New Year resolutions against terror

Published: December 28, 2014
The writer was foreign secretary from 1994-97 and also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran (1992-94) and the 
US (1990-91)

The writer was foreign secretary from 1994-97 and also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran (1992-94) and the US (1990-91)

On the eve of the New Year, the stern pronouncements made after long-drawn-out meetings offer some proof that the military and political leaders of this poor, benighted country — a country traumatised but also united by the Peshawar tragedy — have moved beyond the stage of ‘denial’ and ‘more denial’ to an acknowledgement of the existential threat that internal terrorism poses. For the first time, political leaders who had plaintively asked why the Taliban were targeting places in Punjab now acknowledge that it is in Punjab that terrorism flourishes and it is Punjab that, after North Waziristan, must be the focus of the country’s anti-terrorism and anti-extremism effort.

It has been particularly heartening that there has been little or no mention in the course of the debate on the 20-point action plan that the prime minister announced of the ‘foreign hand’. But will this last? My last article on the Peshawar tragedy invited a letter to the editor in which the writer castigated me for failing to mention the “utter failure of our diplomatic arm to persuade and desist regional powers from providing safe havens and financial, as well as moral support to terrorist groups operating in Pakistan”.

Is this form of ‘denial’ likely to re-emerge as we come face to face with the human and material costs that the terrorists will seek to impose as we proceed with our anti-terrorist campaign? Much of the world and many among the local intelligentsia believe that this will happen because the ‘deep state’ promotes fantasies and conspiracy theories. I do not share this pessimism.

I believe that we will summon the courage to acknowledge officially that the safe havens we willy-nilly provided to ‘freedom fighters’ contributed not only to the destabilisation of a neighbouring country but to our own descent into the morass of terrorism and extremism.

First: using the influence and coercive powers we undoubtedly have to persuade the Afghan Taliban on our soil to commence negotiations with the National Unity Government in Kabul taking as the starting point perhaps, the Roadmap for Peace presented by Mr Salahuddin Rabbani, Chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council, in November 2012. If the Taliban remain obdurate then they must be treated like the Afghans and Isaf are beginning to treat the TTP in Kunar.

Restored government control over the refugee camps in Balochistan and establish the government’s writ in the Taliban- dominated suburbs of Quetta, such as Pushtunabad and Khrotabad. Continue building the trench along the Pak-Afghan border. Clear the seminaries from which the adherents of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi launch attacks on pilgrims, devoting more resources to this than to the ‘indigenous insurgency’.

Second: follow up on the appeal against the grant of bail to Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi. Expedite the hearing of the case against the alleged perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attack. Use the recent decision on hate speech to control the public appearances of Hafiz Saeed and his cohorts.

We may want to take with a pinch of salt the outpouring of sympathy both at the official and public levels from our eastern neighbour but it is far better at this time to accept it at face value as an indicator of the regional concern about the cancer of terrorism.

Third: establish the sincerity of our anti-terror and anti-extremism campaign and then launch a special campaign in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries to eliminate the flow of funds from Pakistanis, and more importantly, from private Arab philanthropists, to suspect organisations in Pakistan. Recognise that a positive response will come only if our internal measures are seen as indiscriminate and as ruthless as the situation demands.

Fourth: be more candid with our own public about our need for assistance to pursue the war on our internal terrorists. Acknowledge that it is in their own interest that our principal trading partners want us to succeed and will help us. Stop the airing of conspiracy theories on which our entire media narrative has been based and which, more than anything else, can erode the current unity of purpose that has been achieved.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th,  2014.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Noor Nabi
    Dec 29, 2014 - 2:58AM

    Punjab, indeed, is the hub of terrorism. These evil groups are the political allies of the Sharif family. How can they be finished without Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall?


  • افغان ميهن
    Dec 29, 2014 - 4:05AM

    Mr. Najmuddin Shaikh has finally wriiten a column, which literally calls for a paradigm shift and focuses on the challenges faced by Pakistan without pandering to the peanut gallery. Bravo!

    “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid”.
    Johann Goethe


  • Feroz
    Dec 29, 2014 - 8:28AM

    Can a Tiger change its behavior if its stripes are repainted with spots ? Rather let us put the question in another way — can those that bred, trained and sheltered the terrorists suddenly be asked to change their orientation and kill those they fed and nurtured ? Since Parliament stands emasculated and fearful, only the Judiciary must take a call and ensure that Rule of Law is not compromised.


  • Khattak
    Dec 29, 2014 - 10:14AM

    When & how would we know that these resolution for 2015 are being made & acted upon? Will Indian, Afghans, Iran & China be patient to absorb more shocks?


  • Sexton Blake
    Dec 29, 2014 - 8:15PM

    @Noor Nabi:
    The hub of Pakistan terrorism may be in Punjab, but it is a very small hub. The largest hubs are located in Washington and Whitehall, although they practice it in a more sophisticated way. Usually from 10,000 feet, and it is carried out purely on humanitarian grounds.


  • ilyas
    Dec 29, 2014 - 8:57PM

    Our new year resolve should be “we will learn from both our and others mistakes, will not repeat our mistakes (and also not make new ones)” We are going to enter a year when Afghanistan will be at the mercy of its warlords, talibans, external interferences and internal challenges of corruption, nepotism, security issues, you name it. We have always been affected by what happens in Afghanistan, unfortunately the affect is more often very adverse. We need to wake up and secure our interest. However, we like to play (foul) with our future, poke our nose where it does not belong to, bite more than we can (ever) chew and then face the consequences. Its high time our foreign policy (or relations) take more sensible shape. We are not clear about our role in Afghanistan next year and beyond. Our government seems still hoping that we will make friends with talibans who will control most of the country and we well live happily ever after enjoying Afghani fruits ignoring the heroine kalashinkov suicide bombing and other terror acts that we received in the past in the then bargain for the fruits.


  • افغان ميهن
    Dec 31, 2014 - 2:00PM

    @ Ilyas

    The era of warlords and Taliban are over in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the narrative in Pakistan still portrays Afghanistan as a country where warlords and Taliban reign supreme. Invest in a Jadoo box and watch Afghan television with someone who speaks Pashto and Dari so they could translate the narrative and ground realities of Afghanistan to you.

    The Taliban are an anachronism in Afghanistan, only Pakistanis give relevance and currency to them and their movement because of Pakistan’s geopolitical strategies, which has not borne fruit. You could enjoy all the fresh and dry fruits of Afghanistan only if you came correct and shed your biases and prejudices.

    Terrorism, heroin and Kalakshnikov was a by product and blow back of Pakistan’s policies in Afghanistan. You are still regurgitating ancient narratives that are now cliched and passe. Get with the times, my friend.


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