In the year 1973, Pakistan adopted its third constitution with consent of most political parties. Two years before that, Pakistan had been reduced to what was previously known as West Pakistan. A new national identity was being forged under the leadership of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, leader of Pakistan Peoples Party. During the brief war with India in November-December 1971, Pakistan had been supported diplomatically by the United States but no physical help had arrived, resulting in inglorious defeat at hands of Indian Army in December 1971. In quest for a new national identity, Mr. Bhutto tried to reorient Pakistan’s foreign policy and looked for benefactors other than the United States. Pakistan’s foreign policy was redirected towards China and the Middle East. To tap religious sentiments among Middle Eastern rulers, a lavish party was organized in Lahore under the pretext of “Islamic Conference” in 1974.
Mr. Bhutto harboured the ambition of making Pakistan a local hegemon in the region and for realising this project, interference in neighbouring countries is a prerequisite condition. Starting from 1973, political dissidents from Afghanistan were welcomed in Pakistan and nurtured as “assets” to be used later. In 1979, the perfect opportunity was created by Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the “assets” were launched from Pakistan. Billions of dollars were pumped by United States to train and arm the Jihadis (Holy Warriors), to fight Communist forces.
The policy of intervention in Afghanistan led to short-term gains for Pakistan but the tables were turned when Russian forces left Afghanistan in 1988. Initially, Pakistan redirected the wrath of its Jihadi “assets” to Kashmir and Kandahar but the façade had to end after 9/11. The chickens came home to roost, resulting in an unprecedented wave of terrorism that swept the country for a decade. Remnants of the original “assets” are still active behind the scenes, threatening the existence of our state and polity. Another Muslim-majority country embarked on a similar path in recent years and its policymakers can learn invaluable lessons from Pakistan’s example.
Since 2012, Turkey has facilitated and armed opposition groups waging a war against President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria. Turkey has been trying to cultivate its image as a local hegemon following its remarkable economic growth and middle class prosperity in the preceding decade. Turkey’s efforts to topple the Assad regime failed miserably and from the ashes of that war emerged the beast known currently as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/Daesh). The Syrian civil war resulted in massive influx of Syrian refugees in Turkey, threatening the country’s social fabric, which is already tender due to Gezi Park protests.
Turkey claims that radical groups grew stronger because moderates seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria were not given adequate aid. But that is not the whole picture. Turkey provided weapons and logistical support to Jihadis fighting the Syrian regime and to abort the birth of an autonomous Kurdistan in Syria. Turkey coordinated the travel, payments, and weapons supplies for ISIS, Al-Nusra, and the Islamic Front.
A recent Op-ed in The New York Times spelled out trouble for Turkey’s Shiite (Alevi) minority in following words,
“The recent and unprecedented arson attacks on Shiite mosques in Istanbul may indicate that Turkey is entering this second phase. Turkey is home to only a small Shiite community; but Turkey’s Alevis, a heterodox Muslim sect often regarded as heretical by Sunnis, constitute about 20 percent of Turkey’s population.
A campaign by Sunni extremists against the Alevi community could lead Turkey into a Pakistan-like vortex of sectarian violence and radicalization. The present government’s own politics of polarization, illustrated by Mr. Erdogan’s baiting of the opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu due to his Alevi background during Turkey’s recent presidential election campaign, may further inflame sectarian tensions. And Islamic State militants will not hesitate to exploit the Sunni-Alevi fault line in Turkish society.
During the fight for Kobani, a town situated on the border between Syria and Turkey, Kurd residents of the town defended their turf against the murderous hordes of ISIS, while Turkish border guards stood watching from a few hundred metres away. Jet strikes by Turkish air force targeted outposts of PKK (Kurdish Nationalist Party) instead of ISIS locations. The blowback from this dangerous gamble is likely to be felt in Turkey when the Islamic State is defeated by a larger force. It would be difficult for Turkish state to hunt its own proxies and multicultural cities like Istanbul will be targeted by religious fanatics who currently constitute ISIS.
Turkish economy cannot afford the terrorist shockwave that can be unleashed by veterans of ISIS (10% of all ISIS recruits are Turkish) returning to their homeland.
Turkish parliament authorized used of force against external threats to Turkey’s sovereignty recently, without mentioning ISIS. It would require a balancing act for Turkey to control the rise of ISIS in its backyard while dealing with Kurdish Nationalists in the same stead. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and President Erdoğan have a tough choice to make. They only have to look eastwards for a lesson, in case they fail to take a tough stance against terrorism.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

@abdulmajeedabid