Peace Dividends Must Reach People
Addressing the 218th Corps Commanders’ Conference on February 4, this year, Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa said, “The dividends of improved internal security situation must reach out to the people of Pakistan through socio-economic development.”
The army chief elaborated, “Stability operations as part of Radd-ul-Fasaad shall continue, focus shall be on a national response against hostile forces…concurrent focus shall now be on strategising and implementing comprehensive national response against machinations by hostile intelligence agencies…inimical forces to undo the national gains for peace and stability.”
However, the forum also expressed satisfaction at the improved internal security situation and progress on regional peace initiative, especially the Afghan reconciliation process.
By the grace of Allah, and with the sacrifices of both Pakistani nation and the military, the peace has rejuvenated in the country. Pakistan is the only success story in the world in the war against terrorism. Three tiers including the state, people and Law Enforcement Agencies jointly fought the war, which was the main reason behind unprecedented success. No country in the world history has come out of the menace of terrorism so fast as Pakistan did.
The War on Terror has had multifaceted ramifications for Pakistan such as political and security repercussions, economic repercussions and socio-cultural repercussions.
Undoubtedly, Pakistan’s armed forces have successfully broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists by the successful military operations Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad which have also been extended to other parts of the country, including Balochistan. While, Pakistan’s primarily intelligence agency, ISI has broken the network of these terrorist groups by capturing several militants, while thwarting a number of terror attempts. Peace has been restored in various regions of Pakistan, including Karachi and Balochistan province.
But, in the recent past and during the election-campaign of 2019, blasts in Balochistan and other regions of the country showed that the US-led India, Afghanistan and Israel have again started acts of sabotage especially to weaken Pakistan and to damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is part of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative or BRI. Washington and New Delhi has already opposed this project. Foiled terror attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi on November 23, last year was part of the same scheme.
As compared to the past, these are few terrorism related attacks which also take place in Europe and the US from time to time.
It is notable that on September 6, 2017, addressing the Defence and Martyrs Day ceremony and hinting towards the US, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said: “The country will not be part of anyone else’s war, rubbished the myth of a civil-military divide in the country…We both [civil, military] have a common goal and that is to take this country forward.” He saluted the valour and sacrifices of the armed forces, which stood strong against all odds in the aftermath of the 9/11 and the unconventional war that followed, to safeguard the interests of the country.
Addressing the ceremony, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa stated: “Our forces and nation have rendered sacrifices in the war against terrorism…Our houses, schools and leaders were attacked. Efforts were made to weaken us internally.” Noting that more than 70,000 Pakistanis were martyred and injured in this war, the army chief vowed to collectively fight this menace of terrorism.
Gen. Bajwa added: “The country passed through a very difficult phase during the past two decades.” He also said that continuity of democracy was necessary in the country.
It is mentionable that internal security has improved in the country. Hence, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Russia, including companies of the Western countries have decided to invest in Pakistan.
Notably, on January 17, 2019, international company Cargill renewed its long standing commitment to Islamabad by announcing plans to invest more than US$200 million in the next three-to-five years. The announcement was made in the meeting when Cargill’s global executive team, led by Marcel Smits, head of Global Strategy and Chairman, Cargill Asia Pacific region, and Gert-Jan van den Akker, president, Cargill Agricultural Supply Chain, met with the Prime Minister Imran Khan and other senior government officials to discuss the company’s future investment plans.
Similarly on February 6, this year, during a visit of the Russian delegation, headed by Gazprom Management Committee Deputy Chairman Vitaly A Markelov, the Russian side pledged an investment of $14 billion in offshore gas pipeline project, North South Pipeline Project and underground gas storages in Pakistan, besides laying a pipeline to supply gas to the country from the Middle East through the sea-link. An agreement was signed between Moscow and Islamabad in this connection. Russian officials said that they would invest around $10 billion in offshore gas pipeline project, $2.5 billion in the North South Pipeline Project and the remaining on building underground storages in Pakistan. The Russian companies would build gas pipeline from Karachi to Lahore to transport imported gas for meeting the needs of the gas-starved province. Recently, the government faced a severe gas crisis, which can be prevented by underground storages.
It is of particular attention that completion of the CPEC-deep Gwadar seaport of Balochistan with an international airport at Gwadar and the roads infrastructure in Gwadar would link the communication networks of rest of the country to facilitate transportation of goods. When Gwadar seaport becomes fully operational, it would connect the landlocked Central Asian states with rest of the world. Being the commercial hub, the port is likely to increase volume of trade, bringing multiple economic and financial benefits to Pakistan like the Suez Canal which changed the destiny of Egypt when Israel returned it to the former. It will enable high-volume cargo vessels to move in the major oceans. Gwadar project which is backbone of the CPEC will uplift the impoverished people of Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, including developments in other provinces by providing thousands of employment opportunities, especially to the less developed areas by redressing their grievances. The resulting prosperity in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan would damp the separatist sentiments of the people, which the hostile elements, supported by the US, India and Israeli do not want. Therefore, with tactical support of CIA and Mossad, Indian RAW is also using Afghan soil to destabilize Balochistan to slow down the growth of the CPEC and pulling Afghanistan away from joining the CPEC.
It is worth-mentioning that since the government of the Balochistan province announced general pardon and protection to the Baloch militants as part of reconciliation process, many insurgents and their leaders have surrendered their arms and decided to work for the development of Pakistan and the province by including themselves in the mainstream of the country, and peace has been restored in the province.
Now, when the security situation has almost come to normal, our foremost obligation is to address each one of the positive repercussions as part of consolidation phase, so that the dividends of peace must reach people. No one but the present government along with the state institutions will have to take the lead in this respect. Economy of the country was the worst affected during terror stricken time of last two decades. The dividends of peace will be visible only when initiatives are taken through socio-economic development. The current government is on its way to address such issues, but the fruits of such efforts will be borne only when these fruits reach the common people. There is a need to adopt a fast track and focused strategy by incorporating all stake-holders to take visible initiatives for the betterment of common people.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations