Looking at the photo of my class 8th, Section A, taken in 2001, in the Government High School, Sawal Dher, District Mardan, in which the head-teacher wearing white clothes and is surrounded by 66 students. The students are in the black uniform (malitia) of the school. No student was aware of the global war which was about to start after a short time or its far reaching consequences for them.
The tragic episode of September 11, 2001 attacks on the twin towers left its effects on some of the students if not all in one way or the other. Soon after passing matric examination, the students spread out in different fields – some of them joining state institutions, others continuing education at college and university levels while others left for Gulf countries to support their families.
However, the story did not end here; some of them succumbed to the influence of the school teachers and family members. Some were influenced by their religious upbringing and giving in to the charged environment of the area, they begin to believe that Islam was in danger as the foreign forces occupied Afghanistan in the neighbourhood. They were motivated to join religious seminaries in different vicinities of the area to serve Islam without knowing the ground realities of fast evolving geo-political and geo-strategic situation of the world.
Belonging to the same locality, we often get in touch with one another, getting information about activities and presence of other classmates. A large number of students of these unregulated seminaries have started war against the state and its institutions after Pakistan joined United States as a frontline ally against its war on terror in 2001.
A single tragic event of 9/11 attack in the far away continent, which had nothing to do with Pakistan, brought about a havoc of tragedies, one after the other, hardly leaving any city of the country unaffected. The only fault of Pakistan was to stand with the US against the militants.
Neta C. Crawford, author of “Update on the Human Costs of War for Afghanistan and Pakistan”, endorses Islamabad’s claims that the war in Pakistan “began as Al Qaeda and the Taliban fled from Afghanistan into the northwest region of Pakistan in 2001”. She also notes that Pakistan’s losses remain underreported. The study also said that about 31,000 militants, 58 journalists and 92 humanitarian workers were killed in this war spanning over a time period of more than one and a half decade.
Some of the classmates who joined the seminaries were often chased by the law enforcement agencies for their involvement in the anti-state activities. Some of them were abducted to unknown places and in certain cases were let off after de-radicalisation. However, the catching, chasing, forced disappearance, and imprisonment of these students had become a routine practice for quite some time.
The families of these students suffered and still continue to suffer as some of them did not return at all and still nobody knows about them. The mother of one of the classmates who was abducted in 2005 lost her eye-sight and later died but could not see her son returning home.
Operation after operation was launched for addressing the issue of rising militancy and proving loyalty to the super-power as frontline ally. However, neither the US acknowledged matchless sacrifices of the country nor did the people of the areas laud the efforts for restoring peace in the region.
Pakistan has lost more than it had achieved in the war against terrorism. The data of the country’s factsheet makes manifestation of the fact which launched just a few days before the Trump administration suspended the US security assistance to Pakistan. The data shows that Pakistan suffered a loss of more than 74,000 people and over $123 billion.
Despite this much efforts, the country has been included officially in the ‘grey list’ by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in June this year on the pretext of terror financing and money laundering while the people of most affected areas launched Pashtoon Tahfuz Movement (PTM) for levelling allegations against the security forces in upsetting the Pashtoon community.
The Global Terrorism Index (GTI), which profiles data on terrorism from across the world, had ranked Pakistan second among the countries most affected by terrorism. Moreover, the GTI shows a marked decline in terrorism-related violence in Pakistan since 2014, partially due to military operations targeting militants in tribal areas and acknowledges that Pakistan has made a major stride in curbing terrorism.
The students of the same school who later joined seminaries turned against the very same system of education such as girls’ education, worldly education, modern lifestyle and TV etc. They felt more frustrated with the existing system after undergoing ideological changes after joining the seminaries. This is how the innocent local people fell prey to the consequences of global war on terror.
The only way forward in coping with domestic uprising and international pressure, in the larger interest of the country is to make paradigm shift in dealing with the issue of militancy.
The Author is Journalist and Freelance Columnist based in Islamabad.