And the Operation
The kind of deadlock being observed in Punjab is just what you are likely to get if political considerations and point scoring are allowed to come in the way of a so-called ‘cleansing’ operation. It seemed, for a while, that Ch Nisar’s efforts in getting party leaders on board – especially from south Punjab – to give Rangers and the army the ‘legal cover’ they require to lead the operation on the ground were succeeding. But it turns out, according to the press, that even though Shahbaz Sharif eventually saw reason, the prime minister is just not ready to green light the kind of operation that would mean.
Nonetheless the Punjab Operation is a reality. And PML-N’s sensitivity about its ‘back yard’ has strained the equation with the military since immediately after the Lahore attack just a couple of weeks ago. The military wanted to waste no time with the long overdue cleansing, but the ruling party dragged its feet for obvious political reasons. But since the military went ahead anyway, the civilian government decided to take control from a position of strength.
And that, along with Shahbaz Sharif’s boast that Punjab police is strong enough to deal with the province’s terrorists, has brought things to the present impasse. Since the government mandated Rangers and army only to facilitate Punjab police, that is precisely what the latter are doing. They have set up pickets around the Kacha areas where militants are holed up, but they are going no further. Therefore, once again PML-N’s decision-making is keeping a full blown, much needed, anti-terror operation from getting off the ground properly. The government is reminded that in addition to playing into the enemy’s hands, such actions also trigger chatter about civ-mil differences, which can do nobody much good at this time except the terrorists everybody should be fighting against. The government’s obsession with ‘owning’ Punjab is understandable, but it won’t be able to do that without owning the Punjab Operation first.