Has 2016 been the best year for Pakistan? No.
Have counter-terrorism and counter-extremism policies been spot-on? No, but the impetus is commendable. Are the right policies being implemented at the right time? Doesn’t seem so. Is Pakistan engaged in doing the same stuff over and over again? To a large extent, yes. The results wouldn’t be any different, then. Is it high time for Pakistan to introspect in order to overcome the menace of terrorism? Well, it’s never too late. Pakistan needs to work assiduously to curb terrorism and extremism from within the society.
With 2016 drawing to a close, it is pertinent to assess the security policy the country has been pursuing. It is about highlighting the gray areas, evaluating the current situation and ascertaining the past that makes the national security policy worthwhile. Such contemplation is imperative in order to perform and postulate an erudite security analysis. 2016 turned out to be a mixed year. Terrorist attacks in the country decreased gradually. Operation Zarb-e-Arb dismantled the terrorist hideouts in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
But, the question is: Has extremism and terrorist ideology been wiped out of the society? Remember, it is never about the number of terrorist attacks. It is about the ideology that drives and motivates an individual. As long as the ‘idea’ exists, a terrorist attack, God Forbid, might just be around the corner. It’s not to instill fear, panic or consternation, rather it is to come to terms with how the concept of security has evolved over the years.
The contours of Pakistan’s external and internal security environment have been misconstrued in the past. Since the horrific attacks of 9/11, the security dynamics have changed, and the traditional way of thinking about national security has become a thing of the past. In terms of Pakistan’s security policy, what constitutes a glaring miss is the lack of coordination and integration between the two power centers of the country (military and civilian establishment); an aspect that serves as a vestibule of making a country secure and prosperous.
In Pakistan, the security environment of the country has become the sole prerogative of the Army. When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed the National Security Adviser after serving for more than two years in the office, the choice was an obvious one, for the obvious reasons. The point I’m trying to make here is that when civilians are not offered the share of the pie, and they have no say in national security policies, then the euphoria would dwindle.
Henry Kissinger, not a General, is often termed as the finest of all the NSAs. One might argue that the American political system is entirely different from Pakistan’s political scenario, but the Westminster model surely is not. After coming into office, former UK Prime Minister David Cameron appointed a diplomat, Sir Mark Lyall Grant as NSA. If India has a former police officer appointed as NSA, is it mandatory for Pakistan to replicate that?
Even more fascinating is the other side of the story. A popular narrative sells well in Pakistan. Although, yes, the Pakistan Army and the establishment may have, in the past, found it feasible and in line with the security objectives of the state to support certain segments of the militants, but the civilian connivance is often completely ignored.
From Chief Minister Punjab Mr. Shehbaz Sharif’s appeal to the TTP not to hit Punjab; to Imran Khan vouching to officially represent the banned outfit, and from Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) being ‘back in action’ under the current administration to the recent funding of the Haqqani Madressah in KPK, it highlights that blaming the military for their tacit support for terrorists is uncalled for.
Another common misconception is about the drones. Aqil Shah, a military expert, broke the myth that the civilian population despises drones. With more than 400+ drone strikes in Pakistan after President Obama was elected in the office, the study of the essence of these strikes signify the fact that the majority of the population in drone-hit areas actually find the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to be beneficial in the fight against terrorists. Remember, however, that the legality of the drone strikes is outside the purview of this piece.
For Pakistan going into 2017, Balochistan needs to be evaluated carefully. Organizations such as Jamaat-al-Ahraar should be de-hyphenated with the sub-nationalists including the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) headed by Hyrbyair Marri, Baloch Republican Army (BRA) headed by Brahamdagh Bugti, and Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), which is led by Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch.
Speaking of Balochistan, it has become complicated than ever with Jama’at-ud-Dawa’s chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed rallying around in the region recently. This doesn’t bode well. The state just can’t afford to mainstream the ones having extremist tendencies. Perhaps, it all started with Maulana Masroor Nawaz Jhangwi winning the by-election in Punjab.
‘Inclusive politics’ is what Pakistan desperately requires. However, can there be an assurance that people having extremist ideas would debunk the ideology altogether; or genuinely work towards creating an extremism-free political arena. All hopes pinned on 2017.
Oh wait; if the state pursues the same ‘inclusive policy’ it hinted towards in Balochistan, then it becomes a whole lot easier for many to foretell the state of affairs Pakistan is going to undergo in 2017.
Danger averted; not quite yet. Long way to go. Happy New Year!