A few commentators in the Pakistani media are going against the national consensus and are supporting United States’ war in Pakistan and the murder of innocent Pakistanis.
AKBAR S. BABAR | The News International
Pakistan has suffered, and continues to suffer, unimaginable human, economic, and social consequences of the US-led war on terror. Yet, some so-called opinion-makers with their convoluted views go against the national consensus that the sooner we distance ourselves from this war, the brighter our chances of national survival.
One such opinion-maker, Mr. Najam Sethi, in his article, “The Pakistan ultimatum,” talks about the brief by the GOC 7 Division in which the general claims
that “(1) a majority of those killed by drone strikes are hardcore Taliban or Al-Qaeda elements, especially foreigners,” while civilian casualties are “few.” (2) “…. by scaring local populations and compelling displacement through migration, drone attacks create social and political blowbacks for law enforcement agencies.”
The columnist says that “the first consequence is good and welcome as part of the national solution strategy and the second is problematic and should be minimized because it creates local problems of a tactical nature.” Mr. Sethi goes on: “Pakistan and America have some strategic interests in common, like eliminating Al-Qaeda from Waziristan.” His advice to the military is that “they must be upfront with America – because it’s a greatly beneficial ‘friend’ to have and a deadly ‘enemy’ to make.” He concludes his article by stating that “this is more our war than it is America’s, because we live and die here, and not far away across two great oceans…”
Mr. Sethi’s article is, by far, the most misleading and inaccurate analysis of our present mess. At a time when the West is making concerted efforts to disengage from its ten-year war by engaging in political negotiations with its enemy, Mr. Sethi’s recipe for eliminating terrorism conveniently ignores that a failed policy by all accounts cannot be justified as the rationale for more of the same, with some minor “tactical” adjustments.
Rather than contemplate, assess and objectively analyze the root causes and the cost of this deadly war and think of ways to mobilise national resources to save the country from further chaos, Mr. Sethi continues to advocate national suicide.
First and foremost, terrorism is an age-old and complex phenomenon. The underlying causes of terrorism change with changing times and political realities. Terrorism is akin to political violence committed by individuals or groups who do not have a legitimate army under their control. According to Robert Fisk, “Al-Qaeda exists because injustice exists in the Middle East and it feeds and breeds on (the West’s) lies and hypocrisy.”
The US occupation of Afghanistan was to eliminate Al-Qaeda and the small band of Arabs who had been inducted into the war against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. According to Pentagon estimates, there remain around 100 Al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan. The US spends about $100 billion per annum to support the occupation of Afghanistan. So the US taxpayer is being charged almost $1 billion per annum per Al-Qaeda member in Afghanistan.
During the Vietnam War, the propagandists tried to persuade the world that the war was justified, and that defeat would produce a domino effect, with nation after nation crumbling before a communist onslaught. At that time also, thanks to our self-serving rulers and their propagandists, we were a frontline state against communism. The US exit from Vietnam resulted in the fast growth of the country’s economy. Vietnamese are enjoying the fruits of peace today.
Not a single Pakistani was involved in the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon building. Yet Pakistan is battered and ruined as a consequence of that event. Let us analyse the state of affairs in Pakistan since 9/11, with the focus on Fata. Suicide attacks, an alien phenomenon until 9/11, are almost a daily occurrence there. All the seven agencies of Fata and the adjoining six frontier regions have become ungovernable. Hundreds of schools and health facilities have been destroyed, and the social infrastructure in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is in tatters. The political administration exists in name only and the army is directly administering Fata and Swat.
The system of Maliks has been destroyed with the extermination of dozens of noted Maliks in Fata. In all, almost four million people were displaced at one time or another and about one million citizens continue to languish in IDP camps. Our total internal and external debt has ballooned from Rs5 trillion to Rs10 trillion despite US aid. Military operations are a daily occurrence with 140,000 troops deployed in Fata alone, apart from the 20,000 troops now required to be permanently stationed in Swat. Out of the total budget of Rs1.6 trillion, Rs750 billion is being spent on debt servicing and Rs550 billion on defence, which leaves little for social development.
Tourism has collapsed and expatriate staff of diplomatic and international development agencies is lured with special hardship benefits, to be posted in any part of Pakistan for the limited term of one year. All the major cities of Pakistan, cantonments in particular, have been turned into fortresses with civilians forced to endure police barricades.
An estimated 3,000 people have been killed in 235 drone attacks since 2004, a majority of them innocent Pakistanis. Even the UN has declared the butchery by drones as extrajudicial killings. Hundreds of Raymond Davis-type operatives are on the loose and probably thousands of their local operatives are pursuing agendas totally against our national interests. No wonder, our internal security stands compromised and attempts are being made to rein in CIA operatives roaming the streets of Pakistan.
Mr. Sethi’s describes the use of drone attacks as part of the national “solution” strategy and terms the dislocation of the populace in the hundreds of thousands as “problematic”. Can Mr. Sethi even conceive of his own house being leveled, with all his loved ones inside, by a Hellfire missile that was actually targeting another house in the neighborhood? And, as a consequence, his entire neighborhood had to vacate their homes and live in IDP shelters?
The policy advocated by Mr. Sethi is only going to lead to further violence and mayhem in Pakistan. Most independent analysts are now convinced that the US occupation of Afghanistan fuels extremism in Pakistan, and if the US wants to help Pakistan, it should leave Afghanistan.
What is strategic for Pakistan? For it to be at peace with itself, as a country where, despite the social challenges and poverty, its people can sleep peacefully; where parents can send their children to school without fear; where there are no traffic jams because of police roadblocks; where politicians can reach out to the people without fear of being blown apart; where the images of shredded human bodies are a thing of the past; where international sporting events are frequently held once again, where cultural events can be held without body frisks at security gates. In short, Pakistan should no longer be chasing Al-Qaeda’s ghosts in Waziristan at the behest of the US.
As against 3,000 innocent US citizens killed on 9/11, 52,000 innocent Pakistanis have lost their lives and over 100,000 have been injured. If the US policy which Mr Sethi advocates is to protect US citizens from perceived and potential threats, do we have a similar policy to protect our citizens? Or do we continue to allow our soldiers and innocent civilians to be turned into cannon-fodder in pursuit of the policies of self-serving rulers and prejudiced opinion-makers?
The writer is the political spokesperson of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf