By Muhammad Ashfaq
Seeds of extremism had been sown long before the U-Turn of Gen Musharraf on Afghan policy in this country. It is also true that surfacing of Pakistan on the map of the world was based on religious grounds. It was compulsion of the time because religion was the only common ground on which generally illiterate and culturally diverse people could be united and mobilized for the cause. So the edifice of the country was erected on religion only. Then objective resolution and consequent constitutions were framed with the same ideology. Foundation of Pakistan as well as foundation of constitutions was the same where Quran and Hadith were the guiding principles in running the affairs of state because the state was made in the name of Islam. So we can say that no contradiction is seen between the constitution and the objective behind independent sovereign homeland sought from the British Rule in 1947.
However on ground, stark contradiction is observed between theory and practice and it led Pakistan nowhere. This discrepancy, on one hand has confused the policy makers to the extent that they do not know the clear direction to sail the ship of the country and on the other hand sense of deprivation among the general public made them alien to current political system. This sense of deprivation was aggravated by negating the will of the general masses in every political system, whether it was based on so called democracy or on dictatorship of military regimes. It gave Islamists enough reasons to agitate and form public opinion in their favor. Religious Political parties could not make grounds due to rift among them as well as lack of charismatic leadership among their ranks. Freedom struggle in Kashmir, enmity with India and philosophy of Jihad were the compulsions which fallen Pak Military on Islamic style. In order to reinforce, Pak Military supported and in some cases created Islamic militant groups which radicalized the society further.
Afghan Jihad duly supported by U.S. and allies against Russia made Pakistani soil breeding grounds for those who wanted to govern Pakistan and the rest of the world in Islamic way. Fall of Soviet Union encouraged and delighted them and made them realize that they could matter if they were dedicated to the cause. Defeat of Russia encouraged and motivated them as well as Pakistan army that they could liberate Kashmir from the clutches of India. They remained engaged in Kashmir under different names and recruited volunteers from Pakistan frequently. They established their offices in almost every town and collected funds from general public till the eve of 9/11.
Aftermaths of 9/11 detonated this bomb shell on Pakistani soil and it wide opened the eyes of our security establishment. While a common man could understand the repercussion of his U-Turn, why the then President and COAS could not perceive this threat? There were every chance of civil war in Pakistan and the extremists who were fighting on foreign land came back and struck Pakistan so badly that it took thousands of lives, shattered economy and tarnished the image of the country.
Eleven years of war on terror bore no results and the Taliban are as strong as ever. To be accurate they are stronger than before. Eleven years before U.S. did not even talk of dialogue with Taliban and now it is requesting Taliban for its safe retreat. Recent agreement on giving safe passage to Taliban is in fact seeking safe passage for U.S. army. Taliban are able to strike anywhere at least in this part of the world. On other day they struck with accuracy and precision in Bannu Pakistan and in Kabul Afghanistan and achieved their targets.
Question is where we should go now from here. There is the opinion that withdrawal of U.S. from Afghanistan will cease operational activities of militants as they would be left with no excuse of fighting Jihad. Their local support will diminish and hence they will submit to the law of the land. But ground realities are quite different. Al-Qaida and Taliban will be more threatening than ever after the withdrawal of U.S. from Afghanistan. Retreat of U.S. will hearten them to pursue their cause vigorously. It will boast their morale and Pakistani Security Forces will find it hard to tackle them.
Taliban and Al-Qaida persons who are in Pakistani Jails are on the go in their mission. They are keeping hold in the jails and distribute their literatures and commands of their higher up to the other inmates and in some cases they do influence jail staff too. Break of Bannu Jail seems to be resulted by creating such nexus. Withdrawal of U.S. from Afghanistan is their sub mission. Their real mission is to enforce Khilafah in this country as they consider democracy against the basic principles of Islam. So it is evident that retreats of U.S. from Afghanistan will not going to solve this issue rather this phenomenon will hit and haunt us with more vigor.
As it is an international phenomenon therefore a leader of high caliber having deep insight and approach can face and solve this threatening issue. Pakistan needs a sincere leader and statesman more than ever before who can tackle this issue domestically as well as globally. We have to engage Taliban in dialogue within the frame work of the constitution of Pakistan. It is more important that we should engage India and Afghanistan and disengage them of any support they are providing to Pakistani Taliban. We should also curtail the role of international spy agencies in this region. We have to reduce poverty and unemployment. We have to create employment opportunities in Pakistan in general and FATA and KPK in particular. Speedy justice is something missing in Pakistan and Pakistani Taliban have already attracted large population of Swat by promising speedy justice under Islamic Sharia. If current political and judicial system fails in addressing grievances of common people, Taliban can present them as an alternative. Everyone knows that in the name of Islamic justice they further their extremist agendas but we need to shut all possible doors to avert this existential threat to our social values.
A consistent, independent sovereign, smart and courageous policy by the government in Pakistan can end this threat permanently. Otherwise this issue will linger on further and peace will remain a distant dream.
The writer is a researcher on militancy associated with Conflict Monitoring Center. Can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org