The enemy debate

Never has Pakistan been so down and under as we feel today.


Rasul Bakhsh Rais May 08, 2011

It is the basics of national security to know who the enemies are that threaten the integrity, stability and social order of a society. Getting the enemy assessment right is one of the fundamental things to formulate a robust strategy. If we can draw any lessons from our own history, or the history of other countries, enemies and friends may change places, depending on how interests converge or come into conflict. In a world that changes so often, and it does in more than one ways, working with a fixed or subjective hierarchy of enemies may be misleading and, at worst, self-destructive.

In light of the security troubles that Pakistan has faced over the past two decades, we must reconsider the ranking order of Pakistan’s enemy. The American raid in Abbottabad to kill Osama bin Laden (OBL), indeed a humiliation and violation of our statehood, makes it more urgent to think deeply about the failures, illusions and factors that got us to this point. Without a fresh, cold-blooded review and evaluation of internal and external threats, I am afraid we will continue to chase shadows, never getting to the real and most immediate existential threats to us.

Never has Pakistan been so down and under as we feel today — distrusted by the world and unable to explain or even understand what exactly happened, and why it happened. Now it is time for retrospection, some deep soul-searching and, of course, path-correction. Sadly, we are tending to get back to our favourite hobby of spinning conspiracy theories and weaving strange narratives that defy logic, reason and facts. This has, once again, led many of us to the usual tendency of blaming the outside world for our troubles. However, this will not help.

True, the United States did the unkindest of cuts. It used Pakistan as a partner in the war on terror, by making it pay with greater human and material sacrifices than any other ally and by not sharing intelligence about the presence of OBL in Abbottabad and then taking him down the way it did. It has stunned and shocked the security establishment of Pakistan, leaving only two unambiguous and difficult explanations: We were with him or we didn’t know. No matter how you look at it, American action has exposed our security agencies and military to global ridicule and national outrage. It has divided political commentators and political classes into two camps, one turning its guns on the military, accusing it of playing a double game with the United Sates, which is an echo of what is being said and written in the western media. The other group, usually on the right of the spectrum, has fallen back on conspiracy theories, denying the killing of OBL and terming the incident a drama. Let us not fall into the trap of either rash judgement on complicity of security forces or evade the bitter truth of OBL and al Qaeda in the country, or other groups like the Taliban. In such a complex web of relationships and so many actors involved in a dirty war, some of the groups or factions within them may be working for external forces.

The truth is, we face a big security challenge from extremists, whosoever they are aligned with or working for. Our use of them in the Afghan wars and in support of the Kashmir struggle has boomeranged and hit us back very hard. However, the sources of radical militancy are spread wider. They are rooted in theology, social inequities, injustices and poor governance. We need to retool our development policy and state capacities to defeat this monster.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2011.

COMMENTS (42)

A/A | 10 years ago | Reply @Maria ..If Zaid Hamid Popularity and his consipiracy theories goes upto adding 200 people daily in his face book n started believing to capture Delhi via gazwa-e-hind and his jehadi shaheens...I can think and understand the intellectual bankruptcy...By the way I am glad that you are able to draw attention of so much of Indians :)
Arindom | 10 years ago | Reply @Maria: "sorting out your own challenges" is a gross understatement. You need to stop nurturing terrorists - simple.
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