04
July

War against Militancy

Our security forces have been fighting a war against the Taliban in the tribal areas that has now extended beyond that troubled zone into our cities and towns. The tribal regions for decades have provided the safe havens to the militants of various creed and nationality from Middle East to Central Asia. The social, religious and ideological linkages with this region go back to the Afghan Jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

A great variety of militants from so many countries were encouraged, financed and equipped by the United States, leading European and Muslim countries. The Soviet debacle in the Afghan war encouraged the Islamist militants to undertake new ventures, mostly against their national states. The events of 9/11 and American intervention in Afghanistan entirely changed the strategic calculation of the militancy. Some of these militants have turned their guns on Pakistan; some for extending support to the U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan, others for capturing the state in Pakistan; Since the resurgence of Taliban in Afghanistan around 2005-7, Pakistan has been confronting a similar outfit called Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) with so many chapters in different agencies of the tribal areas.

The militants have consistently attacked the security forces of Pakistan and ordinary citizens for well over a decade now causing more than fifty thousand casualties. The country has suffered perhaps unprecedented damage in loss to international image, loss of business, and investment opportunity that is estimated close to hundred billions dollars. The militants, both ethnic in Balochistan and part of TTP groups, have backing of Pakistan's adversaries.

Unfortunately, the political parties and the public at large have failed to understand the threat, militants have posed, or to the colossal damage they have caused. They appear to be confused owing to conflicting narratives that have emerged. There has been a lack of clarity on what do the insurgents want and why have they taken up arms against the state? This question produces confused answers that don't stand the test of any logic or reason. For instance, the Taliban and their supporters portray themselves as 'holy warriors' fighting for the enforcement of Islamic law and defenders of Pakistan. One important lesson of history and strategy is that enemy enters deep into the society and may survive because of camouflaging.  For any nation, the first clarity it needs is who the enemy is, what his objectives are, whom he is aligned with and what means he is likely to apply?

After fighting so many battles over a decade and suffering so much, there is no ambiguity left about our “internal” enemies – the TTP and Baloch insurgents supported by external powers.  Both must be defeated by whatever means necessary to reclaim the territory and writ of the state.

The Zarb-e-Azb is our final battle, a battle of national survival to eliminate the TTP and its allied groups in North Waziristan Agency (NWA). Sadly, what has been happening in the frontier regions for decades is not an isolated phenomenon but part of a larger and more complex project of capturing the state by eliminating its authority, starting with regions where its presence has been weak. Religious groups throughout the country extend support to the militants in many ways such as attacking the state in the media for “provoking” trouble. If that is not the case, why have religious groups, religious political parties and their spokesmen who are vocal on every other issue, not condemned the insurgents and their brutalities against our security forces? Their silence is a political statement of latent support to this so called religious insurgency. In a convoluted logic, they often blame security forces and the government for the conflict situation more than the violent armed groups that have committed and continue to commit unspeakably cruel acts.

It is not difficult to understand this silent, latent support of religious groups to the insurgents, but what is hard to grasp is the silence of some of the mainstream political parties, intelligentsia and other opinion-making sectors for a very long time. With very few exceptions, most of the parties remained ambivalent on the issue of religious violence. Some of them took perverse pleasure in watching the Musharraf regime being challenged by religious extremists and their armed fronts. It is not hard to see how political opportunism clouded their judgment on the issue of religious violence and Talibanisation for almost a decade. In building national consensus against militants we lost a lot of time, opportunities and precious lives.

Gladly, things have changed now. There is a general consensus among all the political groups and parties that the TTP militancy must be defeated. The government and the political parties gave fair chance to a negotiated settlement to succeed, but as many skeptics rightly feared they would fail, the only option left was to launch a military operation that is underway now. One remarkable thing that has happened is that the public opinion has turned against the militants and those parties that have apologetically defended them. Operation 'Zarb-e-Azb' is not only a military operation but a symbol of national resistance against terrorism and religious extremism.

In understanding the Islamist militancy and thinking of means to defeat it, the starting point is this question: what has gone wrong with our society where religious intolerance, hatred and conflict have increased? While being aware of what is happening in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and the violent play of religion and sect there, we need to look more closely at our domestic roots of religious conflict and terror groups. We need to raise this question: did religious violence in Pakistan start after the Americans intervened in Afghanistan and removed the Taliban from power? Not really. The sectarian conflict, perhaps the worst in our history, that continues to simmer and burst out occasionally, started in the early 1980s. The sectarian militias are still with us, lying low, and camouflaged. We have a great responsibility to develop nationalist narratives and make our society realize the dangers of this disguised enemy. Indifferent social attitudes toward religious violence have allowed Talibanisation to grow, taking a form of insurgency.

