The problem of terrorism and extremism that affects Pakistan and Afghanistan overall, but particularly the Pakhtun belts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, is multidimensional. The most important dimension is “strategic.”
The Pakhtun belt in the Pak-Afghan regions has always had very high strategic importance for global powers. Historically, the British and Russian empires had their collision in this region and then the Soviet Union and the American also collided here.
Even today, Al Qaeda which is an international organisation and apparently represents a particular anti-West Islamic ideology has also collided in this region and this is an on-going process.
There is a conflict betweenIran and America in the region. Russia is re-emerging as a global player once again. In the same manner, the future superpower China is a big threat to America. The two powers are hitting each other’s interest in this region.
Similarly the bone of contention between Pakistan and India is Kashmir but they both are fighting with each other on the Western borders through their proxies. This way, even to this day, the Pakistani and Afghan border area is a popular war zone based on direct and indirect encounters.
Similarly, two major ideologies of the past, communism and capitalism, had come face to face in this region. Now capitalism and the particular concept of “jihad” have collided in the same manner.
The second dimension of extremism and terrorism that is worth mentioning is “ideological.” In the past, a particular concept of jihad was derived by Jammat-e-Islami and Ikhwan-ul-Muslimoon from the Quran and the Sunnat.
As this ideology was created, America, Western allies, Arab world rulers, the Pakistani military establishment, its political leadership, religious leaders and Pakistani media, together, promoted this ideology and cultivated it in the minds of Muslim, particularly Pakistani and Afghan Muslims. This ideology did not develop overnight, but it is the outcome of contributed efforts spread over the last 30 years.
Hollywood movies, Pakistani and Afghan media and American think tanks have played a major role in the promotion of this ideology. Millions and billions of dollars and riyals have been spent towards this cause. Today this ideology has penetrated into the Islamic world, particularly in Pakistani and Afghan society and evolved in the form of Al Qaeda and Taliban.
The third dimension is “political.” In the past, strategic and ideological war of Afghanistan and Pakistan had been used by the political leaders for Political motives and to this day, the scenario is not much different.
In Afghanistan, one major reason of insurgency is political dynamics and the incapability of their political leadership. Similarly, in Pakistan, politics flourishes on the basis of these issues. Instead of educating the people, the political leaders choose to exploit their emotions. Instead of basing their opinions on quality and merit, the politicians adopt popular stance for political gains and spread them among the people.
One major example is the religious political parties when ruling Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan as MMA, were not making any serious efforts to stop the Nato supply route to Afghanistan but today, as opposition, their focus is on blocking the Nato supplies.
Similarly, when the ANP was in opposition, it was organising rallies against drone attacks and is justifying the America-Pakistan alliance today as it is in power. In the same way, Imran Khan supported Pervez Musharraf’s initiative on war on terror in 2001, but today strongly condemns it.
This is why the Pakistani and Afghan publics are confused about the war on terror and are not clear on anything related to it. This is why, neither can the governments create clear policies and nor can the public adopt a clear approach towards it.
The fourth dimension is “economic.” Afghanistan and Pakistan overall, and particularly the Pakhtun belt of the two countries are undoubtedly, economically backward. There are no industries, no education or any other economic activity. The people are tough and experts at war. Arms and ammunition are a fashion to them.
This is how, regional and global powers can use these people easily. Because of these conditions, the region is fertile for wars. Even though there are no industries, the soil is rich in natural resources underneath and geographically this region is the economic route between Central and South Asia. The global powers are therefore interested in this region to exploit the underground resources and use the route for the betterment of their own economies.
In the last few decades, a war economy has been generated. Where one person is getting paid to engage in war, another is being paid to smuggle people; one to spy on America, another to rent out property to American forces and Al Qaeda representatives. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, entire lobbies and many personalities have developed economic dependency on this war. If the war ends, several American lobbies and generals will no longer be able to benefit from the war economy.
The fifth dimension is “social.” This is the only region in the world where arms and ammunition are considered a man’s jewellery. The heroes of this society, in the recent past, have not been scientists, professors, scholars or other intellectuals but they have been warriors.
A major social disease is that people adopt and learn from each other, as comparison, competition and imitation. If the father was engaging in war, so will the son be. It’s like a race and engaging in war has become a certain fashion in this region. War has now become part of their culture.
It seems as if the American, Afghan and Pakistani governments combined with the Western forces are being defeated by the militants and extremists, as only one aspect of the multidimensional problem, i.e., “strategic,” is being faced by policymakers, and that too by using military power only, without considering other dimensions of the problem for its long term solution.
A comprehensive solution strategy must be generated in which all five dimensions are taken in to consideration. On Pakistan’s side the contradictions in policy towards war on terror have been resolved and a short term solution has been presented.
Political leaders, the military, the ISI, judiciary, media and all other institutions involved should be on one page, in one direction, and must adopt a well-coordinated approach towards the solution. Right now, the war is being fought by military and policemen in tribal areas as well as cities but the direction of this war and the final verdict will be determined by the powerhouses in Washington, Kabul and Islamabad.
Therefore, the war decisions must first be dealt with by the foreign affairs ministry and then, if needed, the military may be involved.
The writer works for Geo TV.
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