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March 3, 2017
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Swallowing the bait

Opinion

March 3, 2017

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Fighting terrorism is a high-stake war and cannot be won by any one organ of the state or a section of society. Casting aspersions on each other and resorting to ‘quick fix’ solutions will push the country to the precipice. Responsiveness to threats must go hand in hand with the responsibility to all those things that bind us together.

Terrorism has no connection with faith, face or race. It is a complex phenomenon with many contributing factors. It is against the principles of justice and universally accepted norms to punish and hold a whole community accountable for the actions of individuals living on the fringes. Don’t we condemn the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) because they treats the entire tribe and its individual members as inseparable entities regarding a crime despite the fact that the tribe enjoys autonomy in many matters as compensation?

If the police and other security forces in Pakistan are allowed to single out the Pakhtuns and profile them as potential terrorists, we have no reason to not accept the thesis of Donald Trump and the right-wing politicians in the West for associating terrorism with Islam and the Muslims. The clash of civilisations should then be embraced as a reality with its local version of Punjab versus the others as a natural progression of that clash on a micro level.

Pakhtuns on both sides of the Durand Line have already paid a heavy price and their patience should not be tested anymore. They had no role whatsoever in the ‘great game’ and they did not invite the USSR and the US to settle their scores in Afghanistan. Protection of their honour and soil, however, has been their only avowed crime, and crisis of leadership their tragic dilemma. They were decimated, displaced and exploited by countries far and near in pursuit of their strategic objectives. 

Pakistan has surely played a key role along with the US and Saudi Arabia in the nerve-racking situation we are stuck in today. Wary of India, Pakistan lent strategic support to the US twice; first to beat the USSR and then to topple the Taliban government and get rid of Al-Qaeda. Facing the backlash was natural and expected. The question is: who had created and supported Taliban to capture and rule Afghanistan – Pakistan or the Pakhtuns? What about the predominant presence of the Punjabi Taliban in the TTP and other militant groups?

Alienating the Pakhtuns in their own country would be dangerous. It is an erroneous assumption that a country can be kept together either by force or farce.  There is now a growing feeling of disenchantment among the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Balochistan mainly due to the skewed economic development and double standards in addressing the security problem. The enemy knows all this and tries to add fuel to the fire as it did back in 1971.

The police in the country need to be trained in many areas to avoid further disasters. Besides developing counter-insurgency and counterterrorism skills, they should know who the real enemies are and what their plans are. They should be encouraged to read history from an independent perspective and know who have worked for and against Pakistan. Toeing the line of those who have proven links with militant groups is likely to distract their attention from the core objective of combating terrorism. It is, therefore, necessary that the police get some know-how of how and when politicians can use them for sustaining their grip on power.

Fighting terrorism is not an ordinary war. It will continue to test our nerves and our resolve besides our relationship with one another. The enemy will try to exploit our vulnerabilities but we have to explore ways and means to hold on to solidarity. We need to avoid racial profiling of the Pakhtuns. It is high time their wounds were healed rather than made to fester. Let us not swallow the bait by creating an ‘us versus them’ within ourselves.

 

The writer teaches at the Sarhad
University. Email:[email protected]

 

 

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