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Pakistan as Proliferator of Terrorism


Pakistan, on realising that she would not be able to defeat India in a conventional war, decided to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy to avenge her defeat by India.  The concept of non-state actors was started by the US, when she poured billions of dollars of arms and resources to Afghan Mujahedeen to fight the Russians in Afghanistan.  


The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan for a decade in 1979-89 brought to fore the strategic importance of Pakistan. Pakistan Army and ISI were used as a conduit to send weapons and warlike stores to raise and equip the ‘Mujahedeen’, who forced out the Soviets.  In a couple of years, they were subsumed by Pakistan-raised Taliban, which established the ‘Islamic State of Afghanistan’. The US fulfilled its strategic goal without having to fire a bullet against the Russians through the proxy war. Pakistan enabled it and rose in importance and became the ‘The Front-Line State’ and later the ‘Most Favoured Non-NATO Ally’ of the US. 


After the Soviet withdrawal the terrorists, who were raised with so much of fanaticism and misguided ardour had to be employed elsewhere. The ISI directed these unengaged terrorists against India in Jammu and Kashmir, while some of them turned against their mentors: the US and Pakistan. The same Mujahedeen under Osama bin Laden and other foreign fighters known as ‘Afghan Arabs’, incarnated as ‘Al Qaida’ and carried out the 9/11 terror attacks on the US soil in slightly over a decade. There is an apt Chinese proverb that says “If you ride a tiger, you will land up in it.”   


The sectarian strife across Pakistan, the rise of ‘Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’ (TTP), internal conflicts and revival of independence movements in Baluchistan, were also by-products of the nurturing and maturing of the Islamic Fundamentalism into an ideology. Today, the spread of terrorism has gained momentum and is self-sustaining. Pakistan is one of the worst victims of terrorism created by herself; and hence unfortunately has no one else to blame but herself. It was with great élan and glory, when Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf wrote the book ‘Bear Trap’, eulogising the ISI Chief, General Akhtar Abdur Rehman Khan for defeating a super power Soviet Russia by ‘death by thousand cuts’. Little did he know that they would be victims of the very same strategy in just over a decade. Presently Pakistan is internally bleeding by thousands of cuts caused by almost daily explosions and sectarian violence. A century is just a speck in a nation’s history and the wheel of time turns slowly but never has it turned so fast that the nation that exulted by exporting terrorism and driving vicarious pleasure in discomforts of victim powers, would be victimised by the very same forces it created, in just over a decade!  


Strategic Importance of Pakistan Ensures its Survival


It is perplexing to Pakistani watchers as to how the country is still surviving in spite of its internal upheaval and international misdemeanours.  Firstly, even the worst detractors of Pakistan cannot deny its strategic significance due to its geographical location. It is situated at the Tri junction, where the West, Central and South Asias meet.  The landlocked Central Asia and Afghanistan find a sea opening for trade through Pakistan. The Sindh and the Makran Coast of Pakistan with harbours at Karachi, Gwadar and Pasni are openings into Arabian Sea, which further opens out to the Indian Ocean. The coastline of Pakistan is an extension of the coastline of the Persian Gulf giving it a ringside view of ‘Sea Lanes of Communication’ (SLOC) heading east and to the Strait of Malacca. China’s China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the direct dividend borne out of Pakistan’s strategic location.          


In the past, over a decade and half, Pakistan has been deluged with the high transit fees given by the US and NATO forces operating in Afghanistan. Even to this day, the entire logistics line of communication to maintain the Counter Terrorism Forces of the US and NATO runs through Pakistan. Hence, the US has no option but to maintain friendly relations with Pakistan and pamper it with billions of dollars. 




Those writing epitaph of Pakistan would be belied. The country is here to stay. Its staying power is its animosity towards India. It is her cherished desire to compete with India and avenge her disintegration in the 1971 war. It fans the red ambers into a fire that keeps it united as a nation. We should not be overly concerned with Pakistan. India needs to keep a watch on her but our main target should be her base of support, China.  If we can tackle China, Pakistan would prove itself as redundant. Pakistan gets importance by being hyphenated with India. India should not take cognisance to Pakistan’s rhetoric in international forums and just be indifferent to her, as she is not even worthy of any kind of response. We only need to concentrate on China and develop our military and economic capacities to contest with it.


Pakistan is there to stay as our neighbour and we may have to wait for it to become a modern state with democratic credentials.  Pakistan’s constant belligerence and cross LC activities keeps her united as a nation. If Pakistan Army does not show to its populace – how it is saving them from India on a daily basis, it would lose its relevance and would come down in the political hierarchy of the country. Pakistan Army would continue its antics as its ‘survival strategy’. The answer is to hit back at Pakistan Army with all the firepower and cross-LC raids and make them pay heavily for each indiscretion. Even Indian Army may have to pay a small price for it; however as long as it has the support of the government, the Indian Army will do its job. There is no need for newspapers and TV channels to scream at Pakistan. All this can be done quietly and purposefully. M. J. Akbar said, “Pakistan is a jelly state. A jelly state is one that cannot rise, or become a modern state, but nor can it disappear. Because, it has nuclear weapons, Pakistan has become a nuclear jelly state.” Pakistan will continue to spew its toxicity, till its army goes back to barracks and it gains its identity as a true and progressive democracy. 


[This opinion piece forms a part of an article series – “Pakistan and the Proliferation Axis” – of the Science, Technology & Security forum.]


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal.