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War on Terror

VIEW: The way out

Shemrez Nauman Afzal — January 04, 2010

In an ideological war, it is neither people nor interest groups who win or lose; it is the overarching ideology binding together the winning side, which occupies the coveted slot of sacrosanct. Therefore, it is important to have a collective and vibrant revival of the Pakistani identity

Much has been said about the ethnicity, roots and motivation of the terrorists that now threaten the security and order of Pakistan. Some say they are Afghan-based Taliban, others say they are renegades funded by India or Israel. There are even those who purport that America is behind the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to weaken the western frontier and to garner an excuse for invading Pakistan in ‘hot pursuit’. And then there are those who acknowledge the fact that a greater part of strategy and tactics played by Pakistan over the last twenty years has been the creation of these individualised ‘cells’ of human agents who are motivated by a goal and activated to pursue a destination of no return. The ‘assets’ that Pakistan had been cultivating and strategically training have now come back to do the proverbial haunting. The strongholds of these Taliban — Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and south Punjab — have become the most troubling zones in Pakistan. So what do we do about them?

The first step is to realise the danger. Most apologetics still question the veracity of the War on Terror, and have doubts about the role Pakistan’s politicians, military personnel and civil society are playing in it. For them, it is no more a political statement to make that the War on Terror is our war, even when it is our people who are dying in our streets. The danger thereby is not only contained in the fact that our people and our citizens are unsafe; the real danger is that our very own people are being used to threaten another subset of our people. It is important to note the number of Pakhtun deaths — almost genocide if you can call it that — since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and accelerated since the 2001 invasion by the NATO-ISAF. So Pakistanis are being used to kill Pakistanis; this must stop. The true danger lies in the radicalisation of our youth — whether they are radicalised by fundamentalism or by any other shade of political belief.

Once the true nature of the present danger is realised, it is necessary to proceed to the next step, which is to prepare for any and every onslaught of the enemy; wherever it may be, whenever it may strike, and whatever guise it may hide behind. It is necessary not only to ask for sophisticated counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency equipment, but also to design and deploy new technologies that are specifically meant for the Pakistan theatre of operations, and can be produced indigenously by our military industries and ordnance factories. While intelligence is the most important component of any counter-terrorist operation, on any scale and in any location, the second-most important factor — the right kind of weaponry, training and deployment — holds the actual key to operational success. These issues must be dynamically considered by our security forces; such is the motivation behind CCTV footage use, so as to learn from the tactics of the enemy and improve public defences.

In an ideological war, it is neither people nor interest groups who win or lose; it is the overarching ideology binding together the winning side, which occupies the coveted slot of sacrosanct. In this engagement, the war is presented as Islam vs. Pakistan. On one side, you have the fundamentalist extremists who believe in a version of Islam so eagerly and zealously that they wish to impose it by force on everyone else, without exception. On the other side, you have an internally weak and internationally mocked nation that is decomposing, starving and lying to itself. Sixty years ago, it was a nation in search of a country, and now, it has become a country in search of a nation. It is important to have a collective and vibrant revival of the Pakistani identity, and of Pakistaniat as a whole; as an ideological counterpart to competing viewpoints on the existence of the state, on the juxtaposition of moral laws and the general will of the people, and on the bare necessities and basic requirements that Pakistan, as a country and as a state, must finally provide to its people -– especially those in FATA and Balochistan who have been deprived for so long. No Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package will undo the damage or heal the scars; this time, no apology will be considered or even taken seriously. Pakistan must rise out of its provincialist biases and emerge as a unified country that is strengthened, not weakened, by its constituent pillars; whose diversity is a healthy and meaningful thing, rather than a cause for disruption and dissent wherever there is more than one community; as a truly sensitive and civilian government that is for, by and of the Pakistani people.

It is also heartening to note that our military top brass, regardless of their professional experience and/or their services in the current Operation Rah-i-Nijat, has acknowledged that the military option will not bring about a total solution. Indeed, clearing the area of militants and securing it for establishment of law and order — and for the continuous provision of infrastructure, basic necessities and development — must be followed by concrete and visible enhancements in the areas where the extremist anti-state elements (whether they are TTP, or al Qaeda, or Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) were able to gain a foothold. The Pakistani option must be better than the regressive option, and it must also appear to be that way. The military must be given full support to establish coherent security perimeters around important cities and districts in troubled areas; they must be given clear instructions regarding rules of engagement, and of supporting local law enforcement in the discharge of anti-terror operations; they must also be given the moral and ceremonial support that valiant troops of the motherland receive in the streets and alleys of a grateful nation.

While everyone in Pakistan is readily able to think of how dark a cloud is, it is also important — for the sake of sanity — to look at the silver lining in each cloud. One way in which this heightened sense of security (or lack thereof) is beneficial for us is that it encourages people-to-people contact for the purpose of identification if not for mutual gain. Citizens cooperating with security procedures and law enforcement personnel are in the unique position to raise morale among “boots on the ground” — the forces actually deployed to meet any and every eventuality. This is also an opportunity for Pakistan to re-militarise its citizenry; to reinstitute and reinvigorate the institutions of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) and the Civil Defence Department of the Ministry of Interior. It has recently been announced that the Minister of State for Interior Affairs, Tasneem Ahmad Qureshi, has proposed the reincarnation of the FSF, the Federal Security Force, which had acquired a draconian reputation during the premiership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. While this may have a bitter taste for opponents of the PPP, it is indubitably necessary to have an active federal force — other than the Pakistan Army — that patrols the interior of the country (as opposed to the army, which is deployed at the frontiers) and that is able to take swift and appropriate measures to deal with terrorism and insurgency in Pakistan. Therefore, with the expansion in demand for individuals trained in security management and security deployment (i.e. former Army NCOs, former policemen, etc.) a national re-militarisation by instituting the NCC would also go a long way in making each and every one of our citizens ready and able to take on any challenge — from the fear of terrorist attacks, to circumstantial or political bullying by uniformed soldiers.

While this perspective is entirely utopian, and paints a picture that is different from the former soothsayers who now predict that Pakistan is going to disintegrate in the near future, it is necessary for the reader to think at this point about the value and merit of the abovementioned postulations. Is it really our destiny to be wiped off the world map by a bunch of religious zealots who are loaded to the teeth with their weapons and their misguided teachings? Or is this another one of those instances where we will face insurmountable odds, take on unconquerable challenges, feel and sense unthinkable pain, frustration and agony, and emerge victorious nonetheless?

Pakistan, the choice is yours.

The writer is a freelance columnist

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