A recent report of the U.S. Department of Defense says that Pakistan initiated a national action plan in December 2014 with the objective of eliminating terrorists. This is a long- term plan that will need to overcome many obstacles. The report further says that following assumption of power by the Ashraf Ghani government in Afghanistan, improvement in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations has been of great significance for regional peace. The desire expressed by the two countries for bilateral communication across the border on security matters is welcome. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s army chief, General Raheel Sharif, says that Pakistan’s forces are not getting the cooperation it desires from Afghanistan in Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts.
Pakistan’s biggest problem today is terrorism. More than 60,000 Pakistanis, including 5,000 sons of the military forces, are victims of terrorism. The loss of more than $100 billion from the destruction of infrastructure has caused a decline in the country’s economy, from which it is still struggling to recover. The basic cause for the advent of terrorism in Pakistan is Pakistan’s assistance to the U.S. in its war against terrorism after 9/11. Regardless of whether or not the U.S. accomplished its objectives for the war in Afghanistan, and if so to what extent, the reality on the ground is that the U.S. and its allies have wound up their operations in Afghanistan, leaving only 9,000 remaining troops deployed in that country.
While the U.S. has wound up its war, Pakistan has become fully engulfed in it. Pakistan’s political leadership tried to contain the flames of terrorism through negotiation, but the terrorists were not prepared to walk the path of peace. Then the Pakistan army initiated Operation Zarb-e-Azb, in which it is securing marked success. Large numbers of terrorists have been killed and great quantities of arms have been seized. Ammunition factories have been destroyed and the terrorists’ control and command center was blown up. The terrorists were forced out of their hiding places; some fled to Afghanistan, while others remained concealed in Pakistan itself, and continued to carry out terrorist activities whenever they found the opportunity. The military is in pursuit of them, but the elimination of terrorism and terrorists is not possible without strict action against their facilitators as well. Addressing troops engaged in action against terrorists in Khyber Agency,* General Raheel Sharif said that the terrorists would not be allowed to organize themselves anew. Those facilitating them and helping them financially will also be punished. The question that arises here is how long will it take Pakistan to rid itself of terrorists?
The whole world was with the U.S. when it invaded Afghanistan. Pakistan does not need the full international community to help it get rid of terrorism; if just the U.S. and a few of Pakistan’s neighboring countries were to play a genuine role, Pakistan could be free of terrorists in a very short time. The Pentagon report says that the national action plan is a long-term plan that will require overcoming many obstacles. The Pentagon views the national action plan as a long-term plan because the countries that were expected to help with the plan are not only not cooperating, but on the contrary, are trying to destabilize Pakistan. Where India is concerned, there never was any hope of good coming from it where Pakistan is concerned; with the Kashmir problem still alive, this scourge could only be expected to hurt Pakistan. There was some hope of help from Afghanistan under Ashraf Ghani’s leadership, but that proved as fleeting as a reflection on water.
Encouraging statements have been made by President Ghani with regard to playing a positive role in ending terrorism in Pakistan. The visits to Kabul by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Army Chief Raheel Sharif and DG-ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] General Rizwan Akhtar were also successful. The Islamabad visits by President Ghani and Afghan army chief, General Kareemi, were also successful from Pakistan’s perspective. Some operations were also carried out in Afghanistan against terrorists who had fled from Pakistan. But Afghanistan suddenly withdrew its cooperation for ending terrorism in Pakistan. Mullah Fazlullah and his terrorist companions were neither killed in attacks nor handed over to Pakistan. Ashraf Ghani, who said he was determined not to allow his country to be used against Pakistan, is now saying that Pakistan has been engaged in aggression against Afghanistan for 14 years. General Raheel Shareef, was also moved to say that Pakistan is not receiving any cooperation from Afghanistan.
The Ashraf Ghani administration, like the Karzai administration, cannot formulate any internal or external policy that is not approved by the U.S. or goes against U.S. wishes. The idea of a peaceful Pakistan is intolerable to India. Pakistan’s political and military leadership have repeatedly said that India is involved in terrorism in Pakistan. On one occasion, a military spokesman warned India to desist from conspiracies aimed at sabotaging Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Now that Ghani is accusing Pakistan of aggression toward Afghanistan for 14 years, undoubtedly, it is India speaking through him and undoubtedly India has U.S. patronage. Evidence for this also comes from the most recent report of the U.S. magazine Forbes, which says that the U.S. is increasing military and nuclear cooperation with India as a means of competing with China. This kind of cooperation may increase tension between India and Pakistan. The Pentagon has established a cooperation group that will assist India in construction of its next aircraft carrier, work on which will start next month. The magazine further writes that viewing the tension between India and Pakistan in perspective, one observes that the two countries have fought four wars since their inception. The source of the tension between the two countries is the Kashmir issue.
The U.S. is providing benefits to India to achieve its own objectives. The U.S. has forgotten that Pakistan has sacrificed life and materials in the war against terrorism. The U.S. is increasing military and nuclear cooperation with India merely for the sake of competing with China, whereas India’s war hysteria is directed at Pakistan and only at Pakistan.
The U.S. accepts Pakistan as its frontline ally in name, but its actions say otherwise. If the U.S. would forego its double standard, then the issue of Kashmir could be resolved, leading to reduced tensions between Pakistan and India. The region would become a cradle of peace which would, undoubtedly, have a positive effect on world peace as well. Terrorists and terrorism could quickly be eliminated from Pakistan.
*Editor’s note: Khyber Agency refers to a tribal area in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas region of Pakistan. It is one of the eight tribal areas, better known as agencies in Pakistan.