By Mohammad Awais
LAHORE, Pakistan – Despite the enormous impact of 9/11, there are other events the world has witnessed in the 15 years since the attacks that had farther-reaching consequences, especially the global economic crisis, the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa and the financial rise of Brazil, Russia, India and China.One nation, though, is still mired in the aftermath of 9/11 – Pakistan.
No other state equates with Pakistan in the monumental repercussions of 9/11. The BBC reported in 2011 that about 35,000 Pakistanis lost their lives in the aftermath. The loss of security personnel alone – according to a 2011 report in The New York Review of Books – totals more than the nearly 3,000 people who died that day on American soil.
The Pakistani government said its direct or indirect economic losses amounted to $68 billion in the first decade after 9/11, according to the report in The New York Review of Books.
That’s a figure far too great for a developing state to afford. Pakistan lost its sovereignty over a large territory in the northwest part of the country.
Most importantly, by harboring domestic and international terrorists, Pakistan plunged into a chaotic uncertainty where the very survival of the state is in question. As the economically devastated U.S. plans an exit strategy from Afghanistan, there seems no exit from terrorism and state failure in sight for Pakistan.
The heart of the matter lies in the simple question, ‘Is the war on terror our war?’
Religious parties and a significant section of the public declare it America’s war and argue for complete withdrawal of Pakistan from the ‘war on terror.’ Usually those associated with the corridors of power, along with some from the educated class, approve of the war as the better option because Pakistan is too weak to take the U.S. head on. The third category belongs to some politicians, liberal intelligentsia and political activists who not only own it as Pakistan’s war but consider it mandatory for Pakistan’s survival and prosperity.
Building a consensus on the ‘war on terror’ should be the highest national priority for Pakistan, which can afford no more delay.
Pakistan’s engagement with terrorism – and its struggle against it – has been in the pipeline for decades. It will remain after America’s exit from Afghanistan. For better or worse, 9/11 essentially brought us to the crossroads where the state had make a choice between supporting or abandoning militancy.
The question to be asked is, who decided to opt for using militancy as a proxy to achieve state objectives? What is the constitutionality of the policy of preserving militants as strategic assets? Consistently blaming others for the burns of our ideological contradictions and strategic shortsightedness has brought us damaging international alienation.
Today, the world is moving on from the post 9/11 era, but we in Pakistan don’t seem ready for this. The end of militancy in Pakistan is not only requisite for American troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan but also pivotal for Pakistan’s bright future.
Religious militancy has almost become a civilizational problem for us. The needed international consensus against militancy always seemed missing. Our commitment should mean nothing short of a national policy against all militants, disregarding the delusions of ‘strategic assets.
If not reason, the sheer urgency of the situation and the enormous losses we have suffered in the past decade should guide our thinking. Time is running out to act decisively against terrorism. Failing to do so could lead to more 9/11s, more wars, and immeasurable civilian strife for decades to come.
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