Pakistan’s long-serving ambassador to the United Nations, Munir Akram, is known for his close ties to Pakistan’s intelligence service and for reflecting the most hawkish stance of the Pakistani establishment against India, the United States and Israel. His other claim to fame is that, while serving at the UN in New York, the U.S. State department had to ask Pakistan to withdraw Akram’s diplomatic immunity when his then girlfriend Marijana Mihic charged him with misdemeanor assault Akram got out of that mess by getting his girlfriend to withdraw the charges.
Since his retirement from the Foreign Service, Akram (like some other former colleagues of his) has taken to espousing Pakistani hyper-nationalism in the Pakistani media. Unlike the domestic violence against Marijana Mihic, this chest-beating has significant implications for Pakistan’s future. It reveals the deep-rooted ideological pre-disposition of Pakistan’s establishment to take risks with the country’s security, based on incorrect assessments. (The 1965 and 1971 wars and the Kargil misadventure come to mind).
With the government’s cease fire with Taliban having expired, military has recently resumed operations against suspected anti-Pakistan militants. Airstrikes in Khyber last week killed 37, and Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique has said that PAF is ready to tackle all challenges. While all of this was going on in the headlines, however, another operation was taking place in North Waziristan where 300 Pakistan-based jihadis launched a cross-border attack into Afghanistan.
This raises several important questions. Is the Pakistan military still operating under the false belief in ‘Good Taliban’ and ‘Bad Taliban’? How could such a large scale militant operation be carried out without the knowledge of intelligence agencies? And what does it mean for our own national security if our Western border remains so porous that hundreds of foreign jihadi militants can come and go without detection?
These questions are not likely to be asked openly in our current media environment, but they should be weighing heavily in our minds anyway.
The results of our involvement in foreign entanglements is well known. The 50,000 Pakistanis whose lives are no more. The cries of mothers. The blood that will forever stain the streets no matter how much we try to wash it away. The toll that has been levied against us has brought us to the current situation in which the government has decided to continue trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution with anti-Pakistan militants despite the fact that the very same militants have said they are not interested in peace. It is easy to point fingers at Musharraf for agreeing to cooperate with the US in their ‘War on Terrorism’, but we can’t stop there.
Since Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan accepted the government’s offer of a ceasefire, militant attacks have continued to kill Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. A suicide bomber killed 11 and injured dozens more in Islamabad on Monday. The following day, jihadi militants shot dead a truck driver and his helper in Khyber Agency, telling reporters that they are not bound by the TTP’s agreements with the government. On Wednesday, jihadis killed 8 people including six Frontier Corps personnel in an IED attack in Hangu. Some are starting to ask whether it is complicity or cowardice that has officials like Interior Minister Nisar continuing to peddle the tired old canard of ‘foreign hand’ every time jihadis carry out an attack, but the fact that the government continues to frame the national security situation as a problem of talking with some militants and fighting others gives away the real thinking behind our confused security policy.
The past week has been devastating for Pakistan, and has removed all doubts that Pakistan is in the midst of a war for its own survival. Taliban attacks have killed dozens of Pakistanis in Bannu and Rawalpindi. In response, operations have taken place in North Waziristan where PAF airstrikes have killed top Taliban leader Adnan Rasheed. Altaf Hussain has called on PM Nawaz Sharif to take the nation into confidence on a comprehensive national security plan within 24 hours. Another terrorist attack has taken place, though, in Mastung where 22 Shia pilgrims were killed and dozens more injured including innocent women and children.
The frequency and intensity of terrorist attacks are increasing. Most of the attention is being paid to those in the tribal areas, Karachi, and Punjab. However there are also frequent terrorist attacks in Balochistan, especially by sectarian militant groups targeting Pakistani Shia. Till date, the government’s response has been not only inconclusive, it may have been counterproductive. Asian Human Commission has issued a statement expressing concern about the safety of long marchers for recovery of missing persons.
Altaf Hussain is right to request the Prime Minister to take the nation into confidence on the government’s plans to stop terrorism. Any comprehensive national security plan must include protecting the lives and the rights of Pakistanis in Balochistan.