Save Pakistan to Save Us All
Save Pakistan to Save Us All
The ferocious cruelty and unprecedented nature of the terror strikes in Mumbai may have left many in the world gasping at the daring and meticulous planning of the operation. There’s also some mud on India’s face as a result. But this is an excellent opportunity for New Delhi to try bold thinking and some sorely necessary plain speaking.
To start with, call a spade what it is. It’s Pakistan. Much of global terrorism today, not just what hits India, emanates or is planned from Pakistan. Just take a few instances that are obvious to all in the know but the world’s eyes seemed, till recently, reluctant to see.
Look at how Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who masterminded the 9/11 operation of 2001, was captured in Pakistan; notice how Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri are hiding and leading al-Qaeda from Pakistan, or the Pakistan-Afghan non-existent border, for years; count the jihadi terrorist groups that work from inside Pakistan who seem to enjoy considerable flexibility of movement within that country despite promises of crackdowns made periodically by the Pakistani security forces. And that’s not all.
Recall that the US confronted Islamabad, to apparently little avail, with evidence of the involvement of Pakistan-inspired elements in the July bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul; wonder how the world’s premier nuclear smuggler and rogue proliferator, AQ Khan, can lead a low-profile, yet comfortable and virtually unexamined life in Pakistan while being under so-called house arrest, with no one from the rest of the world allowed to go near him; and, to gently remind everyone of India’s concerns, Dawood Ibrahim —a terrorist by any official standard — continues to be sheltered by Pakistani security forces.
No, Pakistan’s people are not the problem. To the contrary, it is the people and their future — in other words, the viability of Pakistan’s state and economy — that the world must get together to stabilise and help prosper. There’s no time to lose.
The world doesn’t have to believe New Delhi, which has been warning about the threat of an unhinged Pakistan for years. Everyone in the know of things now sees the threat clearly; the point is to undertake a global approach to tackle the problem head-on.
Stabilising Pakistan — which means genuinely democratising its polity and helping its economy grow back to a sustainable level of prosperity in the medium term — will help ensure a viable future for the nation and its people, thereby beating the menace of Islamist extremism that provides ideological energy for jihadi terror. An unstable and economically desperate Pakistan, on the other hand, will continue to promote terrorism under the guidance of the ISI, which helps a corrupt military establishment keep its stranglehold on power by citing external threats and warning of chaos as the alternative to their remaining in effective charge despite the recent transition to civilian rule.
The world must call the Pakistani military’s bluff and quickly. But the answer can’t be a military one, except in the very limited sense by which sporadic raids are carried out by outside forces and unmanned aircraft or missiles into the badlands on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, where the Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership run free. US president-elect Barack Obama perhaps sees the problem of Pakistan in stark outline, more so than the Bush administration for most of its tenure had cared to see. But increasing allied troop levels in Afghanistan alone won’t be able to deal with the crux of the problem.
The crux of Pakistan’s problem lies within that country, specifically in the country’s military establishment. Remember it ain’t Iraq, which itself is still not amenable to a military solution after five years of fierce armed intervention. This is a larger country, with a complicated terrain, and it genuinely has weapons of mass destruction which its armed forces would cleverly threaten to use if push ever came to real shove.
No, the answer might lie in a concerted global effort, at ensuring, first, the sustainability of Pakistan’s democratic experiment. And, second, in pouring in as much assistance as required, under strict supervision of not just the IMF but perhaps a specially designed international political-economic authority that would oversee the country’s direly needed transition from military domination to democratic viability.
In short, the world, under the newly assertive leadership of an Obama-led United States, must devise a Marshall Plan for Pakistan. Such an effort will require the support of not only the traditional G-7 powers; it must have the cooperation of India and, most importantly, China, which is Pakistan’s all-weather friend.
If China, and to a large extent Saudi Arabia, can be persuaded to weigh in with their considerable influence — financial as well as strategic — over Islamabad, implementing a global plan to pull Pakistan out of chaos might actually succeed. And India should quietly help such a plan from the sidelines as a close ally, as it has become today, of the US.
If, however, China and Saudi Arabia choose to continue to offer their shoulders for Islamabad’s military establishment to lean on in order to extract sustenance — financial and strategic — indefinitely, there won’t be any hope of devising a global rescue plan for Pakistan. In which case, we might as well give up any serious hope of fighting terror. The export of the Pakistani-Afghan mayhem to the rest of the world will continue merrily.