Last Friday, Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz “warned” that pushing too fast against all militants in the country could lead to “blowback” in the form of more terrorist attacks. The statement comes in the wake of criticism by the US that Pakistan has not been doing enough in the war against terrorism. The US has, again and again, alleged that Pakistan has not been clamping down on the Haqqani network, and the Afghan Taliban leaders still continue to enjoy safe havens in Pakistan. The issue was highlighted by the US drone strike that killed Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in May. A US congressional delegation headed by the chairperson of the Senate Armed Forces Committee was scheduled to visit Pakistan, and Aziz has reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to fight against terrorism.
Since the start of the Operation Zarb-e-Azb two years ago, Islamabad has reiterated that it has been going all-out against all militants without any distinction. But the reports from the US authorities suggest otherwise. The authorities in Pentagon have highlighted loopholes in Pakistan’s strategy, resulting in certain sanctions on the disbursement of military aid to Pakistan for the fight against terror.
The statement of Aziz while understandable comes across as nothing more than another excuse to ward off criticism from the international community. The authorities in Islamabad need to realise that this attitude of shifting responsibility would only harm Pakistan. These excuses for not doing enough can affect the ties between the US and Pakistan. The situation in Afghanistan has an impact on the whole region, and Pakistan being the frontline state in the war on terror has a great deal of responsibility to ensure the elimination of terrorism in Afghanistan along with all the others international stakeholders.
Terrorism cannot be eliminated by merely killing some militants; it needs to be removed at the societal level as well. There are Taliban apologists in Pakistan, both within and outside the state. Unless these apologetic attitudes are changed across the board, the fight against terrorism cannot be won. The steps like the allocation of Rs 300 million by the provincial government for a single seminary, which is the alma mater of some of the most dangerous terrorists on international wanted lists, does not bide well for Pakistan’s efforts to revamp its image. Though the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government might be sincere in its efforts to bring religious seminaries into the mainstream education, there is a need for a comprehensive strategy to tackle the illegal financing as well as other objectionable activities of these seminaries.
There is no arguing the sacrifices the armed forces of the Pakistan have endured in the war against terror. What is needed is the change in the priorities of the leadership — both civilian and military — of the country in the war that has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives, and has cost Pakistan unquantifiable loss of image, economy and infrastructure. The war on terror is not merely armed operations against known militants. The war on terror starts at the grassroots level where indoctrination and radicalisation take place, affecting millions of young, impressionable minds who, in certain cases, turn into killing machines provided they are given the wrong kind of training. The results of this indoctrination are visible all across the world. No one is spared. And no place is safe. Ergo, no excuse would do today, Mr Aziz.