Nothing can be more distorted than the view that the war, our security forces are fighting, is not our war but one undertaken to safeguard others’ interests. This view is put forward only by elements whose interests are tied with the religious extremists and the Taliban, as the latter do not renounce war against the state if it is sanctioned by their religious beliefs. What they do not understand is that armed conflict against the state, no matter what the nature of grievances, is not justifiable under law, reason or even religion.

The civilian government and the security forces have taken the right decision to reassert state authority and regain sovereign control through whatever means necessary in the remain stronghold of militants – North Waziristan. If they were allowed to have their way and end up creating and running mini-states within the Pakistani state, other regions and areas of the country might have seen rise of similar elements. The war our security forces are fighting is our war, a war for the future of Pakistan. The state and the nation have finally made their resolve to counter and eliminate Talibanisation that presents a grave threat to national security.

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The writer is an eminent defence/political analyst and regularly contributes in print/electronic media. Presently he is Director General at Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad

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07
August

WAR OF INDEPENDENCE 1857 & PUNJAB FRONTIER

Written By: Maj Gen Muhammad Khalil Dar

14th of August is proudly celebrated as Independence Day because the Muslims of the subcontinent finally freed themselves form yoke of occupation. Incidentally summer months i.e. May to September remain associated with independence struggle ever since the early stages of occupation. It was in May 1757 when Indian Forces attempted to oust the expanding British along the coast of Bihar and it was again 10th May 1857 when native troops rebelled at Meerut which quickly transformed into a large scale independence struggle taking authorities completely by surprise. 

Since, this year's 14th August is overlapping with own Army's multidimensional efforts to help establish the writ of the Government in FATA in general and NWA in particular; the objective of this article is to maintain the focus on this region, albeit, in historical sense.Additionally, in most of the accounts of 1857 War, Frontier i.e. now KPK largely remains out of focus, due to understandable reasons of least activity. Nevertheless, little digging in history reveals that authorities, young officers and troops of this area played a decisive role. While experience in FATA highlights that little has changed in the social perspective, therefore, an attempt has been made to remain objective with a singular aim of learning military lessons. For there lies great lessons in not only own stories of triumph but also in enemy's display of tact and valour when confronted with difficult choices.  

Though, authorities in Peshawar had received news of rebellion in Meerut on 11th May, thanks to newly installed telegraph, it was on 21st May 1857, when Herbert Edwards, Commissioner  Peshawar, received a letter from John Lawrence, the Chief Commissioner Punjab at Lahore, proposing to abandon parts of areas west of Indus and release forces to relief Delhi. The letter also proposed that Amir Dost Muhammad of Afghanistan be asked to take formal possession of vale of Peshawar (accepting his territorial claim) with an assurance of friendship during the crisis. Back in Calcutta, the East India Company Headquarters, and Ambala, company's military headquarters, the situation would have looked exceedingly bleak given the fact that many of British units had not returned from Crimean Campaign and some were being earmarked for War with China. As against 40,000 held, before Crimea only 28,000 British troops were in India. Such was the predicament faced by East India Company (EIC) Government in India on the 11th day of War of Independence i.e. when the true scale of uprising had yet to take place. Growing sense of insecurity had forced them to contemplate to give up the newly acquired territory beyond Indus (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) to release troops for use in heart land; the greatest existential threat heretofore faced by the British authorities.

Up there in Peshawar, though, by 14th May potential threat of unified large scale uprising in eight native units had been quickly forestalled by dispersing those from Peshawar. However, the atmosphere on 21st evening was tense and fearful due to rebellion of soldiers from three recently dispersed Native Bengal Infantry units i.e. one in Mardan Fort (55th Native Bengal Infantry) and two in Nowshera. To make the matters worse, a letter from Subedar Major of 51st Native Bengal Infantry at Peshawar had been caught, inciting uprising at collective level. Now with the "prepared to abandon" mindset of the superiors on one side and unreliability of esteemed regiments on the other, the situation could be categorized as unnerving.

