The news stories from Pakistan have been bad across the board for quite some time now. Recent days have seen the TTP-led forces within 70 km of Islamabad, “peace” deals in Swat and a rising tide of attacks on major cities. However, all is not lost for the Pakistan Army. In fact, all was never lost; it has been a carefully planned strategic move on the part of General Kayani.
Politically, by giving the Pakistani Taliban a chance for peace, he has won the sympathies of the people of the region and broad national support. The local population have also had a chance of looking at life under the Pakistani Taliban, a large part of whom are former thugs and thieves. This has bought the Pakistan Army a great deal of political mileage. Meanwhile, militarily the Pakistani Taliban are overstretched. They are also dangerously close to being strategically dissected, outflanked and caught with their pants down.
Pakistan Army offensives have thus far been successful, and are likely to cut off Swat from TTP reinforcements from the South. Bajaur-Malakand-Buner axis would leave the Pakistani Taliban in Swat dissected from their friends in Mohmand Agency. The Swat Valley has very few exits and is accessible mainly from the South and North, with limited access to Shangla to the East and Dir to the West. All of which can theoretically be closed by the Pakistan Army Urdu News.
The TTP have underestimated the Pakistan Army and overestimated their position and moved towards more conventional ground holding operations over classic guerrilla too quickly. They are likely to pay the price in blood, and complete loss of their northern flank. The only silver lining for the TTP will be the use of massive American weaponry including borrowed choppers that are likely to be used in such an operation. This would equate the Pakistan Army=stooges of America.
The Pakistani game plan has been masterminded by General Kayani, who is now emerging as a seasoned chess-player and a veritable Pakistani Putin. He has deftly fixed the political crisis without directly interfering in the affairs of the state. “The Kayani Model”, a term coined by former Chief of Army Staff Jehangir Karamat, represents a new framework for the Pakistan Army. As Karamat puts it, – “invisible but around, fully informed and acting through well timed and effective influence”.
In a parallel development, a new consensus appears to be emerging, that can be called the “Zaid Hamid Consensus” that charts out a broad policy of independence from the US and an Islamic state in the philosophical lineage of Allama Iqbal rather than a Taliban/Salafi style interpretation. This consensus, if it can gain critical mass, could prove to be an antidote to both foreign designs against the country as well as the internal threat of the Salafists and terrorists.
The Americans are also in the game. The American game plan is represented by a rehash of the “Sunni Awakening” strategy in Iraq under the brand name of “Sunni Tahreek” a so-called Deobandi outfit. This is perhaps the biggest danger for Pakistan, as it will in the long-term move the battle from far flung and remote areas to the city centers of the country in a rehash of Iraq post US conquest, with the violence, militias and terror that it accompanied. With the political government’s cooperation and US funding, this could easily turn very nasty.