Terrorism needs international cooperation to counter it and a determined change in the foreign policy of not only Pakistan but of every involved country; the states that neighbour us as well as the United States. Foreign policy in Pakistan impinges on almost all other policies, be they economic or political and therefore, the direction of the governments here has been changing accordingly. In the 1960’s, there were no signs of extremism in policy or society, but with the change in foreign policy in the 80’s, too much space was created for regressive forces to alter the direction of the country. It was as a result of crooked foreign policy therefore, that terrorism was truly born.

The Prime Minister cannot undo history, but a short analysis of the events that brought us here are important. The dilemma Pakistan has faced since after the breakup of the USSR is a unique factor contributing to many of our foreign policy failures, and leading to multiple crises including worsening of the law and order situation and increasing street crimes mainly due to the Kalashinkov culture and abundance of weapons in the wrong hands to kill at will. The impact of the demise of the Soviet Union was not restricted to Pakistan and Afghanistan only.  Internationally, the end of the Cold War coincided with the rise in factionalism, as the Soviet Union splintered into separate, competing republics; the Serbs, Croats and Bosnians fought over parts of Yugoslavia. Increasing anti-Semitism was seen in France. Racial violence surged in Germany. Civil war broke out in Afghanistan. Religious fundamentalists denounced Western-style secularism throughout the world, especially in the Islamic countries in Asia and the Middle East. A rise in factionalism was also seen in Israel, in Hindu dominated India and the US. Conflicts and civil wars resulted in deadly violence that cumulatively drove tens of millions of people from their homes and killed many more,

A change in foreign policy is thus particularly applicable to countries that share many of the same problems; Pakistan and Afghanistan must work together to fight the threat of the Taliban insurgency, especially when it is obvious and known that the militants in both countries are inter-connected and well established. In the absence of desired and required cooperation the terrorists have gained strength. It is time that both nations follow a strategy of cooperation to bring an end to militancy. Otherwise the blame game will continue and both countries will lose. Pakistan respects the sovereignty of Afghanistan and the right of country and its people to determine the direction that suits their internal and external environment, but the evolution of Pakistan-US-Afghan relationships is vital in the context of economic, social and political stability.

Presently, expressing solidarity with the IDPs from North Waziristan during Ramadan and a good old pat on the back approach is no longer going to work. The crisis is serious. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promised to increase government spending for those displaced by the North Waziristan operation, and has reluctantly launched the fight against terrorism. But whether peace will return to the tribal areas and the rest of the country is a big question mark. The situation in the context of militancy and its brutality is so out of hand that it cannot be taken lightly.

Just as the United Nations provided assistance for the Afghan refugees time and again, there is need now for an enhanced level of international support to help the internally displaced persons (IDPs’); the true victims of the global war on terrorism. Their suffering must come to an end. This however, needs strong leadership and collective action locally and internationally. As the war progresses, Nawaz Sharif’s government has to do much more than providing limited financial assistance and promoting social-welfare measures. It seems that the sympathisers of terrorists and extremists have ganged up against the government to make things extremely difficult. Politicians glorifying crime have to be restrained. IDPs need help. The lasting solution for peace in the region and more so in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is a strategy both countries can use to work together. There is an immediate need for reviewing Pak-Afghan relations while the United States draw down has still not begun. A sense of urgency perhaps, would be the most vital virtue in this operation, and the true need of the hour. 

n    The writer is a former director NIPA,

    a political analyst, a public policy expert and an author.