Pakistan and the war on terror

Sadiq Khan Alizai

The concept of war on terror has been a matter of debate and controversy in academia right from its inception. Coined by neocons in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the term has gained wide currency in the academic discourse. Since then various states have interpreted the term according to their own liking and interests. US attacks against the Taliban regime and their subsequent removal from power in Afghanistan was justified on the grounds that since Taliban harbored terrorists therefore, war against them in fact is war on terror.

The rationale for calling war against Taliban and Alquida as war on terror is questioned on two grounds. First Alquida is the outgrowth of Afghan war a war financed and supported by US itself against USSR. The men that lead Alquida were then called Mujahideen and the literature to sanctify their cause was published at an American university named university of Nebrasca. Secondly, the movement of Taliban that originated in early 1990' in Afghanistan received full American support. These connections with both Alquida and Taliban in the recent past casts a shadow over US's true intentions vis a vis the Taliban and Alquida.

Having said all this however, we can't ignore one fundamental reality of international politics, that there is no permanent enmity or friendship in international relations. Americans supported jihad because their enemy number one at that time was USSR and weakening, harming or defeating it was the top foreign policy goal of US. Similarly, as long as the movement of Taliban didn't harm US interest in the region they were not considered as an enemy force.

9/11 however, changed the whole foreign policy debate in US. Now in the American national security agenda Alquida and its allies Taliban are considered as a great threat to homeland security and to US interest in the South West Asian region. This turn in US foreign policy thinking has become a harsh reality for Pakistan's security establishment to digest. In Pakistan the debate over the exact definition of 'war on terror' created a great controversy and confusion. The question of whether it's our war or not has generated a heated debate and confusion in the minds of Pakistani People.

Urdu Media both print and electronic has played a massive role in exacerbating this confusion. It seems at times that our Urdu media has taken the extreme right position of advocating a virtual collision with the sole super power. Conspiracy theories of either India or Israel backing of Taliban are recklessly floated. This yellow journalism has caused negative poisoning of public opinion rather than giving people a clear picture of the phenomenon of talbanization. This irresponsible manner of disseminating information blurs the whole picture of what is happening say in Malakand or FATA.

The ultimate beneficiaries of all of this confusion are the terrorists who want to take control of the country and impose their version of Islam upon 160 million population of Pakistan.

The post 9/11 reality is that the world is no more ready to tolerate Alquida or Taliban in any form whatsoever. An agreement of zero tolerance for the extremist has been reached among the world powers. Therefore, the prudent course for Pakistan would be a tactical dealignment from both Taliban and Alquida. The use of extremist elements as a tool of foreign policy has to give way to peaceful coexistence and mutual cooperation with neighboring countries.

This will require an overhauling of our national security strategy. Pakistan can't continue to look at its national interest from traditional security paradigm. We are not living in an era of 1980s whereby the world menaced by the communist Russia approved and supported the so called Jihadis. Continuing to support the extremists will only further isolate Pakistan in the world besides, presenting a greater threat to the integrity of the state itself. We already have experienced the impacts of supporting these extremist forces as a tool of promoting Pakistan's national interests.

Heroine culture, extremism, sectarianism and kalashinkove culture are all the gifts of our Afghan policy. Continuing nexus with these extremists who owns a global agenda of enforcing their will upon the world can only result in destabilizing Pakistan itself. It also serves the interests of those whom Pakistan considers as its enemy number one.