Pakistan's War on Terror
By Hasaan Saeed

December 15, 2009

Pakistan has become crucial to U.S. and international efforts to fight terrorism, with the Taliban and al-Qaeda safe havens in its tribal areas vastly complicating the international effort to stabilize Afghanistan. Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, a former advisor to the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, says Pakistan's new democratic government is taking ownership of the counterterrorist effort. "I think that the great majority of Pakistan's elected leaders believe firmly that fighting terrorism is Pakistan's own war, and the war is being pursued with tremendous vigor," he says. On the question of economic aid, he says the international economic crisis is not bad enough to ignore a country that is crucial in defeating terrorism.

Pakistan is deploying its air force against the terrorists in certain parts of the tribal areas. And, there is definitely cooperation between Pakistan and the United States in using strategic equipment that is used against specific targets. But American military aircraft are not being deployed on the Pakistani side of the border, and there have been no American airstrikes inside Pakistani territory. The last event in which American troops crossed over the Pakistani border, on September 3rd, has already been explained [by the Pakistani government] as one [Pakistan did not agree with], and it has been told that the United States will no longer violate Pakistan's sovereignty.

In politics, politicians will always make many statements. We see many statements being made in the American political arena because of electoral considerations. And there are politicians in Pakistan who think that there is value in making statements on the conduct of the war, and in trying to arouse a nationalist sentiment.

The transformation from authoritarianism to democracy is an important moment in Pakistan's history that Pakistan's parliament was taken into confidence about a military strategy, military operation, and plans. The great majority of Pakistan's elected leaders believe firmly that fighting terrorism is Pakistan's own war, and the war is being pursued with tremendous vigor.

Pakistan will look at all possible avenues of bringing an end to terrorism. This includes engaging reconcilable elements in Pakistan's border regions with Afghanistan. It includes offering social, economic development in what is one of the most remote and undeveloped areas of our region. And, it involves military measures against those who do not accept the contemporary way of life, want to impose their views on others by force, and continue to engage in violence and terrorism.

I think that there is a tribal awakening in some parts of the tribal areas. The Taliban represent a very primitive lifestyle which is not acceptable to the people of the tribal areas. So now we do have a tribal awakening, we have seen it in Orakzai, we've have seen it in Dir, and we have seen it in Swat. And we are seeing it in Bajaur, and the tribal leaders and elders feel that these hardcore al-Qaeda-linked groups do not accept even the tradition of the tribes. For example, recently they attacked and killed a gathering of tribal elders; historically in Pashtun culture, a jirga as it's called, is always sacrosanct, no one attacks it. And so the actions of the Taliban and al-Qaeda have antagonized large numbers of tribal people, and they're rising up against them. Of course, the government of Pakistan wants to make sure that this does not become a new phase of violence of Pakistanis against Pakistanis. And while we look at these tribal awakening against al-Qaeda and the Taliban positively, we will certainly make sure it is disciplined and does not degenerate into chaos. The world should realize that Pakistan is doing whatever it can to fight Terrorism.

First of all, the talk of bankruptcy of Pakistan is totally misplaced. Pakistan is not on the verge of bankruptcy. Pakistan has a balance of payments crisis which is actually a function of the rising prices of oil and of food over the last two years. The terrorist attacks also have discouraged investment in Pakistan, so the government of Pakistan is working with the international community.

American military aircraft are not being deployed on the Pakistani side of the border, and there have been no American air strikes inside Pakistani territory. Pakistan is seeking external assistance, primarily to shore up its balance of payments position, and build reserves. At the same time, the government has an indigenous program, homegrown program of economic reform. The subsidies are being eliminated, the fiscal deficit is being curtailed, it had gone up to 9 percent of GDP, it's being brought down to 3 percent of GDP. Belt-tightening measures are being taken. And, simultaneously, the privatization program is being restarted so that the government can also generate resources by privatizing many of the state-owned enterprises that have not yet been privatized. It is also expected/hopeful that international cooperation will consider strategic investment in Pakistan primarily because the long-term potential of Pakistan as a major economic player in the region is tremendous.

The current international crisis has ramifications for everyone, including Pakistan. In economic terms, the potential and the ability of many governments to provide resources for a foreign economy like Pakistan becomes somewhat constrained, but the fact of the matter is, when we look at the numbers, when the U.S. is bailing out an insurance corporation like AIG or some banks with hundreds of billions of dollars, what Pakistan is looking for is only $10-15 billion right now, and the international economic crisis is bad enough to ignore the fact that the country that is crucial in defeating terrorism should not be allowed to go under. If the United States and other governments can find the hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out banks that have come to the verge of collapse because of the mistakes of business executives, there is no reason why they should not pay attention to strengthening the economy of a country that is on the front line of the war against terror.

Pakistan believes that every nation has the sovereign right to make decisions about acquisition of nuclear technology. We as a nation believe that the India-U.S. nuclear deal opens the way for a non-NPT nation, like Pakistan, to ask for a similar deal as well. In the future, there will be scope for Pakistan to get a civilian nuclear deal, because in the past both India and Pakistan were denied civilian nuclear technology on grounds of our respective nuclear weapons programs. Now that India has it, we have a case which we will pursue over time.

So it comes down to this, if Pakistan is called a corrupted country, then people will think that it is a corrupted country. Putting exceptions aside, it is not fair to generalize an entire country on the acts of a few corrupted individuals. This would portray our international schema, which is not good for the country and its FDI prospects. The media can help us prove how strong and good of a nation we really are. The world should realize how much Pakistan is contributing towards the war against terror, more than anyone else in the world. This war is happening place in our country, and no one can say that we do not have what it takes to fight off terrorism.

We are effectively fighting terrorism and we as a nation are a very loving and caring country. The media can help amplify this fact. This would hopefully clear any misconceptions against Pakistan in the international circuit.

Sources: Dailytimes, The News, The Nation and Dawn News

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