NationalVolume 13 Issue # 03

The biggest challenge

It is very tragic that the Western world, especially America, is not accepting and acknowledging Pakistan’s unprecedented sacrifices and untold sufferings in the war against terrorism. Pakistan, so far, has suffered around $130 billion economically and lost around 80 thousand civilians and more than 6,000 security personnel in this war against terror. In fact, the war against terror has shaken the very stability of Pakistan. But, American President Donald Trump is not willing to accept this reality. Rather, he is asking Pakistan to “do more and more” in the war against terror.

In his Afghan policy address, President Donald Trump has asked Pakistan to crack down on the Afghan Taliban on its soil. The BRICS countries have also included the Pakistan-based militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad in a militant organisations’ list. This is diplomatic mischief by India which is very alarming for Pakistan.

On these external developments, the Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa spelt out Pakistan’s response in his address on 6 September, openly rejecting America’s “do more” demand and accusations of not doing enough to eradicate terrorism.

Addressing the participants of a ceremony on the Defence Day at the General Headquarters, the COAS said that “if Pakistan hadn’t done enough in the fight against terrorism, then no country of the world had done anything. Pakistan has done enough in the war against terrorism and now it is time for the world to do more,” he said, and lamented, “Despite all our efforts, our countless sacrifices and over two decades of war, we are being told that we have not done enough against terrorism.”

“We don’t want aid … we want your respect and confidence,” he said, addressing the United States. “Not only is the entire country paying the price of the fire you have set, but our enemies are also taking advantage of the situation.

On the Afghan situation, General Bajwa said Pakistan had always tried to support its neighbouring country beyond its means. “But we can’t fight the Afghan war in Pakistan. If the international powers cannot support Pakistan, then they should at least not hurl accusations. They should not hold us responsible for their own shortcomings,” he said. “Since 1971 Pakistan has remained a victim of terrorism. We have paid the price for the wars started by super powers in the form of terrorism, extremism and economic loss. We are abiding by our policy that we will not allow our soil to be used against any country, and expect the same of other countries.”

“I would like to tell all anti-state elements that we are ready to combat their terrorism and malicious intentions. And whether we are Punjabi, Pathan, Sindhi, Kashmiri, Gilgiti or Balti, we are ready to sacrifice for Balochistan the way the sons of Balochistan have sacrificed for Pakistan. We have pride in the people of Balochistan who have rejected terrorism and separatism,” General Bajwa said. “I would like to tell the misguided people that whatever you are doing is not jihad but fasaad. Your country and your people are being hurt the most by your actions,” he cautioned. “Let us create a Pakistan where the use of strength is in accordance with the law and constitution and is in the hands of the state.”

“We are keeping a close watch on the designs of our enemies especially as they attempt to destroy the peace in Balochistan,” he said, adding, “Only Pakistan has seen this level of success with such limited resources. From Operation Sher Dil, to Rah-i-Rast, Rah-i-Nijat, Zarb-i-Azb and now Radd-ul-Fasaad, we have paid for each inch [of gains] with our blood.”

“Although the army can end terrorism, but to gain complete control over terrorism and extremism it is necessary that every citizen is a soldier of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad,” he maintained, while reminding the audience that the war against terrorism was also an ideological war.

“India should realise that the peaceful struggle of hundreds of thousands of youth in Kashmir does not need interference from Pakistan or Azad Jammu and Kashmir. It is in India’s favour that they prioritise political and diplomatic solutions for sustainable resolution of the Kashmir issue instead of insulting Pakistan and using force against Kashmiris”, said the army chief.

Even Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s main opposition party, has rejected President Trump’s criticism against Pakistan and urged the world to respect the country.
In an interview to BBC Urdu, Mr. Corbyn said it was not the responsibility of Pakistan alone to fight terrorism because the world as a whole needed to beat off the “collective challenge”.  Asked to comment on Donald Trump’s recent allegations that Pakistan offered safe havens to “agents of chaos”, the top leader of the Labour Party seemed to differ with the US president. “Pakistan is a country which should be treated respectfully. It should not be criticised from the outside,” he said.

“Every country should play its role to bring an end to terrorism. This [theory] should be applied to every country in the world,” he said in response to a question about the efforts required on the part of Pakistan to fight terrorists.

The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has also said the international community should recognise Pakistan’s efforts to eliminate terrorism.  “When it comes to the issue of counterterrorism, Pakistan has done its best with a clear conscience. In comparison, some countries need to give Pakistan the full credit that it deserves.”

But the Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif stressed “the need to first set our own house in order before taking on critics elsewhere”. “Pakistan will have to swiftly change its direction”, said Khwaja Asif on 7 September, after the conclusion of the Pakistani envoys’ conference.”We are undergoing a seismic shift,” Asif said during a press conference, referring to the “altering” regional and international situation. He added that the geopolitical changes taking place in the world were unprecedented. “Perhaps, such changes were not even witnessed after the Second World War. New allignments have been made, strategic policies are dictating nations’ interests.” “We [Pakistan] have to review these situations pragmatically and take the right direction. We have to quickly adjust our direction, “the foreign minister said.  “We don’t have a lot of time — the developing regional situations do not allow us to take our time. In the coming days there will be a policy shift in the country.” The new policy will be formulated with the army and the country’s institutions and will keep Pakistan’s interests in view.  He added that recommendations in this regard will be made to the National Assembly based on the advice given by the envoys during the meetings.

Abbas Nasir writes in the Dawn while quoting one FATA veteran:  “Most of the three stars [Generals] today have either commanded brigades or battalions in the counter-insurgency operations. They have personally witnessed the ugly manifestations of extremism and militancy. There is no way that anyone of these commanders will have a soft corner for any non-state actor”. “We need to deradicalise these groups and try and mainstream them before attempting to disarm them. This is important as we can’t fight on too many fronts and layers at the same time,” explained one former officer.

Jamaatud Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed has already announced the Milli Awami Party to become a part of mainstream politics. According to news reports, Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil is also about to launch a political party . These are very healthy signs for Pakistan. By bringing all these extremist parties into the political mainstream, we can make Pakistan a real democratic and moderate country.

There is no doubt about it that Pakistan has suffered the worst in the war against terrorism.  Due to this war, extremism has increased manifold in society. Apart from madrassahs, now even, universities and colleges have many supporters and sympathizers of extremists. Abdul Karim Sarosh Siddiqui, a former student of Applied Physics at the University of Karachi, tried to kill Sindh MPA Khawaja Izharul Hassan on Eid day. Siddiqui belongs to Ansarul Sharia Pakistan, a new militant organisation in Pakistan. According to the Karachi police, “one of the assailants killed in crossfire during the attack, was Hassaan, a Ph.D holder who was teaching at an engineering university”.

Before this, Saad Aziz, who was involved in the Safoora Goth carnage, was a student of the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi.  Noreen Leghari, an MBBS student of Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Hyderabad, has confessed of getting training from the militant Islamic State (IS) group. Then, Meshal Khan was killed on the false charge of committing blasphemy by his own university fellows in Wali Khan University. It is a very alarming sign for the state of Pakistan and every effort should be made to tackle extremism in the country’s education system.

After the latest Karachi attack, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Shah has claimed that “a security audit and verification system will be introduced in the province to try and identify students with militant and terrorist leanings”. That sounds like a good move, but it should be implemented carefully. The state should also protect the rights of privacy of its citizens. Extremism can only be defeated with the forces of moderate and scientific views, corruption-free economic, social, political and judicial systems. There is no other way!