The need for hope in Pakistan

On 8th June 2014, Karachi witnessed an old fashioned attempted siege on the Jinnah International airport. One could dismiss it as just one of the many attacks by the Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but it was different for two fundamental reasons. One, although it was a failure, even the occurrence of such an event signals the alarming audacity with which the TTP continues to undermine the Pakistan Government. And secondly, for the first time, the Pakistan government has authorised and launched a full scale offensive against the Taliban.

There were drone strikes by the US, bombings by the Pakistan government and also ground offensives which were launched. Another first was the Pakistani Government acknowledging the American drone strikes as bilateral action. This marks a sharp change in government policy towards international intervention, which it previously looked at as encroaching on its sovereignty. The army offensive killed almost four hundred militants in the North Waziristan region. Among those killed were ethnic Uzbeks, Uighur militants from China and members of the feared Haqqani militancy of Afghanistan. The UN Committee on the Taliban also marked a shift in the tactics of the Taliban, also concluding that it had morphed from an ideological organization based in religion to a criminal one with increasing commercial interests. Having stated these facts, we can give a two-fold analysis of the situation. One, that is based in international considerations and one that concerns the internal paradigm;

The Ripple Effect

Let us begin by listing the countries involved and then dissecting them individually. Though the attack was carried out in Pakistani territory, shockwaves were felt far and wide.

The Taliban has promised that they would ensure that this is a long drawn war. They have also promised revenge attacks to avenge the death of their brothers. Considering the Taliban’s substantial resources, one could make the argument that by supporting Pakistan in its offensive, the United States has risked increased attacks by the Taliban. We could also argue that the US always supported the government in the fight against terrorism. In response we can possibly conclude that, with the immense crackdown in Pakistan, the Taliban will look for other avenues to exact revenge, where they could inflict more damage, and also cause a larger stir as compared to a completely militarised state.

The Pakistani government also ordered the immediate evacuation of the North Waziristan state. This led to the inevitable problem of refugees filtering into neighbouring states. Due to the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, for the first time in decades, Afghans witnessed a reverse flow of refugees into the state. This was a cause of certain unease for the Afghan government as they were afraid that Pakistani militants could have filtered into the state. The Haqqani militants killed in the offensive are also a cause of concern for the Afghans who now fear attacks in the state. Incidents were already reported with the bombing of the NATO airbase in Afghanistan, further strengthening convictions in this direction.

Pakistan’s northern ally, China, also has a cause for worry, which is two-fold. The Uighur militants that were killed in the Pakistani offensive pose a threat to the already restive Xinjiang region of China along with other neighbouring regions. Owing to suspicious activity, 13 Uighur militants were shot down in Xinjiang. The Taliban has also threatened to destroy all foreign corporations in operating in Pakistan, explicitly warning them to sever all ties with Pakistan and withdraw or face the consequences. China, which is a longstanding economic partner of Pakistan, could understand this as deterrence to furthering of trade activity in the state. The United States and many other economies with interests in the state would be affected by this declaration of the Taliban, if they decide to take it into serious consideration.

Biting off more than one can chew

The domestic conditions in Pakistan are not too stable either. The economy of Pakistan isn’t too strong.  Political strife has always been a major concern. The Nawaz Sharif regime has always faced opposition. Muhammad Qadri does not seem to be backing down on his demands. Recently, he has returned from Canada, which has caused clashes between his supporters and the police resulting in the diversion of police forces to maintain peace here too. And he has vowed to make sure his demands are met, implying a possibility of further clashes. This means reduction in the forces available to both maintain law and order in the regions and also to participate in the offensive launched against the Taliban.

The Pakistan economy has been in tatters for a long time now with growth recorded at about 2%, indicating almost no growth at all.  The TTP has promised this to be a long drawn war and has also promised to retaliate in kind. TTP isn’t going to fight a confrontational war, putting a very crucial aspect of unpredictability into the offensive, endangering the lives of many and also prolonging the timeline of this war. Considering all these scenarios, one is almost sceptical if the government would be able to see this through to the end and even if it does, what would be left to sustain the country after. All these reasons lead us to rethink if this offensive was a good idea for Pakistan as a state.

Crime is on the rise from both Taliban and civilians due to the anarchy. Almost two-thirds of the North Waziristan region has been evacuated. Kids don’t go to school. Corruption is rampant. The concept of a normal life seems far-fetched to most. Society in Pakistan has been completely uprooted. Governance has failed completely and people have lost hope of any revival.

 Looking at how the situation has panned out, at the end of the day, when everything is said and done, if and when fragments of normalcy materialize, it is up to the international community to rebuild the nation which will have almost extinguished its existence to rid the world of the threat called Taliban. The initiative is brave and well acknowledged. In our view, each and every country should assist Pakistan in its daring endeavour for the good of humanity. Will this prove to be a case of ‘better late than never’ or just classic wrong timing? Only time will tell.


Shriraj Patil

Shriraj Patil

Intern at InPRA
is an economics undergraduate from the city of Mumbai. He has secured several academic awards and also been awarded by the Commonwealth for his writing skills. Certified by the National Stock Exchange and the Bombay Stock Exchange, he actively studies the impact of the financial sector on the economy. He has recently started analyzing economic and political policy questions and research concerns.Wanting to now engage with an IR Master’s degree and the desire to hone the skills required to do so has compelled him to join InPRA. He hopes to learn and grow with the initiative.
Shriraj Patil

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