AS Pakistan slips deeper into an economic, fiscal and governance mess many analysts conclude simplistically that Pakistan’s overall situation will improve by reviewing Pakistan’s engagement with the US.
Secondly, they declare that once foreign policy is revised, it will be easy to make peace with the Pakistani Taliban in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
They also believe that after concluding a peace accord everything will be fine; an appendage to this proposal is that Pakistan should readjust its foreign policy by opening up trade with China and Russia.
A further addition to the argument is that the military alliance with the US needs to be revised as it is against the views of a majority of Pakistanis, who support the mainstream religious parties or their more virulent sectarian or jihadi versions and consider the US to be the main cause of trouble in the region.
The US, on the other hand, believes that peace is possible with the Afghan Taliban and has thus supported the opening of their political office in Doha, Qatar. It is learnt that the Saudis and the Germans are behind such a move.
The US has a one-point agenda — peace in Afghanistan coinciding with its planned withdrawal from that country by the end of 2014. Yet both the restructuring of foreign policy by Pakistan and US hopes of signing a peace deal with Mullah Omar are beset with problems.
Because there is no proper analysis of the underlying causes of the crisis in Pakistan and Afghanistan, it is that much more difficult to take the right steps for achieving peace in either of the two countries anytime soon. Examining the situation first in Pakistan, one finds that we are undertaking a review of our foreign policy engagement with the US in the heat of the memogate affair and without any display of a balanced mindset.
It appears that the media space has been captured to shift Pakistani opinion to a negative plane even before a policy debate about our policy towards the US has begun. This shift will prevent the undertaking of a neutral review of the pros and cons in ties.
In other words, Pakistan will not only need to devise a new foreign and security policy paradigm but also to provide a solution on how it hopes to meet its resource deficits that will begin to loom in ever larger numbers once the foreign inflows based on trade or assistance from the West are reduced.
Economists realise that Pakistan’s own savings rate at most can provide a growth of 3.5 per cent to a maximum of four per cent annually in the absence of larger savings created by higher taxes.
It is hoped that those tasked with this review take into consideration not only the economic and fiscal outcomes of the proposed shift to other external resources but also the role played in growth by trade with the US and EU markets — the same will not be forthcoming from other avenues. This nexus took 60 years to create and a new one can’t be designed overnight.
If the economy is not able to provide either the resources or the employment required to douse the flames of insurgency — then peace is definitely not happening anytime soon and the signing of a peace treaty as a solution is based on wishful thinking.
Peace in other words is linked to a much healthier GDP growth that will not be available by shifting to other markets. Similarly, domestic resource mobilisation required to reach a higher saving rate needs a growing economy and not one that is hit by inflation and shrinking markets as Pakistan is today.
Why would I be surprised if the Afghan Taliban make a peace deal with the US? It is because many years ago when Pakistan was leading the jihad, at the prodding of the US, against the USSR in Afghanistan, Abdullah Azzam issued his epochal jihad fatwa in 1979-1980. It has become the holy grail of jihad and a large number of Pakistanis and all the Afghan Taliban follow it with zeal.
Some of the leading precepts contained in it are: “The first obligation after iman is the repulsion of the enemy aggressor who assaults the religion and worldly affairs”, (Ibn Taymia), “If you march not forth, He will punish you with a painful torment and will replace you with another people, and you cannot harm Him at all, and Allah is able to do all things”, (Surah At-Tauba), and finally Azzam’s claim that it is fard-i-ayan to launch a “defensive jihad for expelling the kuffar from [our] land, and that it is a compulsory duty upon all. It is the most important of all the compulsory duties….”
It may thus be noted that it is very unlikely that the current Afghan Taliban leadership and many of their Pakistani jihadi allies who fought alongside them and were brought up under the teachings of Abdullah Azzam, will ignore these teachings and make peace with the US as long as it retains a presence on Afghan soil. Thus as long as the war continues in Afghanistan, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and other Pakistani jihadi groups are not going to give up fighting.
I thus believe that the best chance of having peace in Pakistan is to enlarge human rights and to manage the conflict not through the use of military but the civilian administration and the police.
Sadly, what began as a crime as a result of 9/11 was through short-sightedness raised to the pedestal of a jihad. The use of violence will not result in peace.
The writer is chairman of the Regional Institute of Policy Research in Peshawar.