For socio-economic development war must cease

economy1By Asif Haroon Raja

None can deny that the US and its allies apparently mandated to eliminate terrorism in Afghanistan had a different agenda. Under the garb of fighting terrorism, Pakistan was to be systematically destabilized, weakened, de-nuked, secularized and turned into a compliant state. The six intelligence units led by CIA based in Kabul since end 2001 were instrumental in diverting flames of terrorism into Pakistan and then further fuelling them. In this unholy game, RAW was influential in organizing a comprehensive terror structure in Afghanistan. Pakistan has collected ample proofs of involvement of RAW and other intelligence agencies in Balochistan, FATA and Swat. Events in 2011 unearthed existence of CIA network in Pakistan. It is also a well known fact that some political parties and section of media are aligned with USA and working on its agenda.

The liberals in Pakistan were given full chance and ideal conditions to promote the virtues of Western democracy and to prove that Westminster model and British judicial system in practice are better than dictatorship and Islamic system. The coalition government of PPP-MQM-ANP installed by USA in 2008 utterly failed because it made no efforts to strengthen democratic norms. All their efforts were focused on enriching their personal coffers. They were repeatedly advised and criticized to mend their ways which were causing irreparable harm to the democracy but they paid no heed since power and wealth had intoxicated them. They kept their patron in good humor by continuing to fight the US imposed war on terror and in the process bleeding the economy as well as suffering enormous human losses.

While the US never got satisfied with the sacrifices rendered and kept pressing it to do more against the militants, the ruling regime paid no heed to the sufferings of the people. Undue interference of the US in Pakistan’s internal affairs gave currency to an impression that Washington was micro-managing internal and external affairs of Pakistan at the cost of its people and national interests. Musharraf’s recent admission that he had authorized use of drones at a limited scale confirmed the widely held perception that drones were fired by CIA with the understanding of our government. As a consequence, the people lost faith in their leaders and in democracy. They said that they were wrong in saying that ‘even worst form of democracy is better than good dictatorship’.

These and several other factors helped the extremist forces to build perceptions and play upon the religious sensitivities of the youth among the deprived class that see no future for themselves under prevalent corrupt system. Drone war has further helped TTP leaders to earn the sympathies and goodwill of the people, poison the ears of their followers against the Army and the government and recruit larger numbers of fighters. Without the support of the people no terror network can survive for long. All banned groups have roots in the society and are revered by their followers. Some have re-emerged under different names and some are participating in elections to lend strength to the right wing. Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat is one example.

The case in Balochistan is different where several Baloch nationalist groups under the patronage of foreign powers are pursuing secessionist agenda. BLA and BRA whose leaders are in exile and BLF are sabotaging election campaign of all political parties since elections go against their agenda. Only Akhtar Mengal has returned from exile and is taking part in elections but is threatened by Baloch terrorist groups.

Under the gloomy circumstances, political parties led by Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan, Syed Munawar Hussain and Maulana Fazlur Rahman have opened a window of opportunity and given a ray of light.  They want to end the futile war and have offered dialogue to the TTP. Imran Khan is in the lead and has shown a way out. He says that if brought to power, he will pullback the Army deployed in FATA, shoot down drones, put an end to war on terror and stop the degrading practice of US slavery. He said that he would prefer death over seeking alms from other countries. His popularity can be judged from the spontaneous outpouring of anxiety after his fall from a lifter at Lahore causing him slight injury and feelings of joy when they learnt that he was well. He may benefit from the sympathy wave.

Nawaz Sharif has once again emphasized the need to reconsider Pakistan’s support to the US war on terror and has favored negotiations with Taliban. JUI-F chief Fazl has repeatedly censured US interference and suggested termination of war by talking to Taliban. JI chief Syed Munawar Hasan lashed out at the liberal parties that they are reaping what they had sowed and suggested that liberals siding with USA should get themselves registered as minorities. He terms MQM as a terrorist party responsible for the destruction of peace in Karachi. These and suchlike statements touched the right chords of the militants and not only they accepted the offer of dialogue but also decided not to target right wing parties during ongoing election campaign. Dialogue will help in allaying misperceptions and until misgivings are removed the Taliban will not agree to surrender arms.

Although PML-N and PTI being conservative secular parties but leaning towards the right do not fit into strategic framework of TTP, the duo has been spared hoping that Nawaz or Imran would be able to checkmate ultra liberal trends and promote Islamic trends which would pave the way for introducing SHARIAH. The softness however seems temporary; sooner than latter a clash will occur since both Nawaz and Imran firmly believe in constitution and democracy and do not subscribe to extremism and violence.

Apparently two opposing camps have emerged, one led by liberals and other by rightists. The three liberal parties, PPP, MQM and ANP that were spitting venom against each other till the onset of election campaign have got together because of TTP threat out of expediency. Their truce will last up to 11 May only. Centre-right and right wing political and religious parties have failed to forge an alliance and all are contesting elections independently. Likewise, the religious parties like Jamaat-e-Islami, JUI (F), JUI (S) and religious groups are also not on one page. Maulana Fazlur Rahman is not in good books of TTP because of his duplicity.

Other than Shia-Sunni conflict, Deobandis, Barelvis and Ahl-e-Hadith remain within their own orbits. The TTP too has cracked up and several of its leaders have taken refuge in Kunar and Nuristan. Armed forces and higher judiciary are the only two institutions that stands united and committed to the national cause. However, Army-judiciary relationship is not free of strains because of latter’s activism.

War on terror and socio-economic development repel each other. The war must therefore cease to allow the future government to translate its promises of ameliorating the sufferings of the neglected segment of society into actions. Only peaceful environment will attract investments and enable the future reformers to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state promising peace, harmony, equitable distribution of wealth, equal opportunities for social upward growth and speedy justice to all.

Dialogue with militants will help in listening to each other’s point of views, removing misperceptions and grievances, offering incentive packages and convincing them to spurn violence and come into the mainstream and become useful members of the society by taking up their traditional job of defending the western border.  Dialogue will also help in segregating irreconcilable from reconcilable and eventually identifying and isolating those toeing foreign agenda. If we can offer amnesty to the separatists in Balochistan, why can’t we hold talks with misled tribesmen of FATA?

The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst and a columnist.

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