What separated Punjab in general, and Peshawar in particular, from rest of the India was that political and military leadership were men of nerves with steel and found crisis as best time to prove themselves. Instead of succumbing to crushing pressures from multi-directional threat perceptions, they chose cold calculations and bold actions with unyielding conviction based on their personal leadership and inspiration. For Nicholson, Edwards and Sydney Cotton, “To surrender Peshawar would be certain ruin; they must stand or fall at Peshawar."  They not only disagreed to abandonment the proposal by John Lawrence but started sending relief columns to besieged Delhi. As the events proved later that those were the forces from Punjab and Frontier which mainly contributed in regaining Delhi on 24th Sep 1857, ending over four months of siege.

One is confronted with few fundamental questions. What gave the military leaders in Peshawar the uncommon confidence to not only hold on to whatever they had but send significant reinforcements to relieve Delhi? Why did Afghan King not attack and re-claim Peshawar (his summer capital till 1824)? And above all why the tribesmen did not join together and finish the outnumbered infidels as was being done in Central India?

In pure military sense, by 1857, recently acquired Peshawar and surroundings had the largest concentration of British and Company troops than elsewhere in India. Responsibility of Peshawar Division of the Bengal Army then included Jhelum, Rawalpindi, Murree and Attock, rendering it the largest and the most important command in India. Out of total of 28,000 British troops in India, over 12,000 were in Punjab with a bias towards Frontier along with 50,000 of native troops out of 300,000 being maintained in whole of occupied India.

Decade of rule in frontier had, though, been mired with near constant struggle against truculent / unruly tribesmen, who almost encircled the Company's possessions, between 1849 and 1857, no less than fifteen punitive expeditions were launched, but this kept the men in high state of readiness. In response to perpetually restive Tribal Region highly mobile and effective forces had also been raised outside the ambit of the central authority, directly supervised and financed by the Provincial Government at Lahore. Acclaimed ‘the Guides’ and ‘the Punjab Irregular Force’ contained cavalry, artillery and infantry, not to mention higher rate of pay for a strenuous job of controlling seditious tribesmen. And above all a group of competent and effective civil military officers like, Herbert Edwards, John Nicholson, Chamberlain and Sydney Cotton, had been on the Frontier long enough to mature into impacting personalities who were capable enough to make the best use of available resources. All of them along with lower tier officers would play dominant roles in recapture of Delhi. 

When the news of uprisings among Native Bengal Regiments at Meerut was received in Peshawar on the evening of 11th May i.e. after one day of happening, civil and military leadership under Herberts Edwards, vowed to adopt three stepped approach proposed by John Nicholson. First, the urgent need to create a moveable column comprising reliable troops of Punjab Irregular Force and Queens regular regiments to quell the trouble whereever required. Second, dispersion of eight Bengal Native Infantry units and lastly to raise levies from Punjab and Frontier comprising Sikhs, Punjabi Muslims and Pakhtuns, albeit counting on proven loyalties of locals, especially of tribesmen. This would fill the vacuum left by regular and other loyal units like ‘the Guides’ and ‘the Punjab Irregular Infantry’.

The Corps of Guides from Mardan, Coke's Rifles and three squadrons of Irregular Horse from Kohat and 5th Punjab Cavalry from Peshawar moved at once as parts of hastily assembled moveable column to join Delhi Field Force for the relief of Delhi. Guides under Colonel Henry Daly were on the move in the evening of 13th May reaching Nowshera at midnight and moving towards Attock Fort at the day break, all under intense heat and Ramadan. By 18th the Guides were in Rawalpindi resting enroute at Burhan and Sang Jani. By 9th June they were in sight of Delhi. The acclaimed regiment had traversed 586 miles (1000 Kms) in 27 days complete with baggage and ammunition only to heroically lose 50% of men and horses within two hours of their arrival as they were asked to join the ongoing fighting straightaway. A feat only possible when officers and men of a regiment are bound solidly and hardened through time tested mutual trust.

Back in Peshawar authorities decided to take the bull by horn rather than overwhelmed by fear and anxiety, adopting a ruthless action against 55th at Mardan. The punitive force under Nicholson moved from Peshawar at midnight 24th reaching Mardan at day break and dispersing and chasing the breakaway soldiers to the very foot hills of Malakand and Buner, hence, fighting for 24 hours without rest. They chose to publically disarm the native units in strong opposition to respective British commanding officers of the regiments, who understandably felt disgraced. Since mid 19th century was still in the age of chivalry, one of the British commanding officers shot himself dead once confronted with such disgrace. Disarming of units coupled with hangings was done in a ground (the location of Khyber Colony now), all in full spectacle of local chiefs of surroundings and notables of the city. This resolute military action had a major transforming impact on locals and tribesmen. The ever watching and weighing tribesmen, which way to side, were readily convinced to choose British as allies for the time being. Soon reports from Kohat, Hazara and elsewhere were received for mass recruitments to join British Army along with large scale allegiance of the tribal chiefs. This enabled the authorities to recruit the locals en-mass to be utilized. By September, Punjab had largely been pacified with no signs of either tribal rebellion or any sign of Afghan Government's intention to exploit the situation and re-claim Peshawar.  

