Are we doomed to repeat past mistakes with China?

“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

Are we doomed to repeat past mistakes with China? We believe we have turned a new corner by shedding our reliance on America and becoming closer to our neighbor to the East, but will that allow us to continue past behaviours without facing similar consequences? These are questions that require immediate attention if we are to enjoy the full benefits of CPEC and our strategic alliance with China, and current events warn of looming problems.

On the strategic side, Nawaz Sharif appreciated China’s support in the fight against terrorism, a critical issue during a time when terrorist attacks have once again sky rocketed in Pakistan. Only yesterday there was another suicide blast in Lahore, showing that the militants have much more ability than official statements give credit for.

However if we ask whether China is actually on the same page as our own civil military leadership when it comes to terrorism, there is reason to worry. Chinese authorities have continued passing tighter restrictions on Muslims including banning long beards and burkas. Chinese officials are worried about infiltration of extremist ideology, a problem that the Chinese have blamed Pakistan in the recent past. There is also the question of China’s international anti-terrorism fight. It is also becoming clear that China is secretly working with Kabul in fight against Taliban in Afghanistan.

In Pakistan, our position is less clear. We are united against ‘terrorism’, but we are not united about who is a terrorist. While there are question marks around how Osama bin Laden was able to live outside PMA Kakul without being detected, Sartaj Aziz has famously admitted that we hosted Taliban leadership in Pakistan. Pakistani militants have been killed fighting alongside Taliban in Afghanistan, and JUI-F General Secretary Abdul Ghafoor Haideri on Wednesday even invited Taliban to join his party.

We have not forgotten the past, but our memory has become cloudy and confused as incidents and actions have been buried under decades of conspiracy theories and  ‘narratives’ invented to retell history in a way that favours what we want to believe. In the past, we wanted to have close relationship with America, but support Taliban also. Eventually, this destroyed our relationship with the Americans who saw us as playing a double game. Now we have replaced US with China, but we have kept the Taliban as our ally. However, China also sees Taliban as a threat just as America does also. Will our unwavering support for Taliban destroy our relations with China also?

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