On August 14, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s categorical declaration that the war on terror (WoT) is Pakistan’s war should have laid to rest the whispering campaign questioning its propriety. Unfortunately, some columnists and TV anchors continue to echo what certain politicians have been furtively advocating: that this is USA’s war and Pakistan should disown it. Regrettably, the time to debate that is a decade too late!

When Pervez Musharraf was asked the portentous question, “either you are with us or against us” in the aftermath of 9/11, certainly that was the time to debate the matter. Perhaps, the issue of our participation was sealed in the face of the intimidating corollary warning by the then US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, who said that “we will bomb you into the stone age” (if Pakistan did not cooperate with America in the war on Afghanistan).

The ground realities are that the WoT has taken a heavy toll of more than 40,000 Pakistani lives, cost the national exchequer more than $68 billion and deprived the cash-starved Pakistan of millions of dollars worth of property, equipment and the armed forces of high value weapon systems like the P3C Orions or AEW&C aircraft. It is ironical that the doubting Thomas among us still question as to whether it is our war.

The time for post-mortem and apportioning blame on who should be declared culpable of the decision to shove Pakistan into the furnace of the WoT will come later. At the moment, we are in the midst of the inferno and unless we make concerted efforts to come out of the morass, we face annihilation. Detractors criticise General Kayani for using his military powers to dominate the democratic dispensation and for muddling in the political and foreign policy matters.

Maybe there is an iota of truth in it. But it has to be taken with a pinch of salt, since it is the political dispensation that has on numerous occasions during the last four and a half years created situations, where chaos and anarchy prevailed and a more ambitious “man on horseback” would have seized the opportunity for riding roughshod into the corridors of power at Islamabad.

Surely, credit must be given where it is due. General Kayani resisted the temptation and keeping the army at bay, opted instead to separate the warring political factions. As a result, the decisions of closing down the Ground Lines of Communication, euphemistically called the Nato supply routes; having the US vacate the Shamsi Airbase, reportedly a launching pad for the ubiquitous drone attacks; and boycotting the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan, were taken collectively by Parliament.

Those who declare that this is not Pakistan’s war should then be sagacious enough to recommend a solution, since the nation is facing dreadful extremism. It is abundantly clear that every Pakistani is desirous of eliminating terrorism from the country; but the question is: how?

Indeed, Pakistan has been badly governed for the past decade or so. However, to give the devil its due, the current dispensation opted to receive inputs from the Foreign Office and army in matters of defence and diplomacy, but charted its own course of action. Good or bad - only time will tell!

Coming back to the war, cognisance must be taken of the fact that the terrorists are a threat to the state. They have taken the law into their own hands and have plans to spread anarchy in the country, not sparing even foreign diplomatic missions. Therefore, they deserve no sympathy and must be eliminated through decisive action.

Against this backdrop, the war must be owned because the extremists continue to kill our soldiers and civilians; and target hospitals, markets, educational institutions and mosques. To claim that it is USA’s war is a misconception. The politically-motivated terrorists want to grab power through violent means and, therefore, must be stopped! Whether we like it or not, WoT is now our war that necessitate our full-fledged participation.

The writer is a political and defence analyst. Email: sultanm.hali@gmail.com