Terror War: Pakistan more sinned against than sinning
September 09, 2011
As Pakistan continues to bleed and being battered on both human and socio-economic fronts braving destruction and turmoil as a leash back in its continuing fight against terror as a frontline state, its western allies continue to cast aspersions on its efforts, trials and tribulations, reflected by a cold, insensitive and demeaning approach.
Always a bride’s maid never a bride, Pakistan, instead of receiving any appreciation and acknowledgement, remains at the dirty end of the stick, facing classic western hypocrisy and apathy that is now all too familiar. The present scenario is almost a flashback reminiscent of the end of cold war era and then Afghan Jehad in 1980s when Pakistan performed a seemingly impossible feat in military history by making short work of a leviathan of a military might. It fought a proxy war for the West and almost single handedly blew to smithereens the colossal military power of the then USSR, ultimately resulting in its disintegration and America’s rise as the sole superpower.
However, there was no reward, no appreciation, and no rehabilitation assistance to come. Instead, Pakistan was left high and dry to deal with over three million influx of Afghan refugees, drugs and gun culture, all legacies of the war. And this ignominious treatment did not stop at just that – Islamabad was also slapped with crippling embargoes and restrictions in the form of Pressler’s Amendment.
The indifference being meted out to Pakistan by its western allies in the ongoing conflict, therefore, should not come as a surprise since it’s a manifestation of their trademark duality that has one again come full circle. Either they are not inclined, or do not want, to appreciate the fact that while most of the world felt the heat of war on terror only though daily news reports, TV footage and late-night reviews, Pakistan has lived the horror, and continues to do so in its quest for regional and world peace.
Our allies continue to belittle our sacrifices and losses by mocking Pakistan with the oft repeated mantra of “Do More”. It is as if they are totally oblivious to the exponential economic and human cost Pakistan is paying with its own 9/11s in its streets, bazaars and mosques every other day. Ironically, they hold Pakistan responsible for the mess they created themselves. Pakistan, undoubtedly, is more sinned against than sinning!
The world must recollect that the roots of today’s terrorism lead back to a war involving the world’s superpowers in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Afghanistan and Pakistan, and increasingly the world, are reaping the bitter harvest sowed towards the end of the cold war. Pakistan is not fighting this war only for its survival. It is fighting this war because it will decide whether our world will be governed by the principles of justice and equity, rule of law and democratic traditions, or by extremism, chaos, violence and pedantic bigotry.
Pakistan has been at the forefront of the global campaign against terrorism for the last decade. No other country in the world has borne the brunt of this blood-thirsty tidal wave of terror and annihilation as Pakistan has. Suicide bombings and blasts targeting government installations and functionaries as well as the security personnel and common man have inflicted colossal damage to Pakistan on socio-economic and human fronts among other sectors.
Pakistan has lost more than thirty thousand civilians and 5,000 personnel of security forces in its efforts to combat terrorism. More brave and valiant Pakistani soldiers have fallen in combat than the combined casualties of foreign troops in Afghanistan. Likewise, our economic losses, exceeding $58 billion, have been several folds greater than what we have received in compensation.
The law-enforcement operation in Swat resulted in displacement of 2-3 million people. The loss to property, crops and livestock in Swat was about 4-5 billion dollars, putting a huge burden on economy. Pakistan is now in a crucial phase of reconstruction and rehabilitation in the affected areas. Success to this effect would go a long way towards defeating terrorism, but for this international support and understanding will be crucial.
A careful review of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism measures reflects that despite paucity of resources and the huge price, Pakistan’s contributions to fighting terror greatly surpass those of any other state in the global alliance against terror in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s commitment towards this end has been unswerving backed by practical measures, full support and active cooperation.
However, Pakistan must not be pressured to carryout a shock-and-awe military operation in line with US’s “scorched earth” policy. Any action, even if military, must be culture and people sensitive, clearly differentiating between civilians and rogue elements taking cover of civilian population, to avoid collateral damage and consequent negative fallout. Pakistan is carrying out its anti-terror strategy in a phased and planned manner, not leaving any stone unturned. In this regard, first Pakistan army carried out a successful operation in country’s north, and rid areas like Swat and Malakand of extremist elements. The army is now in hot pursuit of fleeing militants in South Waziristan.
