The only part of our international borders that is relatively peaceful is the one with Iran, because hostile intelligence agencies cannot foment trouble from Iran as it is being done from across our borders with Afghanistan. The border with India is also militarily peaceful and there is no foreseeable threat of a conventional war because of the nuclear deterrent that we possess. In this situation Indian policymakers consider it more prudent to foment trouble in Pakistan’s explosive north by using Afghanistan as the launch pad for subversive activities. This Indian policy is devastating for Pakistan because it pins down the Pakistani Army, pits it against its own people and limits its operational options elsewhere, aesides subjecting it to war fatigue and attrition.
The violence taking place in NWFP, coupled with more than a quarter of a million people getting displaced from Bajaur, Swat and South Waziristan can only spell disaster for Pakistan. In order to contain things the cold-hearted killing of the Pakhtuns must come to an immediate end, or else it will start breeding anti-Pakistan feelings amongst the Pakhtuns. Those orchestrating the covert war against Pakistan’s integrity must have this as a high priority objective.
The violence spreading in NWFP needs to be controlled on our own terms and conditions. Military operations, aerial bombings, strafing by helicopter gunships, drones and missiles flying from across the borders are a recipe for sure disaster. The victims of these actions are our own citizens, even if they are disoriented because of the machinations of hostile intelligence agencies and the effects of the controversial international war on terror, which is being fought only in the Pakhtun belt of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It is imperative to bring peace in the NWFP and all over Pakistan, through an indigenously prepared strategy and through negotiations with all fighting factions. Once that peace is achieved world powers, essentially the USA, will understand that Pakistan’s being at peace within itself is essential for bringing about peace in the region.
The US can remain in Afghanistan for any number of years and it can multiply its forces to any level. But Afghanistan will still never be at peace. What I am saying is borne out by the fact that in 2002 we saw President George Bush declare, from the deck of an aircraft-carrier in the Arabian Sea, a total military victory in Afghanistan. Where is that victory in the year 2008? Six years down the road why do we still see intense fighting in Afghanistan? In Afghanistan the war will rage on at varying intensity and endlessly until the occupation forces finally make peace with Afghanistan, withdraw their armed forces and then lay the foundation for a peaceful and developmental relationship with Afghanistan, just like the post-World War II Marshal Plan in Europe. Europe shows no signs, or ugly scars, of the bloodiest of battles fought there more than 60 years ago. Afghanistan can be a similar story of harmony. If war stamina was the criterion for being a superpower then no country would be able to match Afghanistan. It is time for US policymakers to understand that the dictates of humanity and world peace can only spell out that a withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq is long overdue.
The US is the big brother to everyone in the world. It needs to change strategy and start exercising diplomacy and influence through magnanimity, and not the military. Millions of human beings are dying of hunger all over Africa and Asia. If the Americans shower magnanimity, generosity, kindness and developmental activities on the undeveloped world they will achieve diplomatic influence that will derive from the gratitude and the future needs of the needy nations. Trying to do so using its military might will only earn them enemies and protracted conflicts. Diplomatic advantage obtained through the use of military power is never long-lasting. Scars are ugly and painful, whereas dams, hospitals and schools built in countries like Afghanistan will show themselves for generations and have a positive effect. A defenseless country can be carpet-bombed, but eventually even the mightiest of armies have to fight with their boots on the ground. That is where the trouble actually starts. Why should all that avoidable fighting be necessary when a nonviolent and benevolent policy can get far better results at a much smaller price in all respects including peace amongst humanity at large? This magnanimity and benevolence towards poorer nations will also help redeem America’s lost image.
To illustrate this point let me recollect how in 2005 the US military was being disliked and fought against in Afghanistan, while in Azad Kashmir, only three hundred miles away, the same US military and air crews from Bagram airbase in Kabul were looked upon with so much respect, simply because they were providing relief to the earthquake victims there.
Coming back to Pakistan, I must say that the grim situation that we face requires a very apt and brave handling of matters keeping nothing but our own interests in mind. This is a situation that will require from the political leaders of today to draw on the last ounce of their political courage, personal courage, political acumen, farsightedness and their sense of patriotism so that they act only in the interests of Pakistan without caring for any political fallouts. Pakistan has to be put back on the road to peace, harmony and progress within the country as well as at peace with all its neighbors and the world at large.