Feb 14, 2009

Tightening the noose around Pakistan

Today, Pakistan is facing a number of grave threats and challenges to its security, graver than ever before. Terrorism at home and attacks by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, pressure from India in the wake of Mumbai attacks and irresponsible governmental policies bordering on criminal negligence in many cases, all make the security of our country far more vulnerable than anyone could ever have perceived. This is really upsetting for us all especially for those who really are concerned about what is happening in our country day in and day out. What is more distressing is that despite all these formidable challenges that we are faced with, we as a nation are completely divided: politically, ideologically, emotionally, ethnically and almost in all respects. There is a lack of purpose and direction at all levels of our national life. Leadership is non-existent, law & order is absent, free and impartial administration of justice has become a dream and democracy is in name only. Perhaps this was not enough that a new game at international level seems to have started off, which aims, firstly, at weakening Pakistan from within and isolating it from all the sympathy and help from without. Secondly, to prove that the government in Pakistan is too weak to fight the terrorist threat which if left unaddressed could endanger international peace. Thirdly, to weaken all the forces that can be or are the symbols of Pakistan’s security. Fourthly, to prove Pakistan as a breeding ground for terrorists where due to the failure of governmental control, international agencies be allowed to fight the so-called terror threat. And finally, which is perhaps the main objective, to deprive Pakistan of its nuclear assets on the pretext that since the government is no longer competent or responsible enough to ensure that these weapons will not fall into the hands of terrorists. Therefore these assets be ‘secured’ by an international action and in this process, God forbid, break Pakistan into manageable smaller states to obviate any possibility of future terror related threats.Some people might say that it is like going too far or perhaps hatching a new conspiracy theory or may be a far-fetched idea that has nothing to do with the reality. They may say that situation is not as complex as is being presented by the present writer. But if one seriously looks at the unfolding of events at both national and international horizons, the idea that Pakistan is really being pushed into a situation where it could be declared as an ‘irresponsible’ state does not appear unlikely. Look at the reports like ‘World at Risk’, listen to the statements coming from Bush and now from president elect Obama. Listen to the speeches made by members of House of Lords on proposed amendments relating to ‘Counter Terrorism Act’ wherein quite a number of lords openly declare that there is virtually no government in Pakistan and that the future terror threats are likely to come from there. These are some of the numerous illustrations of what is happening at the international stage and these are the developments that are not lost on those in Pakistan who are following the recent events closely. The diplomatic initiative by India following the Mumbai attacks has also been a step to this end which proved more than successful in achieving its goals i.e. to isolate Pakistan internationally and to portray it as a country where terrorists are on loose. India has been quite successful in its propaganda that Pakistan as a country if not failed then at least has been ineffective in combating terrorists. It is a pity that the Pakistani government quite naively declared that the ones involved in Mumbai attacks are ‘non-state actors’ just to save itself of the blame without thinking even for a moment that this is what Pakistan’s enemies want the government to say. May be by doing so the government have been able to clear itself of any involvement in the Mumbai attacks but one thing is clear that our opponents have quite successfully proved and our government has accepted knowingly or unknowingly that these terrorists are not only out of their control but also using Pakistani soil as a safe haven to plan and launch terrorist attacks on other countries. Let me ask our government that whose interests does the statement of President Zardari serve when in an interview with Larry King he quite convincingly asserts that these attacks have been committed by non-state actors and he does not just stop there but goes on to call on international community to come in and ‘help’ Pakistani government apprehend these elements. What does a statement like this imply? Does this not reflect on the government’s inability to apprehend the terrorists and bring them to justice? Does this not imply that we as a sovereign state are unable to run our own affairs and discharge our own responsibilities and have come to a point where we want international actors to come in and take charge of our affairs? Does this ‘invitation’ not put our own interests in danger? Does this not support U.S. attacks along the western border of Pakistan, which in America’s view is a sanctuary for terrorists and where Pakistani security agencies have not ‘done enough’ to cleanse the region of rogue elements. If all this can be construed and is being construed from the statements made by the people at helm then this is what the enemies of Pakistan want to prove that Pakistan is a country where terrorists are calling the shots and the government is in name only. It is now being said that terrorists are using Pakistani soil as a base to launch international operations. This squarely fits in the agenda being pursued by anti-Pakistan forces. On the basis of this the enemies of Pakistan are likely to build a case for international intervention. The famous report ‘world at risk’ makes the similar recommendations to the US president elect and aims at ‘securing’ Pakistani nuclear weapons. In this state of affairs, it is time we set our priorities right. We still have a chance to sit down and chalk out both our short and long term goals and strategies and put our differences and petty politics aside. Our Government needs to focus on and give priority to the security of our country. For this our leadership must change its attitude. People are sick of our leaders’ wishy-washy policies. Recent surveys in Pakistan voice the popular sentiments vis-a-vis our governmental policies. ‘Be it our response to India’s accusations or our involvement in somebody else’s war, it is our leaders that have failed us, not our enemies or circumstances’. These are the sentiments of an overwhelming majority in Pakistan. Despite having a very strong case against Indian accusations this time round as we previously had at a number of occasions, we miserably failed to show the world the real face of India’s Purohits, Bajrangies and Mudis who boast publically of killing Muslims and perpetrating terror attacks against other minorities in India. Thanks to our leaders’ inaction it is we who are being blamed, it is we who after all the sacrifices, after all the years of suicide attacks, after all the support in war on terror, are again being blamed as collaborators with the terrorists. All Pakistanis ask today that what domestic and international policies, if any, are we pursuing and where are these likely to take us to? Are we always going to act as mercenaries or we will one day stand up like a dignified nation and take control of our own affairs? The choice lies with our leaders and it is them who need to decide today. For Pakistan these are very difficult times and our leadership need to act with courage and wisdom. It must think through quite seriously every word that comes out of our leadership’s mouth and weigh every move as all this is interpreted by both our friends and foes and could be used against us. Especially speaking out of head on issues relating to our foreign policy could be seriously damaging. What is more, the government must act courageously – courage that surely be tempered with wisdom and determination. The courage that requires of those in power to act proactively to sort our internal issues out amicably with all the stakeholders in order to gain internal strength and national unity and instead of using power as a tool to grab more power and indulging into power politics, the present government has an obligation to act responsibly and being representative of the people of Pakistan pursue such policies for which the people of Pakistan have given them their mandate. M Asghar Chaudhry

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