No sane person would be envious of President Zardari’s position in the corridors of the United Nation. He has chosen to accept the responsibility of representing and defending Pakistan’s case when we are being blamed for harbouring militants by our two neighbours – India and Afghanistan. As if that was not enough both Republican and Democrat presidential candidates and their running mates have joined the blame symphony. The charge is that our land is being used by these terrorists as a safe haven with the blessing of our establishment.
On the home ground President Zardari and his government has inherited heavy political and economic baggage, which is a challenge to lug. Then there is pressure to call off operation in the FATA area from a section of politicians ably aided by some leading journalists. It is quite fashionable among the fundamentalists and interestingly supported by some confused leftists to label Taliban’s militant movement as anti-imperialist.
In this backdrop few politicians are sticking their neck out and challenging this populist fallacy. The other day at the Dialogue organised by Azfar Ahsan, Barrister Shahida Jamil reminded us all of the United Nation Security Council Resolution 1373. Let’s have look at some of the relevant clauses:
“Recognizing the need for States to complement international cooperation by taking additional measures to prevent and suppress, in their territories through all lawful means, the financing and preparation of any acts of terrorism,
Reaffirming the principle established by the General Assembly in its declaration of October 1970 (resolution 2625 (XXV)) and reiterated by the Security Council in its resolution 1189 (1998) of 13 August 1998, namely that every State has the duty to refrain from organizing, instigating, assisting or participating in terrorist acts in another State or acquiescing in organized activities within its territory directed towards the commission of such acts …..
Prohibit their nationals or any persons and entities within their territories from making any funds, financial assets or economic resources or financial or other related services available, directly or indirectly, for the benefit of persons who commit or attempt to commit or facilitate or participate in the commission of terrorist acts, of entities owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by such persons and of persons and entities acting on behalf of or at the direction of such persons; …. Decides also that all States shall: Refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts, including by suppressing recruitment of members of terrorist groups and eliminating the supply of weapons to terrorists.”
Violation of this resolution can invoke sanctions. But the people who suggest us to pull back our forces from FATA and allow a free hand to local and foreign Taliban are perhaps willing to fight against the world. The people of Pakistan and the present government are certainly not ready for this. Whether the new government would be able to convince the establishment, which is the architect of our foreign policy that it’s high time to change our ‘policy of strategic depth’ remains to be seen. Many past governments had to bite the dust for making such an attempt. Defence analyst Ikram Sehgal aptly calls it the “policy of strategic nonsense.”
Present government has rightly decided to arrange in camera briefing for the parliamentarians about the national security issues and then evolve a strategy with the support of all major parties. We have time to put our house in order before the beginning of next spring. Otherwise, no public statements would be able to stop the joint US-Afghanistan intrusions of the people who think they are fighting a Jihad in Darul Harb — Pakistan and across the border.
There is no disagreement that the Americans presence in Afghanistan and intrusion in Pakistan and above all their callous (or should we say nervousness) operation in which collateral damage is very high, is unacceptable. But the issue can we force the NATO forces out of Afghanistan before the government in Kabul stablised and has the ability to manage the entire country? We may wish so, but it’s not going to happen.
The only answer to this is to deny sanctuaries to the Taliban and their local supporters and convince them to join the mainstream politics. Taliban should declare a truce and participate in the coming Afghanistan elections. Pakistan cannot shun this responsibility as everybody knows we have strong covert relations with the Taliban leadership.
Those who doubt our influence on Afghan Taliban should read Ahmed Rashid’s latest book “Decent into Chaos – How the War against Islamic Extremism is being lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.” The book is must reading for all those who comment on this issue as it provide historical perspective and a treasure of background information. Ahmed explains how Taliban were supported by Musharraf regime covertly by creating an organisation of ex-ISI men. This was done to counter the American allegation that ISI is supporting them. No wonder no senior Afghan Taliban has been arrested by the government in last seven years, while cracking down on Al Qeada continued.
The world can now see through our antics. The problem is that if the new government would try to change this policy, it is most likely to have a conflict from the establishment. They would need the support of Nawaz Sharif to attempt a paradigm shift; otherwise they would also have to continue the double crossing game. (firstname.lastname@example.org)