Twenty years; two trillion dollars; a loss of life of nearly three thousand U.S. soldiers, nearly ten thousand Americans and other foreign mercenaries along with the lives of millions of Afghans – what is the result? The great America and all its powerful allies were fighting against one group: the Taliban. In Afghanistan’s neighborhood, one country’s military was pitched against dozens of militant groups on its own. Al-Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Turkestan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-e-Islam, Lashkar-e-Balochistan, Balochistan Liberation Army, Balochistan Republican Army, United Baloch Army, Balochistan Liberation Front and many more. All were fighting to defeat one military: Pakistan’s military.
In Afghanistan, the forces of United States, NATO and U.S.’ allies competed against the Afghan Taliban together, and on the other hand, Pakistan competed against several factions and militias within the country on its own. Behind these groups and armies were also the intelligence agencies of many visible and hidden enemies. Then there was investment in the media. Every known effort was made to tarnish the public image of Pakistan Armed Forces and intelligence agencies. The first suicide attack in Pakistan took place in 2002 and 2007, followed by a flood of suicide attacks, bombings, and sabotage. In December 2007, various groups merged under the name of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and gained control of enormous areas such as North Waziristan, Khyber, Mohmand and Bajaur. An endless series of kidnappings for ransom began to take place from Karachi to Khyber. In 2008, a local TTP group led by Maulvi Fazlullah seized several areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Malakand Division. But the world saw that Pakistan won the war and inflicted a humiliating defeat to those who talked of tearing the country apart.
A few years ago, the country’s leading 1829 scholars, through Paigham-e-Pakistan, made it clear that any kind of armed activity is forbidden in Pakistan. So far, over 4000 scholars have signed the document. The vast majority of Pakistan’s scholars stood behind their Armed Forces, while those who rebelled against Pakistan in the name of Islam could not find support from the country’s leading scholars.
Have we ever thought that Pakistan, despite having a weak economy and not being at par with the United States and its allies in terms of equipment, has defeated the terrorists in the War on Terror? The world witnessed the moment United States began its withdrawal of troops; its established system collapsed and its imposed rulers vanished into thin air from Afghanistan. In contrast, the battle of Pakistan Armed Forces was a battle of truth and not based on malice. It was a battle for the stability of an Islamic state. The Constitution of Pakistan declares it to be an Islamic state where, according to the Constitution, no legislation can be made against Islam and according to Islam, any kind of rebellion against an Islamic state is forbidden. A few years ago, the country’s leading 1829 scholars, through Paigham-e-Pakistan, made it clear that any kind of armed activity is forbidden in Pakistan. So far, over 4000 scholars have signed the document. The vast majority of Pakistan’s scholars stood behind their Armed Forces, while those who rebelled against Pakistan in the name of Islam could not find support from the country’s leading scholars.
Pakistan’s case was that of truth and justice, thus the people also stood by their forces. The Afghan people did not stand with the United States and its allies, therefore they failed. Today, not even an inch of land in Pakistan is under the possession of any terrorist group. In particular, Operation Zarb-e-Azb, launched in June 2014, broke the backs of all these groups. Prior to June 2014, there was an average of over 150 attacks per month. By 2021, that number has dwindled to an average of 19 attacks per month. Although the challenge of terrorism is not completely over, yet, if we compare it with the situation six or seven years ago, it is much better. Moreover, Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad has uprooted terrorist sleeping cells, logistics and support networks from the urban areas.
The enemies of Pakistan are now more frustrated and annoyed. Attempts are being made to lay the blame of what happened in Afghanistan on Pakistan. Although, Pakistan has done nothing but protect its interests, attempts will be made to punish Pakistan. Now, a new excuse will be found to target Pakistan, whether it is through suicide attacks against the Chinese by the BLA; TTP’s attacks in South and North Waziristan or the Dasu suicide attack in Kohistan against the Chinese workers.
Adversaries are lining up against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Of course, its heat will reach Pakistan as well. How is it possible that there is no sabotage against projects that major powers of the word see as a threat to their strategic interests? Pakistan and China must improve their security but also keep themselves mentally prepared for negative activities. What the future holds for Afghanistan will indefinitely have a direct impact on the security situation inside Pakistan. Therefore, we cannot be indifferent to the Afghan conflict.
Pakistan has to work with member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for lasting peace in Afghanistan in order to prevent the re-emergence of terrorists in Pakistan and to establish durable peace that benefits all. The role of China and Russia is important as well. Unfortunately, India is still playing the role of a spoiler in Afghanistan. As India is also a member of the SCO, it is possible that through engaging it positively on this platform the people of Afghanistan will be safe from its negative foreign policy driven by terror and sabotage. India also needs to understand that it cannot maintain peace and security within its own borders by deteriorating the law and order situation in Pakistan. Peace within the region is intertwined. Chief of the Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, earlier this year, has already generously invited India to bury the past and move towards a peaceful future. India could not provide a serious or lasting response to this tremendous offer and continues to engage in negative activities, which calls into question the foresight of the present Indian leadership.
After 9/11, terrorism has increased everywhere in the world. It had also increased within Pakistan but no other country in the world has been able to place it in reverse gear while Pakistan has shown its best performance in this regard, clearly defeating the terrorists and keeping its citizens safe. Today, Pakistan’s journey from ‘terrorism to tourism’ continues successfully. Instead of conspiring against Pakistan, the world should learn how this war was fought and won by Pakistan.
Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan has enabled it to have a neighbor which is at peace with it and will not allow its soil to be used against Pakistan. A peaceful neighborhood will certainly help achieve peace at home too. Pakistan’s quest for peace in the region will one day transform the whole of South Asia into a conflict-free region, benefitting more than around two billion people of the region.
The writer is a counter-terrorism analyst currently working with Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS).
E-mail: [email protected]
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