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Friday, December 4, 2020
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By Manzoor Ahmed

As Pakistan reels under multiple terror attacks at home, compelling the government to launch yet another military operation (Radd-ul-Fasaad, this time with the political leadership joining hands without prevarication), opinion is building up that the country must set its own house in order and not engage in blame-game with the neigbhbours.

Gen. Bajwa, the new army chief, summoned Afghanistan envoy and confronted him with a list of 76 Pakistani militants operating from Afghanistan was promptly countered by a similar summons to the Pakistani envoy in Kabul, and being handed over a list of 85 Afghans being sheltered in Pakistan’s safe havens. So, the two are quits - only acrimony persists.

Blaming Afghanistan for ‘sheltering’ militants fleeing Pakistan and India for border tensions and ‘interference’ in Balochistan has not gone well with the public at home and observers abroad.

Enlightened opinion is gaining strength as at least six terror attacks took place in a short span during February, the worst being the one on the shrine of Lal Badshah Qalandar at Sehwan in Sindh, that is visited by devotees from all communities and across the world. This has earned Pakistan as much criticism as it received after the massacre of children at the Army Public School in December 2014.

This all began just as India was partitioned and Pakistan was born. “It launched tribal zealots into Kashmir a few weeks after independence, and the resulting war with India led to an unending deadlock between the two countries. Before a full-fledged war broke out over Kashmir in 1965, plain-clothed Pakistani soldiers infiltrated India-held Kashmir with the intent of fomenting an uprising,” writes political analyst Irfan Husain in Dawn.

“In any objective evaluation of the situation, it must be admitted that it is Pakistan that has pioneered the use of non-state actors to further its agenda in the region. And, more often than not, it has used faith as a rallying cry,” Husain says.

His writing has been hugely welcomed by readers who applaud his ‘courage’ to be able to write with ‘objectivity’ and ‘incisiveness.’

Pakistan has always used militant groups to serve its narrow, immediate ends and its targets have been both, its own people and those in the neibghbourhood.

In 1971, the military used the militant wing of the Jamaat-i-Islami in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in an attempt to crush the nationalist freedom struggle there. Millions of Bengalis fled across the border, “providing India with a strong reason to attack and defeat our army.”

A few years later, Afghanistan’s then president Sardar Mohammed Daud had indicated that the PPP government of Z A Bhutto had attempted to destabilise his administration in Kabul.

After the Soviet invasion in 1979, Pakistan joined with the US and Saudi Arabia to arm, finance and train jihadists from across the Muslim world. It earned millions in the process, besides arms that it sought to use against India.

The jihadists, of whom Osama bin Laden was a star, were known as freedom fighters. These ‘holy warriors’ committed many atrocities that were conveniently overlooked at the time. Indeed, Pakistan Army’s ISI ran the war in Afghanistan for the West and nurtured those who are no longer under its control.

When the defeated Soviet Army pulled out in 1988, thousands of trained jihadists turned their guns on targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir. A Pakistan backed the Afghan Taliban who began their reign of terror across Afghanistan, lasting until they were toppled in the aftermath of 9/11 and then finding refuge in Balochistan.

Since then, they have used the province as a platform for attacks against Afghan and US-led coalition forces. This is an open secret.

One of the many groups that has created mayhem in Afghanistan is the Haqqani network. Based in Pakistan’s tribal areas, these terrorists have been largely exempt from attacks by Pakistani security forces. The unstated excuse, again an open secret, is: they do not pose a threat to Pakistan, so why provoke them? Groups active in Jammu and Kashmir are similarly shielded.

For long years, Pakistan has promoted ‘good’ Taliban versus ‘bad’ Taliban, something the gullible West swallowed because it served their interest of perpetuating themselves in Afghanistan. The result has been the US’ involvement in the longest military conflict abroad.

Invoking the ‘good versus bad terrorists’ doctrine has led Pakistan inexorably into the present situation, entirely of its own making, wherein it has to deal with its own Frankestein.

Assuming Afghanistan has permitted, or is unable to control, defeat and deport a number of anti-Pakistan jihadist groups to operate from its soil, to be fair, they do not control large swathes of the Pakistani territory along the border the way the Afghan Taliban do with the help of Pakistan’s ISI.

Indeed, Pakistan was unable to tame its own militants in its tribal areas until the security establishment got serious, launched Zarb-e-Azb, and cleared Fata of the hydra-headed monsters it had itself created.

Husain avers: “The basic problem lies in Pakistan, where three generations of generals have been trained to see the world through Kashmir-tinted glasses. The obsession with the perceived threat from India has blinded them to other security concerns. After having seen the difficulty of crushing rural-based jihadists in ungoverned areas where they have safe havens, they have still been unable to draw the obvious conclusion.”

Any effort to mend relations with the neibhbours and gain a semblance of credibility with the world cannot succeed by allowing the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network sanctuary in Pakistan.

This story / narrative is so obvious that it should have been clear to most Pakistanis. But successive governments have fed a flawed narrative to them. They have denied whatever the world at large finds out and comments adversely. India is touted as an enemy country to the people. Any criticism from the West is seen as coming from “Christians and Jews” and a ‘conspiracy’ against Pakistan. Pakistan perennially remains in denial mode.

The basic truth that Pakistan denies is that there are no good terrorists and bad ones. It has used terrorists for self serving purposes. Pakistan is loath to accept that by adding religion into any war, things can only get worse. As a result, nobody wants even to visit a country where jihadists kill innocent people. The latest example is refusal of three British cricketers who played in the UAE, but refused to be in Lahore for the match’s finals.

Moral of the story is that terrorism at the end of the day starts biting the hands that feed it. Even if it doesn't bite its very perceptual presence deters everything and negates everything that is cherished.

The world has moved ahead too far. For Pakistan, sticking to such vicious policy tools will no more pay back but on the contrary will exact heavy price. (Ends)

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