In December 2012, terrorists killed more than 100 people including a hero, Bashir Ahmad Bilour. I analyse this tragedy in the light of established theories in conflict-resolution and policy studies. At least five components are important in dealing with such a conflict: 1) identification; i.e., recognising the issue including its meaning, nature, scope, causes and repercussions; 2) political will; i.e., social and political will to resolve the issue with overwhelming consensus; 3) resources; i.e., the appropriate resources to eradicate it; 4) strategy; i.e., a comprehensive plan and methodology to overcome the conflict and 5) review; i.e., analysing the plan and its outcome in an objective and dispassionate manner. In my opinion, Pakistan’s failure to effectively combat terrorism is only due to its failure to give weight to these factors.
I do not agree that our enemy is faceless. It has a face but we do not want to face him. There are multiple forms of terrorism having multiple causes. It is naïve to say that the Nato presence in the region is the only cause of trouble. Both military and civilian leadership have neither consensus on the definition of terrorism nor on the identity of terrorists. For many people in the country, terrorists are heroes. Despite over 40,000 casualties, there has hardly been any protest or rally against terrorism. At present, the guy who helped the Americans capture the most-wanted terrorist is behind bars and, to this date, we are not clear whether the chief target in that episode was our friend or foe. This speaks volumes of the dichotomy of our approach and the indecisive execution of our plans, and yet, we blame the West for its double standards.
After 9/11, the US government established a new ministry of Homeland Security to protect Americans. President George W Bush had a single agenda: the war on terror. He established a high-powered commission to know why and what had happened. The Americans have shown their resilience, determination and political will to resolve this crisis. They waged two wars against Iraq and Afghanistan as part of their pre-emptive action. On the other hand, despite having suffered far more deaths and losses in this war, we moved not a single inch forward; no special force or department was created. The Abbottabad Commission meant to probe into the operation took more than a year in deliberating it and yet, its findings and subsequent remedial action is not known to the public. This is the importance and seriousness we attach to our war against terrorism.
US taxpayers allocated trillions of dollars to fight this war. How much money have we spent? What resources have we allocated for this war? Look at our annual budgets of the last 10 years and see the amount we allocated to fight terrorism. We didn’t even properly and honestly use the billions of dollars which we got from our allies. We spent more money equipping our military to fight against India rather than against terrorists, as General (retd) Pervez Musharraf once admitted in a television interview. The military forces of over 40 nations are fighting against terrorists thousands of miles away from their land. And we are reluctant to fight these elements on our own soil. This begs the question: are we serious in eradicating terrorism and do we have a strong political will to do so?
As far as the strategy or comprehensive plan is concerned, the civilian and military leaderships are not on the same page. The political leadership is so weak that it is concerned only about its own survival. There is also a lack of unity and command. Is there any one example of a high-level meeting of the cabinet, corps commanders and the Defence Committee where the war on terror was the only issue on the agenda? Our decision-making process is flawed, incoherent, ambiguous and dubious. This is why we have miserably failed to produce a good policy or plan. We have not yet thoroughly and fairly reviewed our policy on terrorism. However, the new military doctrine considering sub-conventional threat from ‘homegrown militancy’ as the number one enemy to our national security is the first step in the right direction.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2013.