The proposed Waziristan operation cannot be conducted in isolation; it has to be seen in the perspective of Pakistan’s foreign policy as well as regional geo-political strategic paradigm. When judged on these parameters, proposed military operation in Waziristan seems to be a poor strategic tool which would push Pakistan to a position of weakened regional player which would be miles away to avail economic and political opportunities which may be cashed on by adopting a realistic and prudent policy to resolve the issue of tribal insurgency.
Common tribal Pakistanis look at themselves as true Pakistanis; they do not nourish any animosity towards Pakistani people and government authorities. The tribal militants fighting against Pakistan make only a small portion of common tribal Pakistanis. The militants are spread over thousands of miles long tribal belt and are mixed up with the common tribal people. This tribal belt is the most difficult terrain to launch a conventional military operation particularly against militants which cannot be segregated from the common tribal people. In such situation, if Pak army resorts to indiscriminate aerial attacks and military operation, common tribal people would become vulnerable to huge casualties which would drive them to enmity towards Pak army and Pakistani common people. Any such situation would embroil Pak army in tribal belt in a long indecisive military operation at the cost of unbearable losses inflicted to Pak army. The whole tribal area, and consequently Afghan Taliban who are allies to TTP, would be lost to Pakistan for all practical purposes and this hostile scenario would hold Pakistan away from cashing on economic and political opportunities likely to be presented to Pakistan at regional level.
Presently China’s more than 50% crude oil imports are coming from the Middle East. Gawadar is the shortest possible route from Gulf Straits to China. That is why China while managing this port is interested to link it by road or railways to China. Consequently Pakistan would become a vanguard to Chinese imports and exports to and from the Gulf. Similarly China is destined to overtake soon Russia and USA as a dominating foreign power in Central Asia politically as well as economically; China is investing a lot in Central Asian economies. This policy is leading China and Central Asia to mutual dependence. Pakistan also may connect Gawadar Port to Central Asian states through roads or railways links through Afghanistan so that Central Asian states may make use of Gawadar Port. As mentioned above, Middle East is becoming the greatest source of crude oil for China; this fact is compelling China to assume greater role in the Middle East. All these developments may lead Pakistan, Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan, China and later on Gulf states to form an Economic and Political Cooperation block. All these facts put Pakistan in a very favorable position to use its strategic position to assume a prominent position in would-be regional Economic and Political Cooperation. But in order to become an effective member to such a regional block, Pakistan needs a friendly government in Afghanistan and a peaceful and friendly tribal belt, because it is through Afghanistan and tribal belt that Pakistan may be connected with other regional countries of would-be cooperation block.
The major consideration of USA is to prevent the probability of China emerging as economic and political super power and Central Asian Muslim countries including Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan all joining Chinese block. That is why USA is pressurizing Pakistan to initiate military operation in Waziristan. The USA may foresee the negative consequences of such a military operation may convert tribal belt and Afghan Taliban hostile to Pakistan and consequently hold Pakistan away from reaping the benefits of would-be regional cooperation, and push Pakistan to a subordinate position to India and USA (plz see my article ‘Imperatives of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy’). Such a scenario would also ensure continuity of deteriorated economic conditions in Pakistan, which would further serve USA’s interests which are based on weakened Pakistan.
Now the question arises what is the solution of this tribal insurgency, if military solution is ruled out. One solution to this issue may be to offer tribal Pakistanis a unified whole tribal belt with a status of a province having special constitutional status, and where tribal Pakistanis may establish financial, judicial, political and legal systems according to their values, culture and ideology; but subjects like communications, currency, foreign affairs, defense, may be left with the federation. It may be expected that tribal Pakistanis would accept federation’s writ regarding the subjects left with the federation, if they are given liberty to live their collective life according to their ideology.
Acceptance or rejection of this proposed offer may help Pakistan’s authorities to differentiate between genuine Taliban and the terrorists concealed in guise of Taliban. Such clear differentiation between genuine Taliban and terrorists may help Pakistan’s authorities to get terrorists isolated in the eyes of tribal Pakistanis, and consequently to take military action against such terrorists without taking risk of casualties of common tribal Pakistanis which would have distanced themselves already from such terrorists.
Waziristan insurgency is like an octopus having its legs deep into internal and external affairs of Pakistan (plz see my article 'Military Operation in N. Waziristan and its Implications). This insurgency has to be tackled with prudence and pragmatic approach. Any short sighted or reactionary policy would incur to Pakistan such permanent losses which would be much more than those losses due to which such reactionary policy would be initiated.