Counter-terrorism: The cost of war for Pakistan

Published: January 6, 2015
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A file photo of a Pakistan Army soldier. PHOTO: ONLINE

A file photo of a Pakistan Army soldier. PHOTO: ONLINE

ISLAMABAD: 

Barricades, barbed wire and security checks greet you when you enter the federal capital. There was a time when you could walk about freely in the Diplomatic Enclave, which houses foreign diplomatic missions. So much so that public transport buses drove past the foreign missions, including the US Embassy.

But things have changed after 9/11. Pakistan remained largely peaceful for a couple of years, but a subsequent wave of terror slowly converted the country into a security state. The then military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, sent troops in the tribal regions as well as in Balochistan to quell religious and ethnic insurgencies. Result: the insurgencies in Balochistan and tribal regions escalated, becoming bloodier and deadlier.

As if this was not enough, the US started drone strikes in the tribal regions in violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty foreign militants and their local cohorts. Subsequently, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella of militants groups, emerged which captured Swat and challenged writ of the state.

The situation worsened till the military started an operation against the TTP and purged Swat and South Waziristan Agency of militants. Troops were also sent to other regions, including Bajaur, Khyber, Orakzai and Kurram, and parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to fight militants.

Economists and security experts say, Pakistan has suffered losses of $80 billion in the counter-insurgency operations that, according to official figures, also claimed over 50,000 lives.

The country’s imports and exports suffered due to the volatile security situation. Pakistan has lost over $30 billion where its products have gradually lost their market share to their competitors over the last five years.

While the US has wrapped up its combat operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan continues to fight against terrorism. Security experts termed the withdrawal of the US-led foreign troops from Afghanistan an ‘ill-timed decision’. Pakistan Ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani, while talking to  warned that the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan would have serious repercussions for Pakistan.

In the post-2014 scenario, political experts say Pakistan needs to send back around 2 million Afghan refugees, adding that President Ashraf Ghani’s administration also showed its willingness to cooperate with Pakistan in this fight against militants.

It seems the war will continue against militants in 2015 with pledge of Army Chief General Raheel Sharif that “we owe peaceful Pakistan to our children”. Apparently, Pakistan and Afghanistan will continue to fight against militancy even though some US and Nato troops will stay back in Afghanistan for a few more years.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2015.

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