Within the overall unfolding of events on 14th June, John Nicholson promoted as Brigadier was asked to assume the Command of Punjab moveable column earlier sent. He prepared to move the next day from Peshawar and caught up with the main force by 20th June. He was escorted by 250 tribal horsemen who made a ring around his regular escort force. They were devoted and blindly faithful to the Nicholson who had earned their respect through fairness and admirable fighting spirit. On reaching Delhi on 14th August, Nicholson injected a new spirit of hope in the Delhi Field Force, through the sheer impact of his imposing personality and urged them to attack the fort rather than wait and wear down. The attack which was launched on 14 September was successful but it took Nicholson's life, who was 35 by then. The tribesmen are recorded to have wept on the death of their Nickal Sen as he was commonly known since his days as Deputy Commissioner Bannu; soon after, they left the scene of war.

For a military student, the academic value of this whole episode is immense, both in the realms of science and art of war. It wasn't the universal behaviour of British officers in rest of the India. While at Cawnpur, General Hugh Weeler and at Meerut, General Hewit both lost hopelessly despite having more troops and weapons, primary reasons being: hesitation, inactivity under crisis and lack of boldness. General Anson the Commander of the Army in Northern India chose to go-ahead with routine and got his headquarters settled at Shimla despite being aware of the simmering situation since February on the very issue of controversial rifle cartridges. As the telegraph lines had been cut, the Army Command at Shimla was out of the loop of events. Nevertheless, Henry Lawrence at Lucknow read the potential gravity of the situation in time and prepared to fight it out and eventually saved lives etc. By and large, anyone who showed reluctance in disarming the units, paid the heavy price. To a modern military reader, the challenges of that time may appear incomprehensible. It took one and half month for the news of the rebellion to reach England in absence of telegraph line. The message from Peshawar – Lahore on telegraph first had to go to Karachi and then to Calcutta and finally to Delhi due to absence of lines in central India – available lines were soon cut by the natives. With such kind of communications, the planned control by central authority was rather unrealistic, if not impossible. Therefore, the local commanders decided the issue locally and sum total of many local decisions played critical role in eventual outcome. Bengali soldiers, though, charged with faith and anger lacked such decisive elements which are only possible through order and discipline. Pathans and Punjabi Sikhs shared common abhorrence for Bengali soldiers regardless of religion, due to decade old defeats from their hands. The details are many but the common conclusions are that it was the leadership which made the difference and modern weaponry was only effective as long as it was in the hands of trained and disciplined user. 

The end of war changed the course of India forever. While Muslims were accused and persecuted elsewhere, in Punjab and Frontier, they earned the titles of loyalty, bravery and status of martial races; Gurkhas, Gharwals and Sikhs being the others. By 1860, more than 70% of the British Native Army comprised of Punjabi Muslims, Punjabi Sikhs and Pathans, replacing farmers of Bengal and Ouhd.  And why did Mir Abdur Rehman not exploit the vacuum and neither attacked directly nor incited the tribesmen? Conventional answer can be that he remained loyal to his pledge since British had helped him recover Herat from Persians in 1855 but it could also be that he chose to wait and weigh the situation in the best tradition of this land and people.  

In retrospect it was mainly possible due to personal efforts of few but highly competent officer cadre, who had the ability to read the overall environment correctly, rationally, and make sound judgments which were difficult to digest by the desk managers sitting in the capitals.

26
August

Keep on Fighting Our War (A letter to a soldier employed in Operation Zarb-e-Azb in NWA by his Wife)

Written By: Ms MAryam Imran

Dear Husband,

Ever since I wedded you, I have never seen your spirits to falter; it would be very naïve to ask you traditionally about your spirits, but I hope you are in the best of your health.  I and our baby are also doing great, looking forward to see you soon.

I thank Allah Almighty for granting me the pride to be your wife, a soldier's girl; a soldier who is doing his part for our motherland. The pride of being part of your life, and your sweet memories are enough for me to bear this time without you. The strength I hold in the darkest of hours is your echo. Though you are away but every now and then I close my eyes to remember your ever smiling face. I always hold my head high and suppress my tears when I think of you. The day you left, I saw you mounting your jeep and driving away while waving at me; that is a memory embedded into my mind permanently. I know one day I will see you driving that jeep back to us.

