By Jayanth Jacob
Jan 22, 2016
In December 2014, Pakistan’s National
Assembly was told that Pakistan had suffered losses of $80 billion and 50,000
lives in the war on terror over the preceding decade. (AP Photo)
Fighting one’s own demons is always a
challenging task. But, as Pakistan is finding, a selective slaughter, or cull,
is infinitely more difficult.
That explains why, however hard it tries,
the fight against terror remains a complex mission to accomplish. But the
world, including India, needs to help Pakistan in this battle.
The price Pakistan has paid in terms of
human lives and economic loss in the fight against terror is mind-numbing. In
December 2014, Pakistan’s National Assembly was told that Pakistan had suffered
losses of $80 billion and 50,000 lives in the war on terror over the preceding
Despite American largesse, the economic
cost of the fight against terrorism has been bleeding Pakistan, whose economy
is just over a tenth the size of India’s at $225 billion. Capital has flown and
jobs dried up in the lengthening shadow of terror, not to mention the agony of
those directly affected by the death of a loved one or breadwinner.
In each country’s history a defining moment
comes when public sentiment drives a change in a fatally flawed national
policy. That moment for Pakistan happened when terrorists mowed down 132 school
children in a Peshawar school in 2014. Tehreek-e-Taliban, better known as the
Pakistani Taliban, had claimed responsibility for the school massacre; now it
has gained further opprobrium by striking a university campus.
After the unspeakable bloodbath in
Peshawar, Pakistan had declared a collective resolve to stamp out terrorists.
But efforts since then show how winning this battle goes beyond declaring
steely resolve. To be fair, Pakistan has not remained idle. It intensified the
raids against militants in the tribal areas of Waziristan and cracked down on
groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). The Pakistan army took the fight against
terrorism more seriously than before, driven by public sentiment and US demands.
But the country still falls well short on
addressing the vital question of how to stop militant Islamist outfits acting
as strategic assets against Afghanistan and India. These groups could be used
for achieving Pakistan’s initial objectives. But they then take on a life of
their own, often not obeying their masters, who are left in a quandary over how
to reign them in.
Any blanket clampdown on groups like the Lakshar-e-Taiba,
blamed for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and Jaish-e-Mohammad, behind the Pathankot
air base strike, is not easy because for long they remained of crucial
importance for the Pakistan establishment. LeT may be a proscribed organisation
but it has unfrozen assets in many parts of the country; Jamaat-ud-Dawa
and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation are the frontal organizations operating
with impunity. In other words, Pakistan continues to be a victim of the
fallacious distinction between good terrorist and bad terrorist
Unless Pakistan makes a strategic shift in
its approach of not using its demons as angels in furthering its interests in
the sub continent, its own fight against terror cannot succeed. There have been
many bloody wake-up calls, and there have been many half-measures. But to win
its own battle against terrorism, Pakistan needs to go the whole way. And all
the countries with a stake in the region need to either help Pakistan in its
efforts, or at least give it a long rope.