Pakistan Can’t Fight Terror on Its Own – Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal


Schoolchildren cross a road as they move away from a military run school that is under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, December 16, 2014. REUTERS/Khuram Parvez
Schoolchildren cross a road as they move away from a military run school that was attacked by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, December 16, 2014, killing 132 children. Reuters/Khuram Parvez

There is little that Pakistan can do to fight terror without the global support. Pakistan’s failures to tame the monster it has grown in its backyard will eventually have repercussions across the globe, India and Afghanistan will be the most impacted. That is why closing off political dialogue with Pakistan will have disastrous ramifications


[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne incident 13 years ago changed the way global politics functioned, pushing the world into the throes of wars in the name of justice perpetuated by America. The USA-led NATO forces pounded Afghanistan to rubble and specks of dust, destroyed Iraq; found no claimed weapons of mass destructions but invented an excuse to meddle in the affairs of rest of the Arab world. Within a decade, all of Arab world was restless and while some people began craving for democratic order, some in retaliation got enamored by the jehadi discourse and turned insurgency movements into more lethal terroristic forms.

Pakistan, which got dragged into fighting America’s war way back in 1980s, decided to continue using insurgents to fight its own battles on its eastern front, instead of winding them up after America was done with Afghanistan at that time. It was eventually one of the countries worst affected in the recent war against Afghanistan, left with the colossal burden of fighting its own created Frankestein.

Now as America once again gets ready for packing its bags in Afghanistan, Pakistan is left with a deadlier version of Taliban in its own territories in Waziristan and North Western Frontier province and jehadi elements spreading across the country, taking a heavy toll of innocent people in bomb blasts and acts of arson. The attack in Peshawar resulting in 148 deaths, most of them children, was the worst culmination of this trend, shocking everybody across the globe in their skins and perhaps, finally waking up the Pakistan government.

Why is it that the incident so shocks us? After all, the terror groups have been brutally gunning down and blasting innocent people like sitting ducks across Pakistan in recent years, especially targeting Shias and Ahmadis. Is it because the victims are mostly children? But children have been targets in wars before and a recent example is the Gaza bombings where the Israeli forces on the pretext of fighting Hamas spared neither schools nor hospitals. American drone strike, on the rationale of fighting Taliban, flattened a madrassa in Pakistan’s Wazirstan area in 2006 and killed up to 69 children among 80 civilians. There weren’t much whimpers of protest. So is it an elitist discourse?

The Peshawar attack claimed the lives of an elite school where mostly children of educated classes study, with which educated elite across the globe, who send their children to good schools and have the satisfaction of feeling safe, can identify and relate to the tragedy. They can imagine how their world would come to a complete end if their children studying in similar schools were to be targets of similar incidents.

However, this may be only partly true. The Peshawar school attack evokes an outrage like never before mostly because this is one shocking incident where attackers came with the sole intent to harm children due to no particular reason other than seeking revenge.

Unlike the Gaza bombing and the American drone attacks, which were targeted at an entire population and the children became victims in the way, the Peshawar terror attack was designed to kill just innocent children. This is what enhances the shock value of the incident, perhaps much more than 9/11 which shocked the world because for the first time the might of the world’s sole super-power was challenged.

So would Peshawar attack become another 9/11? Would 16/12 be another turning point, shaping the future of global politics? That may depend on how the cards are played by the leadership inside and outside Pakistan. Much would depend on the Pakistani leadership in consolidating itself and introspecting rather than resorting to knee jerk reactions like announcement of death penalty for the terrorists. The Peshawar incident is a grim reminder of two major follies on the part of Pakistan. First, of course, is the country’s inability to overcome its hypocrisy of both patronizing and using the Taliban and joining American forces in combating them.

The second is the unpardonable deaths of innocent and destruction in the name of fighting insurgency, because such excesses besides being unjust have a domino effect and thus the possibility of a lethal reaction. The road ahead already looks doubtful with announcement of executions for terrorism coinciding with LeT handler Lakhvi’s release on bail in Pakistan. It is unlikely that a liberal dose of death penalties is likely to be a remedy; instead it will be more of an ailment. For one, the definition of terrorist remains ambiguous and often undermines the essential nature of justice system.

In India, it was a travesty of justice that Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru were treated on an even keel, even as their complicity in the crimes they were convicted of were of very different nature from each other. Haphazard and rash slew of executions could also impose on Pakistan the burden of a backlash, besides being used selectively and for witch hunting. However, this cannot be the excuse for evading action.

Intolerance to terror activities should be the obvious goal. First of all Pakistan would need to gear up its intelligence wings and plug its multiple security failures. It does need to crackdown on terrorists militarily but attacks on terror outfits should ensure that innocents do not become part of the collateral damage.

Certainly, there can be no talking to bands of armed men operating without any principled ideology other than rabid fanaticism and hatred but there can indeed be mechanisms for reaching out to the public in the areas that have become potential breeding grounds for recruiting terrorists and garnering support for them owing to political, social and economic alienation of the public.

There is terrorism that exists beyond Pakistan and it would require not just one country to do its bit but a global networking that invokes not just military solutions but also democratization of the world and making it an arms free world. It would be foolish to skirt the fact that America is responsible for creating and provoking much of the terror acts across the globe. America has for long pursued the hypocrisy of both creating and patronizing terror outfits and later fighting them. Pakistan has been only foolish in emulating its long time mentor but doing so in its homeland and perpetuating wars resulting in senseless bloodshed in its own territories.

There is little that Pakistan can do, even if it is able to rise to the occasion and provide a mature leadership, without the global support. Pakistan’s failures to tame the monster it has grown in its backyard will eventually have repercussions across the globe, India and Afghanistan will be the most impacted and that is why closing off political dialogue with Pakistan will have disastrous ramifications. How the individual and collective responses of the world leaders shape up will tell us whether we are committing the same follies as made after 9/11 or will 16/12 indeed be the wake up call that the world has been waiting for.

Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

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