Time to take action
The significance of the BRICS declaration that included a condemnation of violence in Afghanistan and specific mention of the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, should not be underestimated and it should not be treated in isolation. It follows President Trump’s short of declaration of war against what he calls “safe havens of terrorists in Pakistan”. Trump’s outburst in his new strategy to stabilise Afghanistan is not much different than President Obama’s.
Commenting on the issue, veteran journalist and Pakistan’s former high commissioner to UK, Ambassador Wajid Shamsul Hasan, told DNA that it is more or less new wine in an old bottle – the difference being that it is harsher, blunter and bitterer in taste. It tells us — “enough is enough” – as President Obama and his officials continued complaining to Pakistan all through his two tenures.
There was a time his administration too had threatened Pakistan of direct action through its own and other mutually friendlier diplomatic channels. Last notice was conveyed to both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief General Raheel Sharif in September/October 2016. And that notice had in desperation compelled insiders of the Nawaz government to resort to the Dawn leaks. It clearly spelled that the military and civil stake holders were not on the same page.
Ambassador Wajid added regretfully that during Nawaz Sharif’s time the very fact that he did not appoint a foreign minister indicated that he had surrendered that space to the GHQ.
The veteran journalist added that the age-old dictum in diplomacy is that there are no permanent enemies nor friends – only the state’s interests are permanent. Until 1962 border war between China and India, the common mantra was Hind-Cheen Bhai Bhai”. But then war changed the equation.
Despite having “Bhai-Bhai” relations with India, China had maintained extremely friendly ties with Pakistan. It was not out of love for Islam by a communist regime nor did it have special relations. Chinese strategic interests that demanded of it to keep Pakistan on its right side. And this was the reason that the then Chinese leadership ignored President Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s offer to India–under the diktat of President John Kennedy–to have joint defence against the “enemy from the north”. Irony of the situation that when China was in armed conflict with India, it had asked Pakistan to take over Indian-Occupied Kashmir, the former high commissioner said.
“The BRICS declaration that especially mentions terrorists groups in Pakistan is a manifestation of profound concern of the BRIC member states regarding growing scourge of terrorist organisations that they perceive operate from Pakistani territory,” added Ambassador Wajid.
Unfortunately our rulers–both establishment and the civil government–think they can get away with everything since “Americans know that route to peace and stability in Afghanistan is through Pakistan” as such they are at our mercy.
Ambassador Wajid further said that the BRICS declaration singling out Pakistan for hosting terrorists organisations must be seen as a Chinese climb down from the top of the Himalayas to ground earth to convey to us that “terrorism is a serious business”. If they are investing billions in CPEC and One Road, One Belt as their biggest push to their gigantic goal of economic supremacy, they would not allow Pakistan to run with them and hunt with the terrorists.
The answer is simple. We should put our house in order and revert to Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of a secular Pakistan that shall have no room for organisations as proscribed by BRICS, UN and the United States, he added.
Journalist and analyst Ahsan Raza said at first he thought the BRICS declaration was another one of US President Donald Trump’s statement. “It is a clear warning to Pakistan to mend its ways or even its closest ally China will buy the stance of the world that Pakistan needs to ‘do more’. Earlier, Dawn leak was more or less the same: rein in militants or face international isolation. Don’t you think such statements are a bad omen for Pakistan?” he said.
Ahsan thinks that the most alarming thing is that the declaration was issued in the presence of the Chinese president. China, being the ally of Pakistan, has always been standing by Pakistan in the UN whenever there were bids to declare any Pakistan based outfit as terrorist. This time, very calculatedly, such outfits which have been accused of interfering in India as well Afghanistan have been named, and Chinese non-opposition to it speaks volume. Of course, Chinese message is loud and clear.
“Civil and military quarters will have to be on the same page on BRICS statement for this time, the China factor will be hard to dismiss through a tweet or some Foreign Office statement. The best response would be a determined National Action Plan against militancy,” said Ahsan.
However, Columnist Jarrar Shah told DNA that though not directly aimed at Pakistan, this message in the post Trump speech on AfPak raises the important point which is Pakistan can’t be seen to be part of the problem. Pakistan has been one of the biggest victims of terror however her soil has also been used by terrorists attacking other countries.
Jarrar added that after 16 years and thousands of lives sacrificed one can safely say that we are down to two groups, LeT and JeM which still maintain a presence in Pakistan despite the government of Pakistan having banned both of them.
He added that Pakistan’s response to BRICS should be to highlight the pivotal role Pakistan has played in combating the regional terror groups and to assure the global community that the state of Pakistan will keep on striving for making sure Pakistani soil is never used by any terror group in the future.
Jarrar said how Pakistan does this will be decided by Pakistani policy makers. For instance an attempt is being made to bring JuD into the mainstream by making them wean away from militancy and focus on social work and politics.
However LeT continues to be active in occupied Kashmir. JeM also continues to maintain its stance though its activities have been curtailed to a great deal. The Pakistani state has strategically decided to maintain monopoly of violence in the territory of Pakistan hence one will start to see more action in the months ahead against JeM and LeT militant wings that are operating if at all on Pakistani territory, said Jarrar.
He opined that strategically China will retain the same pro Pakistan policy. However, it will nudge Pakistan to start moving more against such groups who have been left alone or dealt with a lighter touch by the state. The reason for this is that Pakistan focused it’s ire on groups that had and were attacking the Pakistani state and citizenry.
The columnist said that Pakistan has managed to achieve most of its aims in this regard thus freeing up the state to shift its focus to the other two groups namely JeM and LeT. Secondly, China is developing big economic stakes in Pakistan and would not like to see these put in jeopardy due to the actions of non-state actors in the region. An intensifying proxy war comprising non-state actors can and will complicate Chinese strategic and economic goals.