ISLAMABAD: The government has reached the conclusion that the phrase ‘frontline state in war against terrorism’ used by officials to stress Pakistan’s role in anti-terror efforts is not serving the country’s interest and therefore decided to drop it.
“Descriptions like frontline state in war against terrorism overcast country’s positivities. Therefore, we are doing away with this phrase,” a senior security official told Dawn on Thursday.
He said the ‘frontline’ phrase was misleading and created an impression that the problem of terrorism was specific to this region – something which contradicts Pakistan’s position that it is a global phenomenon.
“We don’t want to be seen as the epicentre of terrorism any more.” Pakistan, which had remained the frontline state against communism, re-acquired the tag soon after 9/11 attacks in US.
Though the Musharraf regime and now the PPP government has kept flaunting Pakistan’s sacrifices during the conflict by portraying the country as the frontline state in the anti-terror war, there is an acknowledgement in the government circles that the label has cost it dearly.
According to government estimates, Pakistan has lost almost $50 billion over the past 10 years, and thousands of civilians and security personnel have been killed or maimed for life.
Instability, a shrinking economy, currency devaluation, massive internal security expenses and loss of investment and export markets are just some of the manifestations of the debilitating effects this phrase and the country’s alliance with the West has caused.
Contrary to this, western governments have been continuously suggesting that Pakistan has benefited from its role as the frontline state through international aid and rescheduling of its debt.
The official cautioned against implying that the shift symbolised dilution of the country’s commitment to counter-terrorism efforts. But, he stressed that rising extremism and radicalisation of society was emerging as a bigger threat. Reaction to Governor Salman Taseer’s assassination laid bare how precarious the situation was, he said.
“We may handle violence by resorting to force, but extremism is a state of mind that cannot be addressed by such means,” he said, adding that formulations like war on terror oversimplified the problem, but it neither offered correct diagnosis nor the right prescription.
“We are determined to get out of this paradigm of negativities,” he said.
The official pointed to a number of diplomatic initiatives taken by the government to shed descriptions that suggested it was towing the American line and serving Washington’s interests.
“We intend to give a new image to the country by giving more emphasis on economic development and highlighting the country’s inherent strength,” he said.
Another senior official said the government believed that its strategic priority should be development. However, he regretted, whenever it tried to pursue that path impediments came in the way.
Though the official refrained from putting the blame on any particularly country for that, he said ‘big powers’ were behind the multiple challenges confronting the country, including bomb attacks and linguistic and ethnic strife.