War for peace
By Yasmeen Aftab Ali
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Taliban recently announced attacks on institutions across Pakistan under the slogan of ‘Operation Ghazi’. Attack on Mall Road was followed by an attack on a shrine at Lal Shahbaz Qalander. Jamaat ul Ahrur is an offshoot of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. This has shaken whatever confidence was built under General Raheel.
Shocking was suggestion by many sections of the society that the reason for the fresh wave of terrorism to stop the finals of PSL being held in Lahore. This is trivializing the issue at best.
There has been an escalation of friction in relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the wake of the attacks within Pakistan. Pakistan gave Afghanistan a list of over 70 to be handed over. ‘And the group most linked to last week’s bombings, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, is an outgrowth of the Pakistani Taliban, which was driven into Afghanistan by a massive Pakistan army operation in 2015. Once the group had relocated, some members split off and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, a radical Sunni militia. Those militants have overrun several Afghan border districts, despite repeated efforts by Afghan forces to push them out, and they have claimed the bombing of several Shiite mosques in Kabul, the Afghan capital.’ (Pamela Constable February 21, 2017)
Afghanistan must understand it cannot play India’s puppet in this game. Both nations need to monitor borders, share intelligence reports and face their common enemy together. Pakistan also needs to ensure speedy dispatch of Afghan refugees back home.
Pakistan also needs to take some other steps:
– Across the board Operation Clean-up (names do not matter), any military op is a breather at best. It has to be backed by civil mechanisms in place. Having said that, half-hearted efforts will not deliver. QED. What is a half-hearted effort? Explained by Hussain Haqqani, “For decades Pakistan has seen jihadi groups as levers of its foreign and security policy and periodic assertions that the policy has changed have proved wrong. Every step against jihadis is followed by one in the opposite direction. Thus, the much publicised ‘Operation Zarb-e-Azb’ targeted out-of-control Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan but spared groups based in Punjab and Karachi. Hafiz Saeed’s recent detention was accompanied by blocking action against him and Masood Azhar at the U.N. with Chinese support. It is almost as if the Pakistani state is continuously telling jihadis, “Those of you who do not attack inside Pakistan will not get hurt.” (Hudson Institute, February 18, 2017)
– Newsweek writes pretty much the same, “The problem is they want to preserve the networks that produce terrorists because those networks are the same networks that also produce the “good militants.” When the “bad militants” come after the state, the Pakistanis do try and kill them. And they try and kill them rather than arrest them because Pakistan’s [civilian] legal system is so decrepit, judges are afraid to convict. But they can’t shut down the system comprehensively because Pakistan still hopes to use “good militants” as tools of foreign and defense policy in the region.” 1/31/2015)
– Those entering Pakistan to commit an act of terror cannot do so without the help of on ground facilitators. They must be nabbed and made answerable to law. Making noises alone is just not enough.
– ‘In 2015, the government established the NAP to crack down on terrorism and to supplement the ongoing anti-terrorist offensive with long-term measures against extremism.’ (June 21, 2015) Should not the Parliament prepare a report on NAP successes and failures with checkpoints to access where we stand in this context and what must be done and its time frame? The fact is NAP has been a miserable failure owing to lack of focus and misdirected government priorities.
The problem is- just as world dynamics change, alliances change, so do internal dynamics. Pakistan for her own sake needs to strategize by getting out of the strategy of Cold War era. Today Pakistan is closer to Russia because of changing regional dynamics. The same Russia whom Pakistan helped US drive out of Afghanistan. The situation then was different. The ‘protective caps’ needed then were different. The ‘protective caps’ needed now are different.
‘Geo-strategic relations are rapidly changing in South Asia. Former Cold War rivals India and the US are bolstering their defense and trade ties amid growing concerns about China’s assertiveness in the region, particularly in the disputed South China Sea. On the other side, Islamabad and Washington, which were allies against the former Soviet Union and collaborated in the 1980s Afghan War, are drifting away.’ (DW 12/9/2016)
Economics drive politics. In the world of a new emerging economic order, stability is the base needed. Core reality. CPEC and Gawadar can only become economic paying realities if terrorism is rooted out. In totality. Parallel sustainable systems must be in place to help take Pakistan forward to find her place in the emerging new world order. Remaining bogged down in old strategies and out dated narratives will not deliver.
This is a watershed moment for Pakistan. Will Pakistan rise to the moment?