Our major paranoia since decades has been towards India. Trying to neutralize its influence has become our national goal. Born out of this distrust are our regional policies towards our neighbors, we share long borders with i.e. Afghanistan, Iran and China. Born out of this paranoia is our insistence to keep ourselves mired in an artificial identity crisis that separates us from our own soil and links us with alien Middle Eastern lands & cultures.

Born out of this paranoia is our love of pan Islamism, as opposed to counting on the nationalism based on primary identities. Born out of this paranoia is our insistence to abuse religion as sole adhesive factor for ‘managing’ great ethnic and religious diversity. This pushed us to willingly sacrifice our beautiful indigenous pluralism that came natural to the people.

Born out of this paranoia are our strategic choices in Afghanistan, since decades. It was 1974 when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto started cozying up to despicable characters within Afghan politics, like for example Gulbadin Hekmatyar (whose sole claim to fame those days was throwing acid on women’s faces who would dare to step out of their homes and get education in colleges). In his bid to support insurgency against the Republican government of Sardar Daud (who was considered closer to India than to Pakistan), Prime Minister Bhutto chose to providing patronage to Islamist groups in Afghanistan, leaving aside the nationalists.

Without much historicizing, some important facts from our history need to be reminded again and again. In the early 1970s while recovering from the fresh wounds of partitioning its Eastern Wing, Pakistan’s teach-a-lesson-to-India was but natural. The course adopted however, proved damaging for itself. It was 1974 when Bhutto created an afghan cell within the Foreign Office.

The Daud government had been in turn, supporting Pakistan’s Baloch dissidents who were also supported by left liberal activists within Pakistan. The Bhutto government wanted to pressurize Daud to abandon this support to the Baloch and to change his Pakhtunistan policy and rejection of Durand Line. Not to forget that these exiled Islamist insurgents enjoying patronage by Pakistan launched various insurgencies in Afghanistan such as in Wardak and Badakshan in 1975.

Till 1977, almost 5000Afghan insurgents had been given military training in the purpose-built training camps in Pakistan, as per Olivier Roy in his book Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan published in 1986. Roy quotes Naseereullah Babar, the then Inspector General Frontier Constabulary (IGFC) as saying:

“We had an interest in Afghanistan’s stability. We wanted tohave a party through which we could influence events in Afghanistan; there had been some explosions in the frontier province of Pakistan. My advice to Bhutto was that Pakistan should take some counter measures”

After 1979 following Saur Revolution, Pakistan intensified its engagement in Afghanistan providing finances, weapons and training to the warlords and their militias while invoking the institution of Jihad. We were not alone in this folly. America and Saudi Arabia became shameless partners, rather sponsors of crime. By 1990s when the ‘jihad’ was over and America and Saudia had left Pakistan alone for clearing the mess, Pakistan chose to further mire itself by expanding the mess. Afghan Taliban were supported and sponsored to become formidable rulers with puritanical religious interpretations as pretense of all policy. We played along in the hopes that they would remain our puppets against India. Far from being puppets, they retained their independence yet providing Pakistan free playing field to prepare a new crop of Jihadis to fight in Kashmir. Thereby ruining the purely nationalist struggle of Kashmiris.

Let’s figure out how this strategy of serving this bunch of religious goons with our national security on a platter, has benefitted us. Or has cost us.

Pakistan is today a country of probably over 200 million people with ever-growing nuclear arsenal but having a not-so-impressive GDP growth rate, less than satisfactory human development indicators and worrying human rights violations statistics. After losing over 50,000 civilians and security officials (can’t quote the original source of this figure, but this is the figure largely quoted in Pakistani media across the board), Pakistan is an untrustworthy international actor today.

We are perceived to be the womb of all terrorism in the world and display dismal record of hosting all shades of terrorist organisations on our territory. Today, we can’t administer polio drops to our kids because the terrorists won’t allow this. Nor can we count our citizens because our Army is fatigued. How has our policy contributed to our national security is my question here.

How the Afghan Taliban are going to provide us security against the perceived Indian aggression and how is it going to lead us become a stronger country needs to be put to a simple test. According to the World Bank economic rankings, annual GDP growth rate of India in 1981 was 6, while Pakistan was at 7.9-quite satisfying. But then, Pakistan was getting millions of dollars in those years for what America called Afghan Jihad and resultant number of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

A decade later, in 1990 India was at 5.5 while Pakistan was at 4.5 after having enjoyed the honeymoon period with the international aid. In 1991, within a year, India was at 1.1 while Pakistan was at 5.1. In 2001 – the year of 9/11 – India was at 4.8 while Pakistan was at 2. A decade and a half later in 2014-15, India was at 7.2 as per India’s Economic Survey while Pakistan was stuck at 4.24 as per Economic Survey of Pakistan. India has done it through inward looing, focusing its internal strengths. We have been relying largely on foreign aid for our economy, which has been constantly under strain because of internal security situation among other strains.

We provided them swathes of our land to reside, consolidate, train and practice. And what did we get in return? A radicalized, terrorized population of our own. Our land was sub-let to the ones attacking us. We tell the world that our attackers reside freely in Afghanistan and Afghan government doesn’t do anything. Really, Pakistan? For the entire decade we have been saying with a smirk on our face that Afghan government has control over less than 40% of their territory and that rest of it was under Taliban’s shadow governors. So who is responsible for providing havens to our killers? Say it aloud, we messed it all up. India’s economy and resultant soft power keeps burgeoning. We on the other hand are on rapid journey downwards. The country we have been aspiring to make our client state through a strange strategic depth – Afghanistan – hates us today. But is cozy with India.

The cost of this policy has been devastatingly high for Pakistan more than any other country. We will have to invent a special microscope to look for any benefit that we drew out of Afghan Taliban. Today they are shedding Afghan blood every day, while enjoying our tutelage. We can only neutralize India, or for that matter, any power, by being stronger ourselves. Creating and nourishing snakes in our backyard is never going to accomplish it.