We are doing well and you don't need to worry about us. Little Amna has now become very active and sometimes stands in the balcony to salute all men wearing uniform. She looks so adorable while doing so. She believes her father is the bravest and she keeps singing patriotic songs. She has made great plans for this Independence Day, she wanted you to be here, but I told her that you are protecting our National Flag from an evil witch, she somewhat believed. She has decorated the complete balcony with little national flags and persuaded me to buy her a green and white dress. She is such a doll.

I hope you might be having better plans for the Independence Day. What better can one offer his country and nation than to get rid of nemesis that has encroached into the veins of our motherland. Don't you worry about us, do what is to be done. It melts my heart when I see innocent people suffer daily from the hands of these terrorists. If God has given you a chance to extend His justice, then brave up and ensure this chance is not lost, and return victorious. We are proud of you and so is our nation.

Back here, all families of our regiment have developed a unique spirit of friendship. We visit each other very often and it feels as being related by blood. We find comfort by sharing with one another, our joy and sorrows. I have told all the lady wives that looking after our children at home while our husbands fight for an esteemed cause and staying strong is our Jihad. We all pray for your well-being and men fighting beside you. Hopefully our prayers will bear fruit and you and your comrades will be back here safe and sound.

I have bought a suit from my favourite designer. I have kept it in the closet till the day you will return. I will wear it and will take you to your favourite place to dine. Now you have the extra motivation, I suppose things will find a better pace. We are waiting for your safe return.

I want you to always remember that you are the source of happiness in my life. You make me so complete; it is beyond words. I love your wit, your charm, your ability to make me laugh even when tears flow heavily from my weary eyes. You are my best friend, my strength and my breath.

I have big plans for the future, so many places to see and shops to visit, write back sooner, and come home soon. I know times are hard but as Allah says, after every hardship there is ease. Stand tall and soon it will be over. We will be looking forward from your side.

A Hug from Amna. She is waiting for you to return and buy her Barbi doll.

Take care of yourself and your men, may Allah Almighty guide you to victory.

 

