By S. M. Hali
General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s categorical declaration on the Azadi(Independence Day) Parade at the Army’s premier cradle of leadership PMA that the war on terror (WoT) is Pakistan’s war too should have laid to rest the whispering campaign questioning the propriety of the WoT. Unfortunately, some columnists and a few TV anchors continue to echo what certain politicians have been furtively advocating that this is somebody else’s war and Pakistan should disown it. Regrettably, the time to debate that is a decade too late. When General Pervez Musharraf was asked the portentous question: “Either you are with us or against us” in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, that was the time to debate the subject. Perhaps the issue of our participation was sealed in face of the intimidating corollary warning by Richard Armitage US Deputy Secretary of State that “We will bomb you into the stone age” (if Pakistan did not cooperate with America's war on Afghanistan).
Ground realities are that the WoT has taken a heavy toll of more than 40,000 Pakistani lives, cost the national exchequer more than 68 billion dollars and deprived cash starved Pakistan of millions of dollars worth of property, equipment and the armed forces of high value weapon systems like the P3C Orions or AEW&C aircraft. It is ironical that the doubting Thomas among us still question whether this is our war? We can no longer afford to emulate the ostrich, which buries its head in sand in the sight of clear & present danger pretending that if it can’t see the lurking hazard, it will be spared its gory consequence.
The time for post mortem and apportioning blame on who should be declared culpable of the decision to shove Pakistan into the furnace of the WoT will come later. At the moment we are in the midst of the inferno and unless we make concerted efforts to come out of the morass, we face annihilation. Detractorscriticize General Kayani for having used his military powers to dominate the democratic dispensation and for muddling in the political/foreign affairs/policy matters. Maybe there is an iota of truth there but it has to be taken with a pinch of salt, since it is the political dispensation, which has on numerous occasions during the last four and a half years created situations, where chaos and anarchy prevailed and a more ambitious “man on horseback” would have seized the opportunity for riding roughshod into the corridors of power at Islamabad. Credit must be given that General Kayani resisted the temptation and keeping the Army at bay, opted instead to separate the warring political factions. The decisions of closing down the Ground Lines of Communication, euphemistically called the NATO supply routes, having the US vacate Shamsi Air Base, reportedly a launching pad for the ubiquitous drone attacks and boycotting the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan, were taken collectively by the Parliament.
Those who declare that this is not Pakistan’s war, should be sagacious enough to recommend a solution to the state of Pakistan facing dreadful attacks of extremist elements/terrorists. It is abundantly clear that every Pakistani is desirous of eliminating religious extremism and terrorism from Pakistan; the question is how?
Indeed Pakistan has been badly governed for the past decade or so but to give the devil its due, despite the myriad problems facing Pakistan, the current dispensation has opted to receive inputs from the army and foreign office in matters of defence and diplomacy but charted its own course of action. Good or bad, time will tell.
Coming back to the WoT, cognizance must be taken of the fact that terrorists entrenching violence are posing threat to the state of Pakistan; hence action against them through army operations or otherwise to repress the peril, has to be taken by the civilian government. Reality check is that terrorists have taken the law in their hands and have plans to spread anarchy in the country, not sparing even foreign diplomatic missions, thus they deserve no sympathy and must be eliminated through decisive action. Attempts of negotiating with them only afforded the terrorists space & time to recuperate. The WoT must be owned because the terror mongers continue to kill our soldiers, families, school-going children, targeting hospitals, markets, educational institutions and mosques. To claim that it is the war of US is a misconception. The politically motivated terrorists want to grab power through violent means, hence they must be stopped. Whether we accept or not, it is now our war necessitating our full-fledged participation