Friday Times, May 31, 2013
April 19, 2009 marked a watershed in the Pakistani military establishment's unrealistic view of Islamist militant groups. The then general officer commanding, Major General Ejaz Awan, and his troops had convinced the aging Maulana Sufi Muhammad to denounce suicide bombings at a public rally in the heart of Mingora, the administrative headquarter of Swat valley.
Live on private TV channels, and facing thousands of people at the Grassy Ground, Sufi did not condemned violence, but declared Western-style democracy, the Pakistani parliament, the Supreme Court and the state un-Islamic, and thus turned the tables on the army. It was an utter shock to the military establishment which had hoped to take the sting out of Mullah Fazlullah's terror campaign by having his father-in-law speak against violence by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the valley.
All this happened in the context of the second peace deal in the area on February 19, 2009, which had taken place with mutual agreement between the Awami National Party and the General Headquarters, as yet another attempt to wrest Swat back from the TTP. But between February 19 and April 19, the TTP had ambushed or robbed dozens of military convoys, snatched government vehicles, practically run or occupied government offices, and sat in courts. The TTP had also ruthlessly executed three Pakistan Army commandos caught from the mountains between Swat and Buner.
This prompted a meeting at the GHQ on April 25, wherein the alarmed top brass decided to go for the kill. "When you raise a puppy, it becomes a member of the family, but when it develops rabies, it becomes an enemy, and that is the time to cull it," Gen Awan had remarked when reminded of the unholy nexus that had existed between some Taliban factions and the security apparatus.
The army seemed to have learned its first lesson the hard way. The eventual May 7 invasion of TTP strongholds in the Swat valley practically ended the peace deal and gradually took Swat to where it is today.
Similarly, the September 5, 2006 agreement in North Waziristan town had apparently ended hostilities between the Pakistani military and TTP rebels linked to the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda in the region. But the killing of about 50 soldiers and paramilitary men in an ambush in North Waziristan practically broke that truce.
Imtiaz Gul is the executive director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and the author of the recently released book Pakistan: Before and After, published by Roli Books, India