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Pakistan Today Editorial – 20th April 2016

Need to avoid confrontation

The importance of dialogue

Setting aside rumors about his state of health or period of stay in London, Nawaz Sharif has reached Pakistan. What he told the media before proceeding to Luton airport indicates he is determined to form a commission to probe charges related to Panama leaks. Maintaining that his name did not appear in the Panama papers, Sharif opposed the politics of sit-ins, calling it an infantile move which would hinder economic progress and is therefore against national interests. The Prime Minister is supposed to meet party leaders today to work out details about the proposed commission

The idea of an enquiry commission headed by a retired judge has been turned down by both the PTI and PPP. While the Prime Minister’s name does not appear directly in the Panama Papers, the question being raised is how Nawaz Sharif’s scions managed to set up the lucrative business and whether the Prime Minister has been directly or indirectly helpful in the promotion of their business. There are however differences between the opposition on how to deal with the issue. The PTI has demanded that Nawaz Sharif resign and a commission headed by the sitting CJ assisted by forensic auditors conduct the probe. The PPP does not support the demand for resignation before the Prime Minister is found guilty through forensic audit by an international firm. What is more the PPP is not willing to join the sit-in proposed by the PTI. The JUI-F, MQM and ANP meanwhile continue to hedge their bets on the issue

There is a need on the part of the Prime Minster to hold talks with the opposition to narrow down the differences before announcing the formation of the commission. The statement by the COAS at this juncture requiring an end to corruption and across the board accountability to ensure national security and stability needs to be taken seriously. Meanwhile Imran Khan needs to take into account the differences in his party over his decision to go for a sit-in.

Zarb-e-Azb and after
Long way to go

That it took nearly two years to ‘cleanse’ Waziristan – even after the bigger fish had crossed over into Afghanistan prior to Zarb-e-Azb – shows just how deeply the enemy was entrenched in the Fata sanctuary. After a long and thorough operation, the army chief was finally briefed that operational modalities had been largely completed. In the last push, the army cleared approximately 800sqkm in areas in and around Shawal, which implies that the bombs and bullets of Zarb-e-Azb have completed the first phase as expected.

Yet, as the army is no doubt aware, this would be the worst of all times for any manner of complacency. Wrapping up the assignment in the badlands completes only one phase of the operation. If anything, the job is likely to get incrementally harder as the military adapts to intel-intensive operations in urban centres and begins working more closely with the civilian security apparatus. And going by the headlines, it will not exactly be smooth sailing as militants are rounded up in Punjab and Sindh, especially the rather lawless border areas (between the two provinces) where militants of various hues have headquartered themselves for quite a while.

Hopefully relevant authorities will not need reminding that despite the success of the operation so far the enemy remains potent enough to strike often enough to inflict serious damage on the state and people. Therefore the next phase will be an even more crucial part of the overall operation. When the prime minister and army chief promised to eliminate terrorists “of all hues and colours”, they obviously meant a step-by-step approach; which will see the operation slowly move down from the Fata mountains. That time has now come. And as we wish the military and civilian agencies success at the earliest, we must also prepare for an initial backlash that bad guys on the run have been known to resort to. Therefore, as much as the advances so far are appreciated, we must realise that there is still a long way to go before the enemy is completely defanged.

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