A tall order


M Ziauddin

In an interview on June 24, 2016 with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle Urdu, Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa said Pakistan has been abandoned by the global community as it handled, managed and faced terrorists — planted by others in the region — all by itself, all the while facing injustice for ‘not doing enough’.
“Pakistan has wiped out the roots of terrorists, planted by others, and we have fought the entire world’s war in this region. The world then abandoned Pakistan to handle, manage and face the terrorists in the region all by itself. “
Bajwa added that Pakistan has managed to complete this task, cleaning the country of terrorists and have reached the border while intelligence based operations continue in other parts of the country.
Bajwa went on to complain that Pakistan suffers injustice and discrimination from the global community of a flawed narrative on fighting the terror war.
“I take it (the ‘flawed narrative’) as quite an injustice to Pakistan. I take it as discrimination against Pakistan. Whichever way you evaluate the matter, Pakistan has done a lot in the war against terrorism and for peace in the world.”
Our chief military spokesperson went on to point out the ‘unparalleled’ role Pakistan played against al Qaeda and a number of other terror groups in the region that morphed over time.
Pakistan has claimed to have achieved significant successes in the war against terrorism in the two years since it was launched on June 14, 2014. A focused military campaign, Zarb-i-Azb, against terrorists has achieved these success at the cost of heavy sacrifices in human and financial terms. Victim of terror attacks almost on daily basis for over a decade, the country has already lost more than 70,000 civilians along with over 5,000 soldiers and; in financial terms the two-year campaign so far has cost the exchequer as much as $ 2 billion.
But to the utter dismay of the people of Pakistan so far the world has refused to recognize these successes achieved by the state and the massive sacrifices rendered by the country. Instead, the global community has been publicly questioning these claims while urging the government to ‘do more’ notwithstanding the fact that over the last one year or so the frequency of terror attacks has declined significantly and the occasional attacks that have occurred have caused only limited damage except in one or two cases.
But why is the world community refusing to see the ‘truth’ as told by our officials? Could it be because most of our claims lack independently verifiable data? Or perhaps the world community has gone myopic? Or maybe the world is deliberately refusing to acknowledge these significant successes and heart rending sacrifices of ours for a purpose.
Well, one can, to a great extent, rule out the possibility of the global community going myopic because that would be an entirely unnatural phenomenon. And one cannot also fathom why the entire world would deliberately refuse in unison to acknowledge the ‘truth’ for any purpose because that too would be too unnatural for a world which has never known to have acted in unison ever.
But one cannot with the same degree of confidence vouch for the claimed successes and sacrifices because of lack of independently verifiable evidence backing the claims. On the other hand perhaps the claims are indeed genuine but the ISPR and the Foreign Office have miserably failed to convince the world of their genuineness.
It is not only those that are watching and monitoring from outside this war of ours against terrorism since the launch of Zarb-i-Azb who have questioned the veracity of our claims but even those who live in the midst of this war, especially the discerning quarters and a part of independent national media have on a number of occasions raised doubts about the integrity of the official claims because of lack of independently verifiable evidence of the claims.
Of course, the ISPR has conducted a number guided tours of the war zone for the media but only after the tour venue has been made completely safe and secure for such guided tours. While one cannot complain about the ISPR’s extra-caution for the safety and security of the guests on a tour of war zones, interviews conducted of those that had gone on such tours leave the interviewers with the impression that the conducted tours were just that conducted tours of deserted locations far from the shooting sites.
To be fair to our soldiers who are risking their lives to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country’s soil let us for a moment concede that our official claims are genuine. In that case both the ISPR and our foreign office would be doubly responsible for failing to sell a genuine article in what is certainly a sellers’ world-wide terror market.
Indeed, why would anybody in a world seriously threatened by terrorism not buy genuine claims of successes in a war against it? Perhaps not the global community but the so-called global powers want to ignore acknowledging these successes deliberately because in their current global interests they would like to see Pakistan do their bidding in this region by conceding to India a significant political role in Afghanistan and would also like to see Pakistan completely decimating the Haqqani network along with the Quetta Shura (suspected of being involved in cross border terrorism against Afghanistan) and all those non-state actors like Lashkar-i-Tayyaba and Masood Azhar led Jaish-i-Muhammad plus the so-called Pakistan Defence Council led by Jamat-Ud-Dawa’s Hafiz Saeed—all those suspected of being involved in the Mumbai massacre and Pathankot attack.
India being a huge market for the goods and services of the powerful rich countries of the world with the US trying as well to prop up New Delhi as a counterpoise to Beijing with which Washington is competing world- wide on the economic front as well as for the exclusive monopoly of South China Seas it is only logical for the US to keep India in good humour by playing its proxy against Pakistan. So, in the final analysis it is the growing global clout of India that is actually forcing the world powers to abandon Pakistan and let it fend for itself on its own in its war against terrorism.
If this is what it is then isn’t it time for us to take a second look at our foreign and defence policies and see how we can reshape them so as to be able to neutralize the Indian clout or at the minimum stop the world powers from looking at us through the Indian prism?
A tall order, indeed! But we need to realize that we cannot meet the foreign policy challenges of the 21st century with the instruments developed in the 20th century.
We could try to tackle the whole gamut of the problems through what is called geo-economic strategies rather than trying to do it exclusively through the worn out geo-political approach. An out-of-the-box suggestion in this regard would be to immediately enter into negotiations with India and Afghanistan on the issue of granting them overland transit route through Pakistan to trade with each other.
The two would certainly find the offer attractive enough to be tempted to listen and perhaps even be prepared to negotiate the terms on the basis of give-and-take which hopefully could end up ushering in lasting peace in the region.

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