BY WAJAHAT A. DAR
Foreign office first termed it as a "shocking surprise". Then the very next day, somewhere in the heavens, the foreign office was told to reconsider it. And then another embarrassing statement surfaced to reveal that "Pakistan welcomes the formation of Alliance and confirms its participation in it.”
Somehow after all this melodrama, it was asked what the extent of its role in the coalition would be. Again the response was quite dreadful and distressing "we will decide after going through the details of the draft".
Seriously where are we going? We are fighting a decade long insurgency which is directly or indirectly linked with our foreign policy. If we will not learn from our mistakes now, every effort of our Armed forces will prove futile. Every sacrifice made by our soldiers in the past few years will go in vain. We have lost 70 thousand lives and the number is pathetically increasing day by day, yet our foreign policy is not clear and productive. On the wonky side, no one knows where exactly the decisions of our national affairs are made. Who has the most influence while deciding what to do and what not to do.
A day after all this drama, country-wide ceremonies were held to pay tribute to Martyrs of Army Public School Peshawar. On December 16th, last year a group of terrorists mowed down almost 150 students of APS Peshawar in the country's worst terror atrocity in history. This was a turning point for Pakistan's foreign policy. State of Pakistan declared a war against terrorists and it was further added that there will be no differentiation between good and bad terrorists. Every perpetrator will have to face the law. Military courts were established through an amendment in parliament. Pakistan Army in collaboration with Air Force and under the supervision of Central government launched the massive hunt down of terrorists in North Waziristan, which has been considered as epicenter of terror factories. So far, Army has succeeded in clearing most of the areas from terrorists yet the fight is still on.
"A neutral stance will be more fulfilling than a biased one towards Middle East and Afghanistan."
A few terrorists managed to escape from FATA to the urban areas particularly to the southern port city of Karachi where they found a favorable ground to operate. Sindh Rangers were already carrying an offensive against the criminals and terrorists at that time. The changing dynamics of law and order situation in the country encouraged them to intensify the ongoing operation. A wave of intelligence based counter operations against extremist then started all over the country. The changing policy was then named as 'National Action Plan'. Public awareness campaigns were run through media and press. The response of public was quite welcoming.
With the passage of time, the plan started delivering its fruits. There was a sharp decline in terror activities across the country, law and order situation was quite under control and economy was growing, though in a gradual pace but quite satisfying. For general public, it was a significant improvement. It was quite an interesting thing for many of us, to see a ray of hope in the eyes of public. To this date, the overall law and order situation is quite satisfactory and economy is enjoying a boost. A progress and prosperity can also be witnessed in other areas. In a nutshell, the changing policy to deal with terrorism and extremism is yielding wonderful results.
It is certainly true that all the chaos and havoc of the past was wrecked by our ineffective and biased foreign policy towards Middle East and Afghanistan, in the past. Now by somehow, deliberately or accidentally, we have managed to come out of this fuss. It would be fair to say that we are back on the right track. But the question is, how can we maintain this position in the long run? How we will counter the factors which lead to promote extremism? What will we do to curb sectarianism, which is the most leading factor to the rise of extremism? If we will not devise a strategy to counter all these factors, I am afraid, we will suffer the same blow of extremism in near future.
Finally, the coalition forged by KSA is apparently a clear way of sectarian divide. There is no place for Iran and its allies. Witnessing a clear demarcation of Shia-Sunni schism, what should be our ideal response? Where should we stand in this battle for the hegemony in Middle-East?
Without assessing the consequences of messing with Gulf interests will be a disaster for us. It will be a setback in one way or another, to what we have achieved and what we have sacrificed to attain this current stability. Its up to the parliament of Pakistan to decide where should we stand. Government must have to reconsider its decision in order to avoid further confusion. It will be in our best interest to stay out of all this conflict.
A neutral stance will be more fulfilling than a biased one, as we have already endured and experienced the worst and appalling outcomes of being biased in our policies towards Middle East and Afghanistan.
The author belongs to Gilgit-Baltistan and is a medical doctor.