Resist the pressure

WHILE the coalition government's policy of resolving the issue of militancy through a multi-pronged approach has brought down the incidence of acts of terrorism, Islamabad is under increasing pressure to revert to the failed policy of total reliance on military force. The recent attack on Bajaur was meant to be a move of the type. There are also reports of threats to stop aid to Pakistan. Answering questions at Washington's Heritage Foundation, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed reservations about Islamabad's policy of negotiations with the militants. While conceding that as a sovereign state Pakistan had the right to handle the situation as it deemed fit, she maintained it was Islamabad's responsibility to end terrorism in the FATA. Her remarks indicated the impatience of the US policymakers who urgently want results through shock and awe methods. She told a questioner that the coalition government had been told in clear terms that terrorists can neither be harboured nor allowed to operate with impunity. Those hoping for a more realistic approach from the Democrats would be disappointed by Barak Obama's remarks castigating President Bush for being soft on Pakistan. According to him, Washington had to get its Pakistan policy right if it wanted to get Afghanistan right. Obama would like to hold Islamabad "accountable for inability to crack down on Al-Qaeda and Taliban operating within their borders". Besides pressurizing Pakistan to cease talks and instead take recourse to military action, Mr Obama would like to bring more troops to Afghanistan and to take a tough line against Pakistan to finish its fight once and for all. This reflects not just the mindset of a US presidential hopeful, but indeed that of US power circles as well. It is rather unfortunate that despite playing the role of a key ally in the War on Terror, the US neo-orientalist outlook persists. There is a need to persuade Washington that it is both in the interest of Pakistan and the US to tackle terrorism through a holistic policy, which might take time to produce results but can resolve the issue of terrorism on a permanent basis. Talks have to be held with the local tribes, development activities speeded up and mainstream political parties allowed to function in the tribal areas. Islamabad must only craft policies that stand to benefit it the most without worrying about the wishes of the US. Force should be used only as a last resort and only sparingly. This would isolate the extremist elements and strengthen the moderates. Quick fixes have not helped in the past nor are they likely to deliver in future.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt