The tree of liberty

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Muhammad Ali Baig

WHAT is liberty? What is the price of liberty? How liberty invokes freedom and independence? Why nations and states go to war to preserve liberty, freedom and independence? The life of a nation revolves around finding answers to these questions and it remains in a constant and continuous struggle to defend and protect its incomparable status in the nations of the world while using Clausewitzian ‘primordial violence’ as a device to ensure liberty. Liberty is a feeling of being exceptional. It is the soul that keeps the body warm and alive. Liberty is an inbred attribute of human beings – perhaps which brought them from paradise to the planet earth. German strategist and politico-military philosopher General Carl von Clausewitz argued that “Blood is the price of victory”. Similarly, Thomas Jefferson, 3rd US President argued that “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants”. The sacrifices made by the few – perhaps, chosen one ensure liberty for the rest. It is conceivable that liberty demands sacrifices and the shedding of blood.
Pakistan is in a constant state of war — perhaps right from its inception. No nation on earth has paid the price of liberty like Pakistanis did. Being an ideological state, Pakistan could not become a blue-eyed boy for many. Consequently, the enemies of Pakistan in a concentrated and coordinated effort relentlessly pursued a policy to undo it. The global war on terror starting with the Invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 made Pakistan a frontline state in the fight against terrorism. It was a rational choice made by Pakistani decision makers to become a part of the war on terror; however, they could not anticipate the potential dangers of that decision. Since 2001, Pakistan has faced unprecedented death and destruction on its soil as a result of the war on terror. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi declared that Pakistan suffered a sum of more than USD 120 billion until 2018. The Armed Forces of Pakistan, Paramilitary Forces, Law Enforcement Agencies and provincial Police Force have made remarkable sacrifices so far while exhibiting unparalleled courage and bravery in the line of duty against a concealed enemy. The defenders of Pakistan — civil and military — fought an irregular and asymmetric war against such an enemy which had and still has foreign support and encouragement. Unfortunately, the immediate neighbours of Pakistan did their best to undermine the counter-terrorist operations conducted by Pakistan and continuously provided terrorists with safe havens and strategic depth.
Perhaps, one aspect of Pakistan’s war on terror has not received the well-deserved appreciation as it should have — the numerous sacrifices made by the civilians of Pakistan. The brave people of Pakistan made unprecedented sacrifices to keep the lamp of independence burning. Terrorists attacked civilians due to the fact of being a soft and easy target. Especially the internally displaced people (IDPs) are the true heroes and most responsible for making ‘War on Terror’ a success story. The nation would never forget that how these people left their native towns and villages in the name of liberty. The political parties of Pakistan – though having their reservations — did support the efforts made by the civil and military establishments to rid Pakistan of terrorism. Difference of opinion is not only the beauty of democracy — but it is the indicator and a sign of an alive and a resilient group of people — who dare to think the other way and contend each other’s views. Many political leaders preferred dialogue over war; however, the constant meddling of US and NATO Forces in dialogues by using drone attacks as an instrument derailed the efforts. Perhaps, providence wanted to put Pakistani nation to test against many enemies at the same time.
There is a brighter side to the ‘War on Terror’ that it made people of Pakistan and its military forces capable to fight an asymmetric and irregular war – a form of warfare with the defenders of Pakistan were not familiar before. The lessons learnt can and will be applied to refine the war-fighting abilities – while the lessons would transform into knowledge and consequently it would become capability – as it was argued by Clausewitz that “Knowledge must become capability”. It is understandable that Pakistan’s War against Terror has not yet come to an end and it will continue till its logical conclusion. Consequently, the liberty of Pakistan remains highly dependent on the sacrifices made by its people — civil and military. Pakistan has a long way to go to preserve its liberty, freedom and independence. The border management and fencing on Pakistan’s western borders would surely bring peace in Pakistan. Perhaps Thomas Jefferson and Clausewitz were right when they presented their respective arguments on liberty. Pakistan has paid a huge price for its freedom and independence and unquestionably it has to continue its fight to keep ‘The Tree of Liberty’ alive and flourishing.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

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