For the third time in less than a decade Pakistan and India are in the midst of a crisis precipitated by non-state actors. As in the past, Pakistani national pride and our national feelings towards India have overcome our ability to acknowledge the fact that our stance has little international support. In 1999, we fought in Kargil and described as lies the assertions of the international media about the conflict. “The Jews and the Hindus are in league,” proclaimed our Maulanas and their sympathizers in the media. We found out that while the Indian media had exaggerated things the basic narrative of the international community was less untruthful than what we had been led to believe.
Later that same year, after a coup d’etat brought General Pervez Musharraf to power, the hijacking of an Indian aeroplane from Nepal led us into angry denials of anyone in Pakistan having anything to do with it. But the subsequent emergence of those released as a result of the hijackers’ demand in Pakistan brought unwanted international criticism our way.
Then, in 2002 we had to face a massive military mobilization after the attack on the Indian Parliament. Once again, our media was full of loud noises about American and Indian collusion against Pakistan, ignoring completely that we were ignoring the world’s opinion at our peril. Now, in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, the debate is being diverted in the direction of “Why should we act under outside pressure” instead of recognizing that the world cannot be ignored.
Soon after September 11, 2001 there was a chorus in Pakistan that the US should provide evidence against Al-Qaeda before proceeding to war against the Taliban but that did not change the reality that the Taliban could not escape American military wrath. The processions by Maulanas did not stop war in Afghanistan and the complete international isolation of Afghanistan’s Taliban regime. Angry columns and flag-burning demonstrations are not a substitute for ground realities. Pakistan should not risk coercion by India again and we should certainly not risk international isolation.
Why should we wait for evidence from India or for that matter from the USA before we decide to take action against individuals or groups that are operating from our own territory against us and against the civilized world at large? Are we not fighting against Al-Qaeda, Afghan Taliban, Tehrik-e-Taliban, Lashkar-e- Jhangvi and the likes of Fazlullah and Sufi Mohammad in our tribal areas?
Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaatud Daawa, Jaish-e-Muhammad and other Jihadi organizations operate on the same ideology and philosophy as of Al-Qaeda and have let be known that they do not care about Pakistan’s foreign relations and have an agenda of their own. Why then must the State of Pakistan be soft with these Jihadis on grounds of perceived or real faults of the USA or even India?
Do we still think that we can have strategic depth in Afghanistan by keeping intact our Jihadi connections of the 1980s and keep alive the issue of Jammu and Kashmir by allowing militancy even when the militancy is hurting us everyday? We have suffered more than any other country including India and the United States at the hands of these merchants of death and destruction. Since 2001 as many as 1200 Pakistanis have been killed by these terrorists inside Pakistan. Over 450 Pakistanis lost their lives at the hands of the terrorists in the current year alone.
Is it not a stimulus for us to move and move fast if we want to save this nation from the killing sprees of sipahs and lashkars, whatever their cause or slogan is? We have seen the preamble of what might come in the future in our tribal areas of Waziristan everyday. The opponents of the extremist ideology are butchered and their bodies are hanged with lampposts. Do we want our cities and towns to follow suit? Most people would say, “Certainly not.” But we are postponing the inevitable by confusing the issue and turning the debate to the conduct of the United States or India instead of focusing on the actions of the butchers. How long will it take us to act against our biggest enemy – the militancy and extremism that is spreading like a cancer within the body of our beloved nation?
There is a growing consensus in the international community that the militants and Jihadi groups having links to Pakistan are instrumental in terrorist acts happening anywhere in the world. May it be London bombings, suicide attacks in Spain or terrorist act in any other country, Pakistan is the first to be blamed of harboring these international Jihadis. It is time to decide whether we want to be an adversary of our neighbors and the world or we want to be partners of the international community in confronting the challenges we have today from these militant organizations.
We should remember that we are the first victims of terrorism and militancy. Other countries have not suffered as much as we have during the last decade. We, as a nation, have to carefully choose our options. If we are wise then we would immediately act against individuals and groups propagating violence and the ideology of Al-Qaeda. Pakistan must act against those who are linked to the Mumbai attacks. All those who love Pakistan should rise to the occasion and support any effort that is targeted at eliminating terrorism and militancy from our ranks. This is not only the path to our progress but also to our survival.
Sadiq Saleem is a businessman and part-time analyst based in Toronto, Canada. This article was published in The News, Saturday, December 20, 2008