Thursday, September 21st, 2017
Home »Editorials » Ready to help but not accept blame
Speaking at the Defence Day event in Rawalpindi in the wake of US' new strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia that singled out Pakistan for criticism also stepping on its red line, Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had a strong message to deliver, in sync with a recent National Assembly resolution. The bottom line was that Pakistan is ready to cooperate with the US for peace in Afghanistan but not take the blame for that country's own failures nor to see its own security concerns getting ignored. "We cannot fight Afghanistan's war in Pakistan," he iterated, also reminding the critics that because of wars imposed on it by superpowers, Pakistan has already suffered a lot in terms of financial losses, extremism, and terrorism; and that it would not endure any further costs.

Both sides need to talk with rather than at each other. It does not help when the US leaders make provocative statements, like President Trump's and later Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying "Pakistan is expected to take decisive action against militant groups based in Pakistan that are a threat to the region." This country may be accused of plausible deniability but neither the US nor the Kabul government denies the existence of TTP terrorists' sanctuaries in Afghanistan. General Bajwa expressed a genuine concern when he said Pakistan expects that sanctuaries of Pakistani terrorists on Afghan soil would be quickly and effectively removed. As things stand, an extensive military operation has been carried out in North Waziristan and its adjoining treacherous mountain areas where terrorists had their hideouts. Pakistan is in the process of securing its porous border with Afghanistan by building a 2,600km-long fence and military posts. Impartial observers also point out that more than 40 percent of Afghanistan is either directly or indirectly under the Taliban control; hence they don't need safe havens on this side of the border. Still, whatever the concerns of the US and the Kabul government they need to be addressed in a spirit of mutual trust and respect rather than resort to threats and accusations.

No less important is the need to secure the home front against terrorists of various hues. In this regard, much remains to be done. Careful not to tread on political sensitivities, the army chief stopped short of saying the government has failed to fulfil its responsibilities towards the National Action Plan (NAP), though he indirectly indicated the same when he said the military was working with other state institutions on key reforms without which NAP could not be implemented. The unfortunate reality is that the government has remained reluctant to undertake, either due to political exigencies or plain disinterest, such vital reforms as registration and regulation of seminaries; ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organisations under new names; dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists; revamping and reforming the criminal justice system; strengthening the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA); and last but not the least administrative and development reforms in Fata. Unless and until a determined action is taken in all these areas, the scourge of terrorism will not be defeated.

the author