The new Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kiyani has raised his stature in the eyes of the nation by declaring in his public statements that the Army will not be involved in politics and will only play its constitutional role to defend the country against external and internal threat to its security. He has reportedly issued directive to recall serving army personnel from the civilian positions and to disallow senior military officers from meeting the politicians as well as the president of Pakistan without his prior permission. He also refused to allow the army to supervise the general elections beyond maintaining law and order on government's request. So far so good.
On the other side, the COAS has reiterated army's commitment to support the U.S. War on Terror in the NWFP. It seems to be a bit conflicting with the army's determination to remain out of politics.
The War on Terror is multi-faceted. We have militants fighting with the armed forces in Waziristan and Swat Valley. As far as Waziristan is concerned, the general perception among the public in Pakistan is that there is practically no insurgency there. As the story goes, there are few militants or Jihadis of foreign as well as Afghan origin who fought in the Afghan War or Jihad and later crossed into the tribal belt after finding it difficult to live in Afghanistan. These men were not involved in carryingout terrorist activities. The U.S. initiative to arrest or eliminate them and the determination of the tribal men to resist the U.S. attempts and later that of Pakistan's army, too, made the situation worse.
Probably, the US feared that the Jihadis, though small in number, might progressively become a big force to fight against the U.S. as they did against the Soviet Union. It was probably more of an assumption or foresight rather than an actual happening. The U.S. and Pak Army indulgence has created a negative impact on most of the people in other parts of the country. The best solution at the moment appears to be reconciliation rather than military action in the NWFP. The reconciliation should ensure non-militant or non-terrorist activities in the affected territories.
The government operation in the Lal Masjid and the killing of estimated 1100 plus men and women and children who were residing inside as students added fuel to the fire. Most of the students belonged to the NWFP. It is assumed that the suicidal attacks on military personnel and property in the various parts of the country are partly linked to the killings of students in the Lal Masjid operation as well as the military operations in the NWFP.
Then there are various small or sprinter groups of Jihadis known for their involvement in Jihad in Afghanistan and elsewhere. These groups are reportedly recruiting, training and utilizing young men for attacking law enforcement agencies and the military personnel and property in support of the militants in the NWFP and the killings in the Lal Masjid operation.
The young recruits are those who are otherwise disillusioned, disheartened and dismayed with the living conditions in their home villages. Lack of social justice is the key to their revolt against the establishment. Desperate to gid rid of the government in power, they resort to suicidal attacks and other militant activities. It is generally believed that the economic development, equitable distribution of wealth, provision of basic necessitaties of life etc. in the affected areas would lead to social and economic justice and reduce temptation on the part of the youth to indulge in militancy.
So long as the army remains engaged in war on terror, it cannot possibly keep itself out of politics. Army operations and politics are inter-linked.