The message is uniform from friend and foe alike: Pakistan’s tolerance for externally oriented militant groups is no longer acceptable and a serious national effort needs to be made if the country is to remain on the right side of international opinion.
The significance of the BRICS declaration that included a condemnation of violence in Afghanistan and a specific mention of the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad should not be underestimated.
The presence of India in the five-nation bloc clearly influenced the language of the declaration in implicitly pointing towards Pakistan, but China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa will only have added their voices to the growing chorus of concern because of genuine considerations of their own.
Pakistan must not make the mistake of dismissing the signal from the world’s leading emerging economies. It does not appear to be an aberration and cannot simply be ascribed to overwrought allegations and concerns of India, Afghanistan and the US.
In truth, while Pakistan has made significant strides in the domestic fight against militancy, there is a contradiction at the heart of the country’s efforts to fight militancy, terrorism and extremism: an unwillingness to acknowledge that past policies, and an ongoing selective approach to fighting militancy, have contributed to the problem.
Without an honest reckoning with the past, the reorientation of the state from one that supported jihad under the umbrella of the Cold War to one that recognises the great cost that it inflicted on Pakistan’s economy, society and standing in the global community cannot be complete. And without recognising that Pakistan’s record in fighting militancy, terrorism and extremism at home has been patchy and inadequate, greater success is likely to prove elusive.
The bewildering aspect of the state’s anti-militancy strategy is that it continues to pursue perfunctory measures such as banning militant groups without any real determination to shut down the operations of those groups in various guises. The only real attempt at drawing up a comprehensive anti-militancy strategy is the flawed National Action Plan, which has been implemented poorly and without uniformity.
Certainly, some outside allegations by India, Afghanistan and the US either seek to place excessive blame on Pakistan or are meant to try and dissuade the latter from pursuing its legitimate security interests. It is also the case that the important gains Pakistan has made in its fight against militancy often go unacknowledged and unappreciated.
But on this there must be clarity: Pakistan’s fight against militancy is its own fight for its own long-term peace and prosperity. Too often external criticism has been used by the state to deflect and deny legitimate critiques of its anti-militancy policy.
The BRICS declaration suggests an international trend that Pakistan cannot afford to ignore. The domestic fight against militancy must be made smarter, harder and more purposeful.
Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2017