23.11.2022 Feature Article

How far is Pakistan to Afghanistan?

How far is Pakistan to Afghanistan?
23.11.2022 LISTEN

Pakistan has been suffering from terrorism for the last three decades. Due to its strategic position, Pakistan became a centre stage of terrorist activities. The menace of terrorism has adversely affected the social fabric, political structures, Institutions and economic growth of Pakistan. Following the Taliban takeover in neighbouring Afghanistan, this incipient Terrorism has destabilized domestic politics and predisposed Pakistan to an imminent Civil War.

Pakistan was created on the basis of the precepts of the Islamic religion in 1947. Oddly enough, Pakistan was eventually not ruled by the fundamental causes of its formation, rather the political power was transgressed into the grip of a bureaucratic class and inevitably, the people became frustrated and changed their territory, shape, and strength in 1971. During the 1980s, President Zia Ul Haq tried to implement the Rule of Islam and many religious Institutions developed in the society. While this stride of President Haq was unfailingly a people-pleaser, it helped the various extremist groups like the Taliban or Al-Qaeda(AQ) to perpetuate their roots in Pakistan.

In the era of the Cold War, the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan in 1979 predominantly to disseminate communist ideology. The US and her Western allies utilized Pakistan as the supreme logistic channel for the Taliban resistance to counter the ideological conflict. The military aid from Pakistan, the US, and financial backing from Arab countries enabled Afghans to drive the USSR out of Afghanistan in 1989. AQ and Taliban possess the same ideology.

After the 9/11 attack, the US accosted AQ of this heinous act of aggression, and in retaliation attacked Afghanistan in 2001. Taliban are 46% Pashtun of the Afghan 35 million whereas the same tribes are 15% of Pakistani 215 million and formed its offshoot Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan(TTP) in Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) in Pakistan. Some of those TTP leaders had previously fought against the USSR in Afghanistan and took control of most of the FATA. TTP wanted to fight against the US in Afghanistan and also asked the Pakistan government to discontinue her support to the US. In response, the Pakistani government allied with the US on the "War on Terror" campaign.

The landscape of terrorism in Pakistan might have been changed after the Siege of Lal Masjid in July 2007. A total of 154 died, mostly women and children. Immediately, AQ declared war against the Pakistani Government and its security agencies. Before the Lal Masjid incident, AQ and TTP considered Pakistan as a buffer state in this region.

To overcome the threat of terrorism, the Government of Pakistan launched a military operation "Operation Rah-e-Haq" against TTP in the Swat district in 2007. This operation continued in phase -2 and phase 3 consecutively in 2008 and 2009. Another military operation "Zarb-e-Azb" was launched in its territory near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in June 2014.

Pakistan got itself intertwined in the war in Afghanistan. Besides involvement in this war, Pakistan was also plagued by ethnic and sectarian conflicts among different factions and separatist nationalistic movements as another source of terrorism.

Pakistani newspaper "Dawn News" reported that the Pakistan economy suffered a total loss of USD 126.79 billion since 2001 due to the war on terror. According to the report by Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, 23,372 Pakistani civilians and 8,832 Pakistani security personnel were killed, directly or indirectly, in the war on terror. Ex-Premier Imran Khan lambasted the "War on Terror" as America's war, where Pakistan was dragged into it and paid a high price of losing over 80,000 soldiers and civilians as well as billions of dollars in infrastructural damage. Approximately 150 thousand security personnel are deployed in Swat, Malakand, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regions for counter-terrorism operations, but it costs billions of dollars from Pakistan's exchequer.

The "War on Terror" has exasperated the different militant and extremist groups in Pakistan. It created difficulties for the Pakistan army and police to manage the law and order situation. Pakistan does not have the luxury of requiring resources available to guard the Pak-Afghan border, which offers a very difficult terrain to control. The unmanned army drone strikes killed and maimed thousands of innocent civilians. Military operations in the name of the "War on Terror" against their own people have infuriated people. Besides this, corruption, injustice, and intervention of the military establishment in politics irk the society in score to go for alternatives. TTP offered prompt justice and better governance, which gained popularity among the tribal people. Moreover, military operations made approximately 4 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDP).

Terrorism, conflict, and violence are destroying both the physical and human capital of Pakistan. It often resulted in the collapse of health and educational infrastructure. Terrorism and political turmoil affected the inflows of FDI, economic growth, domestic investment, and tourism and increase the unemployment crisis.

The Pakistani rupee is one of the weakest trade currencies in the world. Present rising utility costs, food prices and potential hikes in interest rates have brought an imbroglio in politics.

Moreover, the volatile geopolitical situations and growing convergence between China and Pakistan cast a shadow over Washington's approach towards Islamabad. Now, its somersault policy with superpowers has caused severe detriment to common people that have diverted their support from the government to the Islamic fundamentalist.

Pakistan is already submerged in the quicksand of TTP/AQ the way the USA rolled back from Afghanistan. Survival from the assassination attempt of Imran Khan has saved Pakistan and delayed the civil war. In my opinion, militant groups do not trust the Pakistani government and people do not agree to carry the burden of unsustainable military expenditure in the name of security. The prediction of civil war in Pakistan seems more imminent, and the takeover of Pakistan (or partial territory) by Islamic fundamentalists would be the xerox scenario of Afghanistan 2.0.

M A Hossain, political and defence analyst based in Bangladesh. His Blog handle is: MAHNEWS24/7