Only A True Democratic Govt Can Save Pakistan From Afghanistan Spillover
In the 2003 Acadamy Award winning documentary ‘The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S McNamara’ the former US Secretary of Defence argues that human nature will ensure war never ends. The eleventh lesson from ‘The Fog of War’ is currently under play in our neck of the woods. To truly understand that we need to go back to 1979.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had massive ramifications for Pakistan. At the time everyone wondered how long it would take the Soviets to secure Quetta, then Sibi, Jacobabad, and eventually Gwadar, or even Karachi.
Then the West, and the US in particular, got involved. The Pakistani leaders domestically under pressure because of a dwindling economy, lack of public support, and growing political dissent became global ‘statesmen’ overnight.
By the time the Soviets pulled back, the military-ruled Pakistan was a different place. Religious extremism, intolerance, ethnic hatred, and nepotism were at their peak.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan had become the epicentre of all types of crimes like drug and ammunition smuggling, warring militancy, and terrorism. Everything started spilling into Pakistan and some powerful institutions decided to use the circumstances to impose a twisted foreign policy on the state.
It took decades to bring the situation under control. Following 9/11, the military dictators in Pakistan were forced to take action against terrorists. After procrastinating for years, causing huge losses of lives and property, the military decided to take decisive action against the remnants of “mujahideen”. For decades, the“mujahideen” had been nurtured as “assets” in the hope that they would be our weapon to bleed India.
Now, we are back to square one.
Afghanistan is set for another power vacuum after the US pullout. In Pakistan, the military is still busy manipulating the political system with an incompetent civilian dispensation engineered to create the pretension of democracy, with media and judiciary controlled and voices of dissent silenced with iron hands.
The PDM initially made the “selectors” nervous through shows of street power. However, with the PPP seeking relief in the corruption cases, and the PML-N solely interested in toppling the current government, the two leading opposition parties are currently competing with each other to prove their loyalties to the powers that be. This, in effect, is helping the military establishment ensure that yet another civilian leadership bears the blame for what’s to come.
To do so, the warped idea that Afghanistan will become a land of peace after the US withdrawal is being echoed. Meanwhile, as renowned security analyst Zahid Hussain has pointed out in Naya Daur TV show, a low-intensity civil war has already started in Afghanistan.
Unlike the 90s, when the Taliban easily defeated the Northern Alliance, the opposing party this time is the Afghan government. Despite large defections by the soldiers it still is a formidable force that can demonstrate fierce resistance.
Meanwhile, New Delhi is approaching the Taliban, and due to pockets deeper than Pakistan’s, India might cut some deal. There are questions if the gap between India and the Taliban, just like the one between Pakistan and the Northern Alliance a couple of decades ago, is too wide to be bridged. But if the Taliban are considering secretly working with the US, they might do the same with India.
Now, should Pakistan brace for the impact of a shockwave from the western front and hope that it will pass quickly without any significant damage or should it use aggressive policies to counter the wave before even it hits Pakistan borders?
Famous journalist and analyst Ejaz Haider argues that Pakistan, unlike in the past, should strike the menacing groups on Afghanistan’s soil, which requires training dedicated counterterror teams.
Even so, what remains paramount is for Pakistan to first keep its internal war in check. This depends on a democratic government truly representative of the people, implementing policies in the best interest of Pakistanis and not those institutions that have been reaping benefits of turmoil.