In the aftermath of the devastating floods the Pakistan’s democratic setup continues to exhibit exceptional weakness and disarray. Sensing an opportunity, the terrorists have unveiled their new strategy and suicide attacks have been initiated across the urban centers of the country. These urban hubs have come out relatively unscathed from the affects of the ravaging floodwaters. Pakistan faces daunting choices as the new reality unfolds.
The suicide attack in Lahore occurred on September 1st followed up by Quetta blast today, and accompanied by smaller terror related incidents in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Subsequently, according to media reports an American drone attack took place North Waziristan against the extremists. Pakistan Air Force also recently conducted strikes in Khyber tribal agency. A new phase of the war against terror in flood ravaged Pakistan has thus begun.
The daunting choices confronting Pakistan in the emerging reality are: to continue the fight against extremists and thus sustain the foreign funding it desperately requires to keep its economy afloat, conduct rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts, and to rebuild the infrastructure badly impacted by the floods. On the contrary, if the country fails to do an effective job of countering the extremists, the foreign financial assistance could dry up, escalating local discontent, and increasing the possibility that external powers will take matters in their own hands, as has often been threatened in the past. However, foreign intervention at least at this juncture is unlikely barring significant deterioration of the situation or a major terrorist attack abroad. As seen in Iraq, the new US strategy is premised on working behind the scenes, using covert operations and special forces, and reinforcing the capacity of its partners.
As previously noted by PoliTact, with the political set-up of the country not functioning, both the responsibilities of fighting extremism and providing relief for the flood victims have fallen upon the army. Thus an essential part of the extremist strategy would be to keep the military distracted and engaged. Moreover, the extremists will escalate their drive to bring about a mutiny against the state by capitalizing on the disenchantment of the flood impacted rural masses.
The choices for Pakistan army appear to be mutually exclusive. If the military decides to continue tackling extremism then the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts will be greatly impeded, causing the disillusioned citizens to join the insurgency. If it decides to focus on rehabilitation, the extremists will get room to expand their influence further and increase the chances of foreign intervention. The military, however, does not have the capacity to address both flood relief and extremism simultaneously, and this points more towards either political reconciliation with some groups or allowing foreign forces to assist in the counter insurgency efforts with in Pakistan.
As the gap between the public sentiments and the state increases the questions regarding the ownership of the war are going to be revisited. Interestingly, the major political parties of the country have also started talking about a revolution. It’s not clear at this point if this is the same revolt the extremists are striving for as well. Furthermore, against whom the revolution will be carried out also remains murky. Nonetheless, political parties perhaps sensing the mood of the masses want to be on the side of popular sentiment if indeed a revolution is in the offing. Obviously, a sea change is occurring in the political landscape of Pakistan and it is not clear which way the nations military will go.