Musharraf regime embroiled Pakistan into a new epoch in its history by assuming the role of ‘Most Allied Ally’ of the US in ‘War on Terror’. In this role, new dimensions for Pakistan’s international relations came to light and its significance in international politics was redefined. To comprehend the present state of affairs in Pakistan, it’s important to understand that how far the steps taken by the then government were imperative.
American invasion in Afghanistan and Post-9/11 developments resulted in momentous changes in Pakistan’s domestic and foreign policies; changes that Pakistan was never ready for and could not handle them thereafter. In the wake of this ‘war on terror’, the al-Qaeda and all Jihadi outfits involved in armed struggle in the region were either banned or labelled as terrorists, and madaris (seminaries), considered the breeding grounds of Taliban, were put under strict surveillance of the government. Sole superpower of the world once again began dictating its terms for peace to the world, and Musharraf government was also marching along with full vigour. At one hand, Bush administration launched attacks on Afghanistan apparently in search of Osama Bin Laden, and on the other, launched ‘pre-emptive’ strikes on Iraq on the pretext of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). UN never sanctioned this aggression but the US termed it the ‘Self-Defence’. At that time, Musharraf was beleaguered and was in dire need of legitimacy and global approval. And, of course, foreign borrowings and economic compulsions have been a major concern for Pakistan while setting principles for its foreign policy. But, certainly, these all should not be the prime factors to decide the fate of the nation.
The policy that Musharraf adopted was basically flawed, short-sighted and disastrous. When the US invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan decided to align with the allied forces as a major non-Nato ally. However, ironically, the term ‘terrorism’ hasn’t been unanimously defined yet. Time proved that Musharraf’s decision to extend all possible support to US-led forces in Afghanistan was disastrous. Situation was precarious and Pakistan had limited options. But the way Musharraf dealt with it made it even worse. Without indulging into minute and trivial details of his decision, let’s have a look at what Pakistan lost.
To begin with, U-turn on our decades-old Afghan policy of using Afghanistan as ‘Strategic Depth’ against India made our western borders vulnerable. Next was the U-turn on Kashmir policy. Pakistan never gave up contending Kashmir issue at all possible fora. But Musharraf banned all the groups fighting in Indian Occupied Kashmir by labelling them terrorist outfits. It’s irrelevant to deduce that whether Pakistan’s traditional stance was right or what Musharraf did was right. The question is how national policy could change absolutely 180 degrees overnight?
Certainly, this was out of the blue for the supporters of Kashmir cause in Pakistan. Next and the most significant change was the doctrine of ‘Enlightened
Moderation’ aimed at promoting soft image of Pakistan. To present a soft image of the country, Musharraf went the extra mile. But, unfortunately, all this proved counterproductive. In its aftermath, media also got liberalized in Pakistan. Besides this, drone attacks, military operations in various parts of FATA, Balochistan crisis, Lal Masjid episode, Akbar Bugti’s killing, frequent suicide bombings, missing persons, loss of life and infrastructure, social restlessness and, above all, label of a terrorist state, a failed state, and a satellite state of US tarnished the image of Pakistan.
Political Regime and War on Terror
Musharraf had to resign after huge political upheaval in the country. Pakistan had arrived at a point of no return by 2008. As it was the case with Obama administration in US, PPPP-led new government came into power in Pakistan with an aim to bring ‘Change’; Change in foreign policy and revisiting Pakistan’s ties with US. New political regime was a ray of hope and the biggest expectation attached to it was an end to drone strikes in Pakistan. However, the circumstances never became so favourable that Pakistan could be simpatico with the US and its allies in Afghanistan. End of Musharraf era dragged Pakistan into an unending chaos. Pakistan had to face economic slump due to global economic crunch and internal instability, while economic growth rate fell down from 8% to as low as 2.5%.
It’s high time to revisit our foreign policy. Musharraf failed to tame India; he made extraordinary efforts through Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) and by giving four point agenda on Kashmir. But he couldn’t please the Indian government enough and all political issues are still unresolved. Besides, he failed to convince the US and its allies that Pakistan has made sincere efforts in war on terror and has extended every possible support. Despite his overtures, Pakistan was incessantly asked to ‘Do More’.
Today, the world sees Pakistan as one of the most dangerous states. The monster of terrorism is not killed yet. From Khyber to Karachi, whole Pakistan is paying the price of war on terror. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant outfits are brazenly challenging the writ of the government and ruthlessly claiming lives of citizens, army and police personnel. Americans may have invaded Afghanistan on the pretext of curbing terrorism, as they claim too, but, factually, they are here to curtail Iran, to keep presence in the region for oil and other resources, and to watch Pakistan’s nukes while simultaneously containment of both China and Russia.
The most important question for Pakistan is how to stay out of America’s war and fight our own one. Global or regional powers never endeavoured to discuss peace options in Afghanistan while engaging Pakistan as the most important stakeholder and Pakistan has completely failed to get authentication of global stake-holders regarding its losses and sacrifices in war on terror. Hence, Pakistan must carve out a strategy that best suits to bring in peace and stability in Pakistan.
Nawaz government is bearing the brunt of mistakes made in past. Nawaz Sharif is finding it difficult to put a full stop to terrorist attacks in the country. However, there is always a way out. Use of force may be the most appropriate solution. Americans are going to leave Afghanistan in 2014 and that is not without reason.
They have turned the country into rubbles but Taliban are still undefeated. Now, the drawdown is only a face ‘saving exercise. The objectives, as told in the beginning of war, have not been achieved. Given all these circumstances, the government must use full force to eradicate the menace of terrorism forever. Taliban always consider that if government wants to bring them to table, they will have every chance to put forth their demands. Pakistan is no more in a position to transmit weak and wrong signals to these non-state actors anymore. COAS General Kayani has played tremendous role in strengthening democracy in Pakistan and in the recent APC convened by the PML-N, Pakistan’s political leadership have been briefed on the realities on ground. This is high time to give final ultimatum to all such non-state actors and crush them once for all. People direly need peace in the country. If governments keep on making compromises with the terrorists, and will keep performing according to the whims of international political players, then it will be difficult to put Pakistan on the track of peace and prosperity.