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A few reports Dawn, a leading newspaper from Pakistan, carries are not only revealing and startling; but significant and meaningful also. Most of the reports cited below are from the newspaper’s September 6, 2017 issue.

Foreign minister speaks: We acted like a proxy

A report said:

“Following the BRICS nations’ ‘regional security concern’ over the militant groups allegedly based in Pakistan, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif acknowledged the existence of such organisations, naming Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) among the internationally banned outfits operating from within Pakistan.

“Asif was talking to senior journalist Shahzeb Khanzada on Geo News’ programme Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath on Tuesday [September 5, 2017] night.”

The “Khawaja Asif calls for stronger stance against banned groups in country” headlined report said:

“According to Asif, the BRICS concerns about the militant groups should not be considered as China’s official stance as other countries — Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa — are also a part of the group. He, however, hailed China’s role in ensuring that the declaration also highlighted the name of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, which he said is based in Afghanistan and carries out terrorism attacks in Pakistan.

“With reference to the earlier BRICS conference in India — during which India reportedly lobbied to include the names of banned outfits in the declaration but failed due to the opposition by China — he said that ‘friends should not be tested [every time], particularly in the changed scenario’.

“‘Instead, we should impose some restrictions on the activities of elements like LeT and JeM, so that we can show the global community that we have put our house in order,’ he said.”

The foreign minister cited a measure by his ministry, which is not a normal function of a foreign ministry:

“For the first time, the Foreign Ministry published an advertisement, requesting people to avoid donating hides of sacrificial animals to proscribed organisations including the two mentioned.

“‘Despite all these efforts, in some isolated instances, the organisations were allowed [to collect hides] at some places,’ he said.”

The Pakistan minister “reiterated that Pakistan must put its affairs in order, given that the ‘entire world is pointing fingers towards us.’”

The minister said:

“I am not making a political statement but telling you a fact: we will continue to face such embarrassment till the time we keep our eyes off these [militant] organisations in our country.”

His further statement was deeply revealing as well as reflecting a past as he said:

“We need to make a clean break from our past; in 1979, we made a wrong decision and acted like a proxy for the entire next decade. After 9/11, we again made a wrong decision and adopted a war which was never ours. We have bore uncountable losses of lives and properties in this war.”

The Pakistan minister’s following statement was like a question as he said:

“Did we complete the process of de-radicalisation, did we bring the activities of banned outfits to a halt or are they active and even participating in politics with changed names?”

However, at a later stage, he rejected the narrative that the Pakistani soil is being used for terrorism.

It should be mentioned that the south Asian country is facing international scrutiny regarding its role in harboring terrorists in the country. At the BRICS summit in Xiamen, China, on September 4, 2017, the BRICS leaders, for the first time, named militant groups based in Pakistan as a regional security concern and called for their patrons to be held to account. India welcomed the move. “We […] express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIS […] Al Qaeda and its affiliates including Eas­tern Turkistan Islamic Move­ment, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-i-Taiba, Jaish-i-Mohammad, TTP and Hizbut Tahrir,” said the 43-page summit declaration.

However, on September 5, 2017, Khurram Dastagir, the defence minister of Pakistan, refuted the BRICS’ claim about the presence of militant groups in Pakistan. While talking to the media after meeting of the Defence Cabinet Committee, Dastagir said: “We have already said that there are no terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan.”

Army chief speaks: Country is paying the price of fire

According to another report, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s chief of army staff, in a speech referred to recent criticism by US president Trump over Pakistan’s alleged inaction against terrorist “safe havens” and said:

“Despite all our efforts, our countless sacrifice and over decades of war, we are being told that we have not done enough against terrorism.”

“If Pakistan has not done enough in this war, then no country in the world has done anything.” he asserted.

The Pakistan army chief cited military operations: Operation Sher Dil, Rah-i-Rast, Rah-i-Nijat, Zarb-i-Azab, Radd-ul-Fasaad. He was delivering a speech on Pakistan’s defence day on September 6, 2017.

The report headlined “The world must do more against terrorism: COAS Gen Bajwa at 52nd Defence Day tribute” cited the general:

“And now, I say that the world must do more.”

He said:

“We don’t want aid, we want your respect and confidence.”

He was responding to US claims that the US had given “billions and billions of dollars” in aid to Pakistan.

He added:

“We will encourage actions by America and NATO that will bring peace to Afghanistan specifically and the region at large. But we also wish for our security concerns should also be resolved.”

The statements – “encourage actions” and “our security concerns should be addressed” – are significant.

Citing Afghanistan, he said:

“Afghanistan’s war cannot be fought in Pakistan.”

He added:

“If even today they [Afghanistan] veer towards war, then we cannot be a part of this war.

These statements mentioned above are also significant as is significant the following:

“If other countries cannot help us fight against terrorism then they should at least not hold us responsible for their own failings.”

The general said:

“I would like tell misguided people that whatever you are doing is not jihad but fasaad. Your country and your people are being hurt the most by your actions.

“Not only is the entire country paying the price of the fire of you have set, but our enemies are also taking advantage of the situation […] A monopoly over violence should only be the prerogative of the state.”

The “monopoly over violence”-statement is an indicator of prevailing politics, and institutional arrangement and capacity.

He cited “40 continuous years of discord” in Pakistan.

The general said:

“We have paid the price for the wars started by super powers in the form of terrorism, extremism and economic loss.”

General Bajwa made a remarkable statement:

“Although the army can end terrorism, to gain control over terrorism and extremism it is necessary that every citizen is a soldier of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad.”

He said the war against terrorism is also an ideological war.

