The 180th Corps Commanders’ Conference headed by army chief General Raheel Sharif reviewed operational preparedness, as well as the internal and external security situation of the country. Was the efficacy of Zarb-e-Azab itself questioned by the top brass? In reality, how much has Zarb-e-Azb changed on the security front? Despite extensive military operations and counter terrorism measures, the number of attacks in city centres continues to rise. Zarb-e-Azb has also been hailed as the landmark campaign for fixing the frayed relationship between Islamabad’s military and the government, but it is more about the Army always having its say and having its way. Well, so long as they are keeping us secure.

Zarb-e-Azab to a large extent has become an operation free from media or public criticism. The military has kept a tight handle on information going out and in, and no one knows for sure if it has done any good. It has been so, that only after the Peshawar school massacre that measures have really been stepped up. Which begs the question, why were we waiting for the tragedy? What went missing in previous operations over the last five years?

If the government is responsible for negligence in setting forth a workable security policy, the armed forces can hardly be exonerated for their larger share for opening Pandora’s box of terror in the first place. Pakistan’s intelligence agencies in the past have been hand-in-glove with religious organisations such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) to foment unrest in Kashmir in collaboration with Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT). Let us not forget facts like these. The NAP and legislation, the 21st Amendment, have not touched upon the real root of the problem. Sectarian violence in Pakistan is an offshoot of the jihadi hydra. When organisations like LeT are disrupting Afghanistan and India, the state has looked the other way on its sectarian violence at home. The efforts of the state are still not enough. Now the army is asking the Taliban living in Quetta to open up and accept dialogue with Kabul, because they fear more experiences like that of Peshawar.

Peshawar has to be a turning point, a so-called 9/11, which ushers a country into realism about its vulnerabilities, fears and threats. And because it is such a huge turning point, the army and government must be criticised, must be pressurised to do more. It must be asked how useful was Zarb-e-Azb and that it must do better with the National Action Plan. Another incident of the scale of Peshawar, and people will lose all confidence in the military, like they have in the government. Too many turning points, and we will be back to square one.