It is indeed certain that non-state actors serve as the basic ingredient of Pakistan’s discord, particularly with the United States, India and Afghanistan. Such groups have been operating, at times unhindered within Pakistan, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) alias Jamaatud Dawa and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). The Afghan and Pakistani Taliban i.e., the so-called Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network are also striving to end the ‘foreign occupation’ of Afghanistan. Pakistan, or parts of its establishment, believes that front-runners like the LeT and the JeM can keep pricking the Indian security apparatus and keep it at bay as well as bogged down. The same forces also believe that an alliance with, or tolerance, of all those wedded to the ‘liberation of Afghanistan’ serves the country’s long-term strategic interests.
Is Pakistan at fault, or are all the countries wrong in being averse to its policies? Will Pakistan change or will it enforce a change in how others view it? Will Pakistan’s ‘victimhood at the hands of terrorist forces’ make up for the consternation its ‘duplicity’ is causing across the globe. Will the tolerance and appeasement of these forces continue, which on the surface are perceived as strategic assets, but are actually agents of medieval obscurantism? Will these forces remain partners in the security business while they abhor and reject music and films as un-Islamic i.e., essentially despise and viciously propagate against a normal way of life? Can they really be partners, when apparently they can provide the first line of defence but in reality are proliferating the society with an extremely conservative narrative on life? Aren’t the beasts biting the hands that were feeding them?
These are some of the questions that require scrutiny at home. Given Pakistan’s current beleaguered circumstances, one wonders whether those who matter within the power corridors have ever thought out possible answers to these questions.
Christine Fair, an American academic and journalist, recently wrote in Foreign Policy (June 21) that “….for once there’s consensus in Washington.... [B]oth houses of the Congress and the White House have all joined in chorus to decry Pakistan’s duplicity”. At the same time, she said that the US needs to resist the urge to “cut-off Pakistan” since such a move would “ultimately be counterproductive”.
While such cautionary advice by some American writers may come across as a big consolation, time for Pakistani brinkmanship — embedded in the Cold War era mindset — is fast coming to a close. Islamabad needs to take hard decisions. They may entail temporary violence and bloodshed but may mean international respect and inclusion as well as medium to long-term socio-economic dividends.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2012.