Pakistanis Must Choose To Resist Terrorism, Especially the Terrorism of the State

Pakistan’s vulnerability to terrorism


The policy of ‘fielding’ these non-state actors against the foreign policy initiative at lessening tensions in the region is riddled with bad faith. PHOTO: FILE

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Amir Haider Hoti says Pakistan should undertake “do-or-die” action against terrorists who “want to destroy our state and society” from their sanctuaries inside the country. His words challenge the state of Pakistan:

“We are on the defensive in our streets and alleys, and they (terrorists) are at ease in their sanctuaries. We should evolve a national consensus on a comprehensive strategy for defeating terrorist outfits. We appeal to all political parties to take a clear stand on this issue (terrorism). If the experience of the recent past is anything to go by, terrorists will not forgive any political or religious party, even those who have literally acted as supporters of terrorists and apologists. It will be an exercise in futility to appease terrorists”.

Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan has tried to rationalise the anti-drone policy his party was compelled to back, to be inside the national consensus against America, built inside parliament in Islamabad: he opposes the drones — because they violate the sovereignty of the state — at the same time as he opposes the continuation of Taliban sanctuaries in the ‘ungoverned spaces’ of the country. The fact is that the US is retreating on the drones and may ultimately face internal American objection to them, while the Taliban flourish not only in their sanctuaries in the Tribal Areas but also in big cities inside the ‘governed spaces’.

Pakistan does not have a credible policy on the Taliban. Its approach is riddled with contradictions. The Pakistan Army, which ‘guides’ the foreign policy enclave in Islamabad, says it is not ready to challenge the sanctuaries. The world — including the 42 states that sent their troops to Afghanistan under Chapter Seven of the UN resolution — wants to help Pakistan in its confrontation with terror. But the strategy evolving in Pakistan is more focused on the situation inside Afghanistan where India is seen as a security challenge amid still-unproved allegations that the Baloch insurgency is orchestrated by New Delhi. Meanwhile, terror has moulded the attitude of the political parties who should have persuaded the army against its dangerously isolationist mindset: they want to make concessions to an entity that is actually planning a ‘revolutionary’ takeover of a nuclear-armed state.

The ANP is targeted because it contests Pakhtun nationalism with the predominantly Pakhtun Taliban on the basis of Pakhtunwali. The Swat trauma proved to the Pakhtun nation that terror can tame the tribal spirit and that the pain of seeing their sons killed can persuade the people to obey all kinds of commands. The terrorists use a policy of positive discrimination to command the direction of politics in Pakistan: they will not target those who favour ‘talks’ rather than ‘action’ vis-à-vis Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Their latest message clearly exempts parties that are friendly to the Taliban on the basis of the logic that terror is emanating from a reaction to the American presence in the region and that being anti-American will appease the terrorists.

The Taliban are not alone in their sanctuaries. Their support among the erstwhile ‘non-state actors’ trained by the state of Pakistan, in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, as instruments of foreign policy, riding on asymmetrical warfare is deep seated and growing. The so-called Punjabi Taliban are terror’s foot soldiers, produced by our madrassa network in support of privatisation of war on the basis of their doctrine of jihad. The policy of ‘fielding’ these non-state actors against the foreign policy initiative at lessening tensions in the region is riddled with bad faith.

The ANP’s cry from the heart will resound in 2013 when things get worse for Pakistan. But Pakistan’s isolationism — concealed behind rabid anti-Americanism — will not allow other political parties to rally around the ANP and confront the most palpable threat to the existence of the country. The Pakistan Army can take on the Taliban but it will need international help. The capacity of the state to cope with terror is at its lowest ebb.