Pakistan is following a three-pronged counter-terrorism strategy which comprises political dialogue, socio-economic measures and use of force as a last option. This strategy also focuses on developmental projects, education and employment generation to bring about prosperity and wean people away from extremism and terrorism. A nine-year sustainable development plan for Federally-Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) has been prepared. The International community can assist Pakistan is implementing this strategy and building its capacity.
On the operational side, Pakistan has deployed about 150,000 troops and security personnel on its border with Afghanistan and has set up 1000 border posts to interdict militant fighters. It has also apprehended a large number of terrorists, including some of their top leaders. A National Counter Terrorism Authority has also been established as a focal point for dealing with counter terrorism. In addition to this, Pakistan is implementing UN resolution 1267 (1999) and all subsequent resolutions related with counter terrorism. In order to ensure smooth implementation of UN Security council resolutions, Pakistan has devised a comprehensive legal framework and law-enforcement strategy to counter-terrorism.
It has given effect to UNSC decisions through the United Nations (Security Council) Act, 1948. Statutory Regulatory Orders (S.R.Os) are issued to provide legal cover for implementing sanctions measures under Security Council Resolutions, including measures such as freezing funds and financial resources, arms embargo and travel ban. All these actions speak of Pakistan’s strong desire to combat the problem, and any gaps in this area should, therefore, not be seen as lack of commitment, but dearth of resources.
However, terrorism has no faith. The need to curb the tendency on the part of some countries to use the international sentiment against terrorism for advancing their own narrow agenda is of equal importance. Ten years after the launching of US-led military operation is Afghanistan, there is a growing realization that this campaign cannot be won by military means alone. Civilian casualties as a result of this military campaign and drone attacks inside Pakistan’s territory have evoked strong popular resentment.
The problem of extremism and terrorism needs a “regional” and a “comprehensive” approach since challenges faced by the entire region are common. The regional states would have to play their role in preventing the flow of money and weapons. Region-wide collaboration is also essential in curbing the narco trade, which is feeding terrorism and keeping the region destabilized.
The regional states will also have to guarantee non-intervention and non-interference. Military surge should be coupled with political and developmental surge. Moral and developmental dimensions have to be an indispensable part of this comprehensive approach. Equal attention is needed on social sectors. Winning the hearts and minds is critical for ensuring sustainable success. Focus on dialogue and reconciliation is essential for sustainable peace.
The new strategy must be “culture sensitive” and recognize plurality and the importance of indigenous solutions, which have broader ownership and enjoy credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the people. Simultaneously, development has to be a major priority. An assistance programme on the scale of the Marshal Plan is needed for the region. We should also promote trans-regional development cooperation, which active participation of the corporate sector.
It’s time international community, especially Western nations, developed a better understanding of the critical problems and crises confronting Pakistan, which is locked in a battle with its grave existential challenges that, otherwise, would have made any other weaker nation wither and crumble.
It must be appreciated that the challenge is enormous and requires a sustained and protracted endeavour, both locally and at the international level. We have a common enemy to fight, and for a resources-strapped country like Pakistan, such a pursuit is not possible without a comprehensive support; assistance to help fight poverty and illiteracy, since deprivation and ignorance stoke up violence and extremism; trade and not aid; and market access and trade agreements beneficial to Pakistan’s economy.
Revival of democracy in Pakistan has set the wheels of change in motion with distinctive dividends. Today, more than ever before, Pakistani nation stands firm in its resolve to combat this menace. It’s time world gave Pakistan a break, giving way to a different and more considerate approach. It’s time international community came forward by recognizing not censuring Pakistan; by extending a helping hand and not deserting; and by according Pakistan its due, rightful and respectable status as a front-line state in the global war on terror.