Yours Ever Loving Wife Maryam

23
September

Rekindling the spirit

Written By: By Amir Zia

Conflicts and war often bring the best or worst out of men. The 1965 war indeed brought the best out of the Pakistani nation. This unyielding spirit needs to be celebrated... it needs to be rekindled even today when the country faces the usual conventional threat on its eastern front as well as the internal challenge of extremism and terrorism
W hen the Indian forces crossed Pakistan's international border unannounced in the dark of the night on the fateful date of September 6, 1965, they were hoping for a swift march into Lahore. Indian General, J.N. Chaudhry, had boasted that he would celebrate his victory at the Lahore Gymkhana the same evening. But the dream of the Indian General got drowned in the muddy waters of the BRB Canal where handful of Pakistani soldiers gave a heavy pounding to his 15th Infantry Division in the initial hours of the battle. The first mighty blows struck by the valiant sons of Pakistan on the aggressors set the tone of this 17-day conflict. Be it the defence of Lahore, the capture of the desert town of Munabao in Rajasthan, the grand tank battle of Chawinda near Sialkot, the bombardment of the India's radar station at the town of Dwarka by a small flotilla of Pakistan Navy, or the heroics of Pakistan Air Force – the gallantry of Pakistan Armed Forces in the 1965 War remain stuff fit for the folklore even after the passage of nearly five decades. The Indian offensive aimed at capturing major Pakistani cities of Lahore and Sialkot in one blow in the initial stage of the conflict on the back of a far superior numerical strength and firepower failed to materialize. But the Indians did manage to deflect pressure on the Akhnur and Jammu front where the Pakistani Forces were advancing at a rapid pace. Nevertheless, halting the Indian charge on the international frontier and defence of the major cities by Pakistani Armed Forces remains a feat in itself. The conflict tested the sheer resolve, courage and spirit of the mortal men that continue to resonate in our hearts even today. “The war has started,” thus spoke the then President Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan in his brief address to the nation at the start of the conflict. “Almighty Allah has provided an opportunity to the Pakistani Armed Forces to demonstrate their ability. My countrymen forge ahead and take on the enemy.” It was not just the men in uniform who answered to the call to arms, but the entire nation rose as one-man to foil the enemy designs. If our soldiers, airmen and sailors stood like a rock in the line of fire, the hearts of the entire nation were with them on each and every battlefront. Those were the times which galvanized the nation. The Indian aggression erased all the differences of class, social background, religion, ethnicity, nationality or sect. Internal wrangling and petty politics were kept on the back-burner. Defending the motherland was the only goal. In their bid to crush the legitimate freedom movement in the occupied Kashmir, the Indians thrust the war on Pakistan's international border. Pakistan responded matching fire with fire and steel with steel. It was a classical example of the Biblical tale of young David, who kills Goliath, the giant, with a stone. 14-15a Even though Pakistani Armed Forces were pitted against the much bigger enemy, there was never an element of self-doubt or lack of conviction that this war cannot be fought. The smallness of size and numerical strength got offset by the giant Pakistani spirit that believed 'yes we can.' We can defend our frontiers… we can preserve our liberty and we can give a bloody nose to our enemy. Be it the armed forces or the civilians – this conviction and sense of unity remained the hallmark of those testing times. In that short, less than three week war, if the armed forces made the nation proud, the civilians did their bit by backing the men in uniform as best as they could. Pakistani poets, artists, singers and musicians produced some of the best war time national songs that became classics in their own right that fill our hearts with pride, passion and love for our country and the armed forces even today. The Radio Pakistan bubbled with round-the-clock activity – even during the Indian air-raids – performing the task of countering the Indian propaganda blow-by-blow, disseminating information and articulating the national spirit through the national songs. If Pakistani intelligentsia worked overtime to back the war-effort, our labourers, workers, peasants, technicians, engineers, doctors, government employees, traders and shopkeepers ensured that all the vital operations and services continue unhindered during the wartime. And yes the grand Pakistani spirit that brought civilians to the rooftops of their houses to witness Pakistani eagles chasing the Indian planes. People shouted slogans, screamed and jumped with joy – many with teary eyes – as they hailed and showered their love and affection on the defenders of their motherland. Fear was and is not in our blood. Conflicts and war often bring the best or worst out of men. The 1965 war indeed brought the best out of the Pakistani nation. This unyielding spirit needs to be celebrated... it needs to be rekindled even today when the country faces the usual conventional threat on its eastern front as well as the internal challenge of extremism and terrorism. The ongoing operation Zarb-e-Azb against the Al-Qaeda-inspired local and foreign militants, who want to bring down the state and consider the Pakistani Armed Forces as their number one enemy, must be seen as vital for the unity and integrity of the country as was the 1965 war effort. To defeat this internal enemy – having tentacles not just in the treacherous mountainous regions but also in all major cities and towns of Pakistan – it is necessary that we evoke the similar spirit, which helped us repulse the attack of the Indians. Operation Zarb-e-Azb is not an isolated crackdown concerning the armed forces alone. It is Pakistan at war against the elusive enemy which is misusing the sacred name of Islam to weaken and damage the world's lone Muslim-majority nuclear state. Our stakes today remain as high as they were in 1965. Any doubts, disunity, discord among our ranks in taking on this challenge only benefit the internal as well as the external enemies of Pakistan. Our politicians need to grasp this reality and take a lead in setting the national narrative against these parochial forces which stand opposed to education, modernity, progress and development. The dream of a stable, economically vibrant and peaceful Pakistan would continue to elude us until we crush this internal enemy on a war-footing. The armed forces are doing their job and our soldiers and officers sacrificing lives in one of the most difficult terrains of the world, but are we, as a nation, backing this effort with a similar passion and single-mindedness as needed? We need to answer this question honestly. Yes, the nation stands solidly behind their armed forces despite all the turf wars being fought among our politicians and the ensuing confusion, but one hardly sees any sense of urgency and focus needed to win this internal war among our national leaders. The military operation against extremists and terrorists has provided the much-needed space to the civilian leadership to focus on reforms, and win the battle of ideas, but apart from the lip-service to this cause, there are hardly any meaningful steps being taken to exploit this window of opportunity. There should be zero tolerance against the non-state actors who try to undermine the writ of the state, take up arms and attack the armed forces, sensitive installations or target civilians. This is the minimum national consensus we need at this moment. For it is Pakistan's war, our war. It cannot be won without igniting the similar spirit which helped us in 1965. This is a chance for our generation to prove itself. We have no choice but to accept the gauntlet.

The writer is an eminent journalist who regularly contributes for media and is Editor of a national daily

Twitter: @AmirZia1

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