By S. M. Hali
Despite losing over 35,000 precious lives, a major chunk of the tourism, sports and entertainment industry as well as foreign investment in Pakistan, there are doubting Thomases abroad and within Pakistan regarding Pakistan’s commitment to the ongoing war on terror (wot). It has been a decade since 9/11 and the US led attack on Afghanistan, which brought the war on terror to the doorsteps of the Pakistanis. Earlier, average Pakistanis kept denying that this was our war. Their grouse was with General Parvez Musharraf, that he blindly took became a US ally. However, with the raging war having taken a serious toll of the lives of innocent Pakistanis, the wot can no longer be brushed under the carpet as “not being our war”. Pakistanis need to realize that it is now the war of our survival.
In April 2011, terror struck full blooded blows, especially on the military and law enforcing agencies of Pakistan. The navy had attacks on three buses conveying naval personnel, resulting in the death of half a dozen officers and sailors. May has been the bloodiest month so far. Following the attack on Osama bin Laden’s alleged hideout in Abbotabad and his slaying, there were tit for tat retaliatory attacks by the Al-Qaeda and Taliban, which have taken a heavy toll. The latest casualty was the Naval aviation base, PNS Mehran, where 6 terrorists held the entire might of Karachi at bay for more than sixteen hours. Two of Pakistan Navy’s most prized asset, the P3C Orion were burnt and charred to ashes and thirteen naval personnel sacrificed their lives. The worst casualty was the esteem, confidence and good name of the armed forces. The Osama bin Laden episode brought ignominy to the Army and Air Force but the Pakistan Navy’s morale suffered a major dent because of the attack on PNS Mehran, which shattered the Navy’s self-esteem.
Externally, the west made a mockery of Pakistan after the Osama bin Laden episode and ridiculed us that Osama had managed to reside unrecognized and incognito for many years in a cantonment city, a stone’s throw from the Pakistan Military Academy Kakul. The US went to the extent of stating that Pakistan was either complicit or incompetent. It is callous and heartless to blame Pakistan and doubt its commitment. On the other hand, Pakistan too needs to put its own house in order and evolve a strategy and plan to defeat terror. The world will perhaps take to us more kindly, if we have a credible strategy, devolved by the parliament after debate and consultations with all major stakeholders and political parties. There is no Pakistani family, which has been left unscathed or unaffected by the ongoing spate of terrorism. Nearly every household has lost a family member or suffered the trauma of terror attacks. Thirty five thousand casualties is a large number to sacrifice. During the Second World War, this was the number of casualties suffered by many countries. Here Pakistan has lost so many people and more importantly, allocated resources including the deployment of nearly 150,000 troops to combat terror. Nearly 600 Al-Qaeda and Taliban have been rounded up and handed over to international agencies seeking them. At the end of the day, if Pakistan’s intentions are doubted that it is playing double games and protecting some assets, then it is most unfair.
Besides formulating a cogent plan to tackle terrorism like the US did following 9/11 or Britain did after 7/7, Pakistan needs to execute the plan with audacity and courage. In order to take the bull by the horns, Pakistan also needs to revamp its institutions engaged in the wot and make sure that everyone is on the same page. In this context, the policy on the religious institutions, like the Madrassas requires serious implementation. There are still reports that some Madrassas are being misused as breeding grounds for extremism and in some cases, terrorism. The registration of all Madrassas must be carried out on war footing. This essential step must be followed by the inculcation of all major disciplines in the syllabi being taught by the religious institutions. Making them cognizant of science, technology, computer literacy and modern subjects of social sciences will broaden the horizon of the students of the Madrassas and make them less prone to indoctrination by terror mongers to join the gang of suicide bombers, with the lollypop of going to paradise as a martyr. These steps should stem the rot and prove Pakistan’s commitment to fight the wot.