He cautioned:

“We will not tolerate anyone shaking our foundations on the basis of religious, sectarian or caste differences.”

Foreign Office spokesperson speaks

Nafees Zakaria, Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson said on September 5, 2017:

Pakistan is “seriously concerned” about the threat posed by terrorism and extremism in the South Asian region. Zakaria was speaking in reference to the BRICS summit declaration, which named militant groups based in Pakistan as a regional security concern.

The “Many terrorist groups in South Asia responsible for extreme acts: FO on BRICS’ security concern” headlined report (September 5, 2017) cited the spokesperson:

“Many terrorist groups based in the region — including in Afghanistan — such as the [banned] Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and its associates like Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) have been responsible for extreme acts of violence against Pakistani people.

“We are deeply concerned at the presence of [banned] groups, like Daesh, East Turkestan Islamic Movement and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, in the ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan as they pose a threat to peace and security in the region.”

Zakaria said Pakistan is concerned about the rise of extremist ideologies and intolerance in the region, which have been “encouraging social stratification and systematic targeting of minorities”.

 

An editorial: Uniform message from friend and foe

An editorial of Dawn said on September 6, 2017:

“The message is uniform from friend and foe alike: Pakistan’s tolerance for externally oriented militant groups is no longer acceptable and a serious national effort needs to be made if the country is to remain on the right side of international opinion.

“The significance of the BRICS declaration that included a condemnation of violence in Afghanistan and a specific mention of the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad should not be underestimated.”

The editorial said India “clearly influenced the language of the declaration in implicitly pointing towards Pakistan” and China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa “added their voices to the growing chorus of concern because of genuine considerations of their own.”

The “BRICS declaration” headlined editorial said:

“Pakistan must not make the mistake of dismissing the signal from the world’s leading emerging economies. It does not appear to be an aberration and cannot simply be ascribed to overwrought allegations and concerns of India, Afghanistan and the US.”

It said “there is a contradiction at the heart of the country’s efforts to fight militancy, terrorism and extremism: an unwillingness to acknowledge that past policies, and an ongoing selective approach to fighting militancy, have contributed to the problem.”

It added:

“Without an honest reckoning with the past, the reorientation of the state from one that supported jihad under the umbrella of the Cold War to one that recognises the great cost that it inflicted on Pakistan’s economy, society and standing in the global community cannot be complete. And without recognising that Pakistan’s record in fighting militancy, terrorism and extremism at home has been patchy and inadequate, greater success is likely to prove elusive.

“The bewildering aspect of the state’s anti-militancy strategy is that it continues to pursue perfunctory measures such as banning militant groups without any real determination to shut down the operations of those groups in various guises. The only real attempt at drawing up a comprehensive anti-militancy strategy is the flawed National Action Plan, which has been implemented poorly and without uniformity.”

It said:

“Pakistan’s fight against militancy is its own fight for its own long-term peace and prosperity. Too often external criticism has been used by the state to deflect and deny legitimate critiques of its anti-militancy policy.”

The editorial said:

“The BRICS declaration suggests an international trend that Pakistan cannot afford to ignore.”

The daily, in a report (September 7, 2017), cited the Chinese ambassador: BRICS declaration signifies no change in policy towards Pakistan.

Scope is there to interpret the Chinese ambassador’s assurance in many ways.

At the same time, media reports from Pakistan said: “It is no secret that Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have been on an accelerating downward glide path.” In around mid-August, the total liquid reserve was close to $20 billion.

The importance of the issue of foreign exchange reserves needs no explanation.

Harmony or incoherence, whatever one finds, in the statements and claims cited above tell a condition of governing politics, governing machine and governing classes in the country, and, governing politics and governing machine can’t escape governing classes. Governing classes operate within a socio-economic perspective, a part of which is handed down by history while the rest is formed by the governing classes with its activities within their historical limitation. Development of the classes along with its economic activities and factions within decide a lot in politics and diplomacy. As for example, governing classes in an economy underdeveloped in character can never behave, analyze, foresee, plan and take action like governing classes in an advanced economy. Moreover, imperialism/imperialist capital plays a crucial role because of the governing classes’ ties with and reliance on it. In the case of Pakistan, these facts can’t be ignored.

However, the developments in the country are significant; and these carry far-reaching implication within the country, and in the surrounding region.  There’s no doubt that scholars in areas related to the issues and states in the immediate- and near-immediate region won’t miss sources and gestation period of the development instead of identifying tones heard in these utterances – self-defence, rejection, assertion, pain, limitation, conceding failures.

Farooque Chowdhury, writing from Dhaka, has not authored/edited any book in English other than Micro Credit, Myth Manufactured (ed.), The Age of Crisis and What Next, The Great Financial Crisis (ed.), and he doesn’t operate any blog/web site.

 

2 Comments

  1. Sally Dugman says:

    It is a very complicated and difficult situation that you described, Farooque, while involving many national and international peoples with separate agendas. … Can you imagine were all the money that goes to war, the fight against terrorists and other hostile actions were to be used for peace and uplift of life? How tragic that we are such a war-like species as we are in some regards. What a waste of resources and talents to shoot so much time and money into so many battles that, ultimately, can never be won and that lead to so great global carnage.

    • Farooque Chowdhury says:

      Realizations are coming up, SD, at least among a part as you hear: “We need to make a clean break from our past; in 1979, we made a wrong decision and acted like a proxy for the entire next decade. After 9/11, we again made a wrong decision and adopted a war which was never ours. We have bore uncountable losses of lives and properties in this war.” From how many foreign ministers of how many countries on how many occassions have you heard to say: “we … acted like a proxy”? Can you feel the pain the words bear?