No amount of good governance can usher in prosperity and progress without first dealing with and defeating the internal enemy in our midst
So our army brass has now come to the brilliant conclusion that the Taliban/jihadis’ internal threat constitutes the biggest security risk to the country. Indeed! This belated acknowledgment comes after a period of no less than a decade when this internal enemy first launched its attacks against the state and people of Pakistan, after the killing of no less than 40,000 of our citizens and forces, wounding of thousands more, and after the horrific destruction wrought by this enemy from within.
But even this Eureka moment of the army in recognising the Taliban as the country’s biggest enemy does not mean that it is ready to take action to confront and defeat this enemy. The army wants the civilian government to devise a ‘comprehensive strategy’ to fight this enemy. And the civilian government in turn wants the army to further tweak and ‘redefine’ its reading of this grave security threat.
The army also seeks a national consensus to launch an offensive against this enemy, though in the previous history of Pakistan lack of any consensus or popular mandate never prevented the army from initiating any military operations, be it that of Kargil, or the 1948 and 1965 Kashmir operations or the 1971 East Pakistan operation, etc.
If the past is any indication, these exercises by the government and the army in redefining threats, obtaining consensus and formulating strategies might take another ten years. By that time, we hope the Pakistan state would still be existing in its current political shape. We are now a country with a thousand cuts, bleeding profusely to death. Although the army is primarily liable for this state of affairs in first creating this Taliban/jihadi enemy and then failing to defend the country from its onslaught, our governments, people at large, including civil society and the intelligentsia, cannot be absolved in the aggravation and perpetuation of this vile threat from within. In their refusal to confront and fight this enemy face to face, they have come up with various familiar alibis and excuses, conspiracies and theories, denials and delusions, some of which are novel, some absurd, some hilarious, but all based on capitulation, cowardice and fear.
For instance, we have all heard the western-coined mantra that education and jobs are needed to defeat this Taliban’s terrorism. It is a no-brainer that generally, educated youth gainfully employed would be less prone to destructive activities, but to educate a whole generation and create job opportunities and businesses would take more than a decade. As Ghalib said, “Kaun jeeta hai tery zulf ke sir honay tuk” (Who will still be alive by then?). In the meantime, should terrorism be allowed to continue and the country continue to be destroyed? Of course not. The first and foremost task is to tackle the immediate problem at hand that is destroying you.
The same goes for the arguments that we must ‘strengthen our institutions’ or ‘change the mindset’ of terrorists. Sure, these are laudable measures but they are very long-term. First, being on the bubble, on the cusp of victory or defeat, we must defeat the insurgents before we ourselves are defeated.
Then there are the self-deceiving denials and conspiracy theories that the Taliban/jihadist ‘cannot be Muslims’, that they are ‘American, Indian or Israeli agents’ and that we are fighting ‘America’s war’. If this is all true, does it alter the basic fact that they are attacking our state and our people? In fact, it makes them more reviled as enemies and gives us all the more reason to crush them.
Whatever you might call them — terrorists or insurgents or militants or miscreants or Indian, American or Israeli agents — the fact is that they have killed about seven times more civilians and soldiers of Pakistan than India did in all the wars combined.
Let’s take a step back and look at the way we are living — petrified, cowering in the shadows, hiding behind ten-foot walls and concrete bunkers, while expecting any moment to be shot at, kidnapped, or blown into pieces by our internal enemy. Is this the life of the brave, independent and free that Jinnah promised? Is this the life of Iqbal’s ‘shaheen’: urestrained, proud and aiming high? How many more armed guards will we keep on adding to our protective cocoon of bodyguards? 10, 20, 50 or 100?
Yes, we are not a failed state yet, but from Peshawar to Karachi, two of Pakistan’s major cities, we are living a petrified, humiliated and subdued existence that borders on the shameful and the surreal. We are not really living with our human potential but rather going through the motions of living. In the economic and social fields, courtesy of our declared enemy, the country has descended to near bottom of the social, economic and welfare rankings in various world indices of the UN and other international organisations. No amount of good governance can usher in prosperity and progress without first dealing with and defeating the internal enemy in our midst.
Can anyone give a single example of any nation that achieved progress and prosperity while a domestic armed organised group of its people inflicted at will murder, mayhem, bombings on its citizens, its institutions, its cities and its security forces? Among our Asian neighbours, China, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, etc, performed economic miracles by providing a peaceful, violence-free, law-abiding, safe environment for its peoples to work and excel unworried about their safety and the strength and resolve of their state.
Shouldn’t we stand up and face the enemy rather than being content to be at the receiving end of the enemy’s blows — physical, psychological and economic — ad nauseam? For how long are we condemned to live in mortal fear of the brutalising Taliban and jihadists? This is no smack-talk but a slice of stark reality that we stubbornly refuse to face. If, God forbid, Pakistan does go down eventually, hope it does not go down in history as a unique nation that refused to fight and defend itself.
The writer is a corporate attorney, analyst, speaker and the author of US Immigration Laws: How to Apply. He can be reached at Tausifkamal@hotmail.com