Before the West invaded Afghanistan my country had no suicide bombers, no jihad and no Talebanisation
There is now a general recognition that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won militarily. All the Taleban have to do to win is not to lose. The Americans won’t stay and everybody knows that.
The focus has come to rest on the inevitable need to talk with all the militant groups in Afghanistan. While most important players are ready to talk peace, the US remains confused and has still to straighten out its policy. This confusion is once again taking its toll, especially on Pakistan.
As the US and Nato realise the failure of their military policy in Afghanistan, they are seeking to shift the centre of gravity of the war into the north west of Pakistan, the region known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). One of the fears raised in the West at the prospect of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan is that it will lead to a Taleban- controlled nuclear Pakistan. That fear betrays a total ignorance about the evolution of the Taleban movement as well as the impact of the War on Terror on Pakistan.
Remember, there was no Pakistani involvement in 9/11. Nor throughout the period of the Taleban regime in Kabul was there Talebanisation in Pakistan .
When the Americans were drawing up their military response to the 9/11 attacks, they drew up a list of seven conditions for Pakistan to meet to attract US support. The assumption was that General Pervez Musharraf, the former President of Pakistan, might agree to three or four. Instead he unilaterally signed up for the lot. These conditions were a total violation of the human rights of the people of Pakistan and the sovereignty of the country.
This was a leader with whom President Clinton had refused to shake hands when he came to Pakistan before 9/11, for fear of being seen to support a dictator. It was quite shameless how the Pakistani leadership capitulated and how the US gave Musharraf the embrace of legitimacy. This was reminiscent of the Cold War era when tinpot dictators were routinely supported by the US.
In 2004 Pakistan’s Government sent troops into Waziristan, where al-Qaeda was allegedly present. I was one of the only politicians from outside the tribal areas who had been to Waziristan and I opposed the move in Pakistan’s Parliament. Anyone who knows the region and its history could see it would be a disaster.
Until that point we had no militant Taleban in Pakistan. We had militant groups, but our own military establishment was able to control them. We had madrassas, but none of them produced militants intent on jihad until we became a frontline state in the War on Terror.
The country is fighting someone else’s war. We never had suicide bombings in our history until 2004. Now we have 30 to 40 deaths a day from shells or bombings and the suicide attacks continue to increase. While we have received about $15 billion in aid from the US, our own economy has lost about $50 billion.
We have borrowed a record amount of money from the International Monetary Fund, which was only given to us because of our role in the war, not because we could afford to pay it back. Our social and economic fabric is being destroyed because of the conditions that the IMF has imposed.
Millions of our people have been displaced and a massive radicalisation of our youth has taken place as they see the Pakistani state becoming a puppet doing US bidding. The military operations by Pakistan in FATA have led to 40,000 casualties in indiscriminate aerial bombardment and ground fire.
The attacks by US drones, in which the Government of Pakistan is complicit, have also killed thousands of civilians, leading to a growing hatred becoming embedded among the local population. There is deep resentment of the war in the frontier regions, where high unemployment feeds the discontent.
The war in Afghanistan is justified as a stabilising force for Pakistan, whereas in truth the country is collapsing under the pressure. We are like Cambodia in the Vietnam War. After the Wikileaks revelations yesterday reports are being floated that the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence service, is aiding the Afghan militancy. The fact is that the ISI is not that powerful, but certainly in an environment of chaos and uncertainty Pakistan will need to protect its interests through all means necessary.
It is unfortunate that the US was unable to use the window of opportunity that it had in the immediate aftermath of the removal of the Taleban Government in late 2001. It could have brought in a truly broad-based Afghan government and invested in the development of the country. Instead, it continued its military actions and brought corrupt and criminal elements into power in Kabul.
Pakistan, supposedly an ally of the US, is bearing the brunt of American failure in Afghanistan. A recent poll showed that 80 per cent of Pakistanis consider the US a bigger threat to their country than India. Nor is this view about the US solely because of the “War on Terror”. Pakistanis also blame the US for brokering the “National Reconciliation Order”, which was intended to sustain Musharraf in power while also bringing rogue Pakistani politicians back into the political landscape.
The result is a total collapse of governance in Pakistan today. There is no danger of Talebanisation in Pakistan but there is a very real threat of chaos and radicalisation, especially of the youth.
There is only one solution to this chaos. This is to implement an immediate ceasefire and commence talks with all militant groups in Afghanistan. Either America leaves or Pakistan withdraws from this war.
The US should not worry about Pakistan. Once the bombing stops, it will no longer be jihad and the suicide attacks will immediately subside. About 18 months ago the former head of the CIA’s Kabul station, Graham Fuller, wrote in the International Herald Tribunethat once the US leaves the region Pakistan will be stable.
Political leaders in the US and UK should realise that people in the streets of New York and London are not threatened by the people in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan but by the growing radicalisation of their own marginalised Muslim youth.
Imran Khan is the founder and chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (the Movement for Justice Party)