By Ahmed Quraishi
November 13, 2013
Pakistanis face a dangerous internal division at a time when the homeland is under attack from multiple regional proxy wars. The divided house coincides with a weak foreign policy that continues to fail to assert legitimate Pakistani interests.
Should the army have responded to the provocative statement of JI chief Syed Munawar Hasan?
Yes. The statement was significant coming from the head of a respected religious party with a wide following, a party with a record of supporting state policies. It is inexcusable to brush off the sacrifice of thousands of Pakistani civilian and military martyrs killed by terrorists who hide near the Afghan border with dubious sources of training and funding. Confusion at a time of war is deadly and this statement has demoralised our soldiers and created a rift between some segments of the public and the military. The damage is unimaginable.
Should Hakeemullah’s assassination be Pakistan’s top priority?
No. The TTP terror chief deserved punishment sooner or later. But the real issue is how Afghan territory under control of the US army and the CIA continues to host Mullah Fazlullah, the new TTP chief and the terrorist that we expelled from Swat. If the CIA is so nice to us, how come they can’t do something about the TTP terror camps that operate under the agency’s nose on the Afghan side? How come President Obama receives Malala Yousafzai but his military and intelligence hosts the terrorist who ordered the attack on her?
Some people whisper that Hakeemullah was assassinated with Pakistani approval. If this is true, does it serve our interests to gloat over Hakeemullah’s death when the entire TTP terror infrastructure stands intact inside Afghanistan while our American and Afghan allies turn a blind eye? The elimination of Hakeemullah is a small event in the scheme of things. He was replaced by someone more lethal and the TTP goes on. Islamabad should set the mark high and target the TTP’s Afghan terror camps and call out on our American and Afghan allies for tolerating anti-Pakistan terror sanctuaries. Malala’s sad ordeal was a good opportunity for us to pinpoint the Afghan terror sanctuaries that targeted her. But, as usual, we allowed American and British diplomats to use her to perpetuate the myth that western military intervention in our region is meant to liberate women.
Why is there so much confusion in Pakistan over the TTP?
The confusion will persist as long as we do not officially and publicly distinguish between our war against TTP terrorism and the American war against Afghan resistance groups, including the Afghan Taliban.
Most Pakistanis are ready to join the first but not the second. The TTP continues to find gullible Pakistani recruits precisely because of this. The Pakistani government must be seen not to be taking sides in Afghanistan. We should meet our international commitments but it is not our business to fight against one segment of the Afghan population. If Washington has failed to stabilise Afghanistan for a decade, we should not pay the price by putting our stability and future at stake.
Pakistan should declare neutrality in America’s war against Af-Taliban. This will help neutralise the TTP’s support base. Once we rob the TTP of a major recruiting tool, we should isolate and eliminate the hardcore elements while keeping the door open to misguided groups within the TTP to repent.
Confused minds like Syed Munawar Hasan’s will continue to exist as long as our war against TTP terrorism is linked to Af-Taliban’s battle with foreign occupation in Afghanistan. We must delink the two by accepting Af-Taliban as a legitimate component of the Afghan society and by urging the United States to make peace with all segments of the Afghan population.
What about the Haqqanis?
The assassination of a young Haqqani in Islamabad is deeply damaging to us and plays right into the hands of anti-Pakistan terrorists like the TTP. Was this a second Abbottabad, another covert CIA operation sanctioned by a few in the government? A government spokesperson should clear up the confusion. The Haqqanis are peaceful and legitimate residents of Pakistan for three decades now. The Pentagon has built up the Haqqanis as an international threat mainly to cover up for the Pentagon’s own Afghan failures. Instead of playing along, Pakistan should insist that a solution to the Afghan mess lies inside Afghanistan and not with the Haqqanis or with other scapegoats.