After years of accusations of harbouring militants and threats of dire consequences by the US, the Pakistan army, under General Qamar Javed Bajwa, has adopted an aggressive policy of exposing the failure of US troops in controlling the Taliban in Afghanistan and blaming Pakistan for its failures.
In his recent address at a military conference at Munich, Germany, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa informed the world how Pakistan has successfully eliminated militant hideouts from its bordering areas with Afghanistan and how it is repeatedly attacked by the Afghan Taliban. He also delved deep into the concept of jihad and how it has evolved over the years after the US promoted it as a state policy and created the Taliban to defeat its erstwhile archrival the USSR in Afghanistan. He informed the world how Pakistan had to face immense problems after the US abandoned the Taliban and left the region in a hurry. His narration of the US role in creating the Taliban and promoting jihad may have been disclosures to the world and embarrassing for the US, but it has presented a true picture of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and eased the US pressure on Pakistan.
Addressing the military conference in Munich, General Bajwa highlighted great successes the Pakistan army has achieved against violent extremism and terrorism at a huge cost and sacrifice over the past few years. “In Pakistan, the notion of caliphate has not found any traction, but jihad has definitely been used to radicalize fairly large tracts of the population. However, this phenomenon is not a recent creation or started after 9/11. The Frankenstein was actually created by the “free world,” with willing, but myopic cooperation from our side after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Therefore, we all are responsible for making the world population in general and the Muslim population in particular, hostage to this extremist ideology,” he elaborated.
He also threw light on the circumstances under which the Taliban were created by the US. “Times have surely changed since the noon of March 10, 1982, when US President Ronald Reagan dedicated the March 22nd launch of the Columbia space shuttle to the valiant Afghan Mujahedeen or Jihadis and termed their struggle against the Soviet occupation forces as a representation of man’s highest aspirations for freedom. When I was young, Pakistan was as normal a country as any other on earth. Jacqueline Kennedy flew to Karachi, the Beatles visited us, Queen Elizabeth went to the Khyber Pass to chat with tribesmen. We were a favourite tourism destination for many. We were hosting World Cups of hockey and cricket, besides many other multi-national events. The World Bank termed Pakistan one of the most progressive and dynamic developing countries in Asia in 1963. The 70’s were nothing less than a disaster for us, but even the separation of the eastern part of our country and the political upheavals thereafter, did not change society as deeply as the events of 1979, the year the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the Iranian Revolution. It was only then that we started learning that we were not only Muslims, but were Sunnis and Shias. It was also the time that we were drawn to conviction of fighting Soviet invasion and also challenging the communist ideology.”
Tracing the history of jihad in the world and Pakistan, he informed the world how a syllabus was designed, with the able intellectual assistance of “the free world,” in a western university for Madrassahs wherein jihad was fed to young minds in a concentrated dose without context or explanation. “An exception was created, using a self-defence clause to justify declaration of jihad by non-state actors. Young men were recruited from all over the world, radicalized and then left and disowned after they had delivered us the success. It is still very much a live issue for us, as fairly large number of people are radicalized, armed and empowered politically and ideologically. They cannot be wished away, just because we don’t like them any more. We are harvesting what we sowed 40 years back. So, it will be a while before this scourge is eliminated in totality – but first, let’s stop calling it jihadism as it is nothing else but terrorism,” he explained.
Telling the story of Pakistan’s struggle against extremism, terrorism and so-called jihadism, he said the Pakistan army had waged a relentless and bloody fight against terrorism and violent extremism, in which over 35,000 Pakistanis lost their lives, over 48,000 were critically wounded or disabled and financial costs exceeded $250billion, only a fraction of which was actually shared by global partners. “We still have their active and sleeper cells, who are hiding in mountains, border towns and 54 refugee camps, besides some major towns and cities. Out of the last 131 terrorist attacks in our border areas last year, 123 were conceived, planned and executed from Afghanistan.”
The aggressive policy of the army chief towards US demands of “do more” and threats, if it failed, has also started working. According to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a British think-tank, Pakistan, under the “Bajwa doctrine,” appears far more confident than it was when the US threatened the then President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf and coerced the country into cooperating with it. In a report, it said the US threats are futile as the days of timidity and scurrying to please the Americans are over. “The current policy of the army that should not do more, but rather the world must do more: the Bajwa doctrine dominant in Pakistan’s relation to the US. The doctrine projects Pakistan is now adamant that the time for American threats and directives is over.” The report, quoting Milt Bearden, a former station chief in Islamabad, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, says Pakistan alone is not responsible for the worsening conflict in Afghanistan. Even though in Donald Trump’s administration, there is no tolerance for Pakistan, General Bajwa has clearly stated even before Trump’s tweet that the time for Pakistan to do more has come to an end. Pakistan delivered everything it promised on Afghanistan but the US policy towards Pakistan appeared to be a departure from reality. Pakistan has also found new allies in the form of Turkey, China and Japan, it noted.
“The Pakistani military is fully prepared to face any cuts in US military aid and potential threats of cross-border incursions by American forces and feels its global recognition and reputation of its counter-terror efforts and the military’s role is very different to what it was in 2001. US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis has already said that he is in touch with the Pakistani military, as without them the US forces cannot move their equipment or survive in landlocked Afghanistan. Pakistan, as a military ally to the US, has proved more productive than any of its NATO allies, and Pakistan is not losing its importance in the region in the near future,” the think-tank observed.
Pakistan has not adopted a more aggressive approach in its relations with the US, which has always blamed it for promoting militancy and jihad. Pakistan has started informing the world that it was the US that created and promoted the Taliban and Jihad and left Pakistan in the lurch after it obtained its political benefits in Afghanistan. The Taliban not only created problems for Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the rest of the world and the US itself. Pakistan’s new approach will not only improve its image in the world but also help deal with the