Let’s stop glorifying war and change our narrative

Army Chief General Bajwa’s speech in Germany was a sign that Pakistan at last has admitted the mistakes of fighting proxy wars. The chief referred to Zia’s decision of joining Afghan war as a mistake and he was of the view that the price of the mistake is too high. In a time when world is seriously thinking to declare us a terrorist state, the Army Chief has certainly fought a good case for us. But one wonders why it took so long to finally give up the rotten narrative of Afghan jihad?

It was  Trump’s New Year tweet alleging Pakistan’s dubious role in the war against terror that created an atmosphere of hostility between Pakistan and the United States. If this was not enough, the Trump administration also stopped military aid to Pakistan and is considering to put Pakistan’s name as a terrorist-friendly country.

One can criticize Donald Trump for using harsh language, in fact it is against diplomatic norms and gives India a diplomatic edge over Pakistan. Pakistan also responded but the majority of the anti-American statements and those not caring about US aid were given to satisfy the ego of the nation.

As usual, USA has used Pakistan for its own interests and after almost 16 years of war against terrorism in Afghanistan, finally decided to ditch Pakistan and align with India to not only give them space in Afghanistan, but also to counter China. Whatever US policymakers think or what Trump decides is their own internal matter. The truth is that every country in the world always serves its own interests. On the global stage there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies.

This hostility from the US, even after fighting their war, is an eye-opener for Pakistan. Since its inception, Pakistan aligned with the US as its ally and during the Cold War period supported them against the USSR. The dollars sponsored the Afghan Jihad which eventually proved instrumental in the fall of USSR, actually laying the foundations of extremism and terrorism in the Pakistani society.

It was our rulers who, for their and USA interests, fought a proxy war in Afghanistan against the then USSR and used religion as a tool. The jihad culture was then given birth with the text books being filled with the importance of jihad and the idea that the world somehow had enough time to keep conspiring against a third world state.

Extremists and terrorists like Osama Bin Laden and Hekmatyar were supported by the US and Pakistan to win the war in Afghanistan at that time. During that time and further into the mid-nineties, the US, in response to Pakistan’s co-operation, turned a blind eye towards extremists like Hafiz SaeedMasood Azhar and others, launching them against India to liberate Kashmir by waging a proxy war there and in other areas. Of course, in reply, India launched a proxy war in Balochistan and other areas of Pakistan too. Now, the world has changed, and the new alliances have been made.The US has decided to get rid of the extremists and terrorists it created in the past to conquer USSR and serve its interests globally. The ongoing Afghan war is more about occupying the trillion dollars of opium than ending terrorism. The Iraq war was not about weapons of mass destruction; it was in fact a war to get control of the oil reserves.

Pakistan should have learnt long ago that by becoming a proxy for US wars it will eventually destroy its future. The extremism that was spread in the name of jihad, and the civilians and military personnel killed during the war against terrorism, is a cost too great to bear. The policymakers in Pakistan have actually played a key role in bringing the impression that as a state, Pakistan fights wars for dollars. The terrorists who were nurtured by the state as strategic assets proved to be a huge burden.

Now even with all the efforts our policymakers are not able to finish the mindset of extremism.The reason being that it takes a lot less time to brainwash society, but takes decades of effort to make them think rationally and make them recognize reality. Once you nurture the mindset and narrative that revolves around waging jihad and conquering enemies by the use of force, then it is impossible to eliminate this mindset with the use of force within a few years.

So, in the recent crisis where the US has turned hostile towards us and the civilized world considers us as a haven for terrorists, it is only ourselves who are to be blamed for this mess. We could have decided to stay neutral during the Afghan invasion of USSR and could have swiftly rejected the USA, for becoming a frontline state in the war against terror. Instead of investing money and resources on extremists, we could have invested in education, health and eliminating poverty, the world then knowing us as a progressive state with a lot to contribute in science, technology and research.

If there was any reality in the wish of liberating Kashmir from India with the help of extremists like Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar, or controlling Afghanistan by the factions of the Taliban and other militant organizations, we should have been an undisputed king of the region and our flag would have been raised on all these territories. But it was not, and never will be, possible.

Anyone with common sense can tell that neither the Kashmir dispute can be resolved by waging proxy wars, nor Afghanistan controlled by picking and choosing a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban. Had this been possible then the whole world, instead of spending on science, technology or industrial growth, would have spent on producing terrorists and extremists like Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar and the Taliban. Sadly, the ruling elite made us an experimental lab for the US and Saudi monarchs thinking that it would somehow strengthen us, which has proven wrong.

Now the need of the hour is to change our narrative and attitude towards extremism and militancy and to reshape them by focusing on science, technology and industrial growth.

The buildings built with solid foundations, quality concrete and cement always survive the storms and jolts. The same also applies with societies. Unfortunately, our decision-makers, while laying the foundations of narratives to shape society and the nation, never used the cement of truth and concrete of realism. That is why we have not been able to grow like the vision and expectations of our founding father Jinnah.

It is high time we get rid of the extremists and fundamentalists whom we consider our strategic assets. These narratives and attitudes have always kept us in the headlines around the globe as a state that is not willing to get rid of the narratives and ideologies of the stone age.

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