Syed Nasir Hassan
The temptation to use violence to influence other people is not something new. This has been done in the past. However, in the modern world the discourse around use of violence has taken new forms. Most of the narrative building around use of violence to influence political outcomes has an extremist or terrorist idiom.
Pakistan has long been a victim of extremist violence. A key tactic for perpetrators of violence for political purposes is to exploit the peculiar vulnerabilities of their victims. For decades, Pakistanis have been facing terrorist attacks, mostly from people having some grievance against the state. The victims have mostly been unrelated people, possibly because they are soft targets. In some cases law enforcement and state officials too have been attacked. The violence was so endemic at one point that it crippled life in some regions. After a long and hard struggle waged by the people and the security agencies there are signs that the terrorists are finding it hard to continue their activities.
Since its independence, Pakistan has faced many problems. These have included natural disasters as well as wars. However the scourge of terrorism has hit it the hardest. After the United States launched its campaign against Taliban and Al Qaeda in 2001, more than 65,000 Pakistani civilians and armed forces personnel have been killed in some sort of a terrorist attack or the other. There has been some disagreement on whether the policies pursued by various governments were the best under the circumstances. Irrespective of the merits of such decisions, the fact is that the impact of the fighting, particularly violence by non-state actor has been huge. For more than 15 years not a week went by without there being some cause for mourning all over Pakistan.
Pakistan is the only nation in the world to have refused to surrender to the terrorists, fought them with admirable fortitude and succeed in defeating them. It is sometimes argued that the fight was unnecessary or could have been avoided. This is not true. The narrative is meant, it seems, to undermine the efforts of the state and weaken the resolve of its security agencies.
Ironically, Pakistan has been accused by its neighbor to the east of being a state sponsor of terrorism. It is amazing the way such an argument so callously ignores the sacrifices and sufferings of the armed forces and security agency personnel, their families and the Pakistanis at large. The Pakistani military has carried out no less than eight full scale military operations to liquidate the entrenched terrorists. The United States decided to invade Afghanistan in 2001 following the Taliban government’s refusal to hand over the Al Qaeda leaders accused of plotting the 9/11 strikes in US. For its cooperation, Pakistan was designated a non-NATO ally. The blowback of the war included a rise in terrorism in many parts of the world.
After nearly two decades the US has been unable to declare victory and leave Afghanistan. For its part Pakistan has suffered unprecedented losses, both in terms of human capital and economic damage. And yet Pakistan has been accused of being a safe haven for terrorists. This can only be a false and dishonest accusation. Throughout the war on terror Pakistan has been the victim of terrorism rather than an exporter or sponsor of it. It is still striving to overcome the damage.