It appears that after over a decade of writing on the Afghan Conflict, I have run out of ideas. During the course of my active involvement and as an analyst, much that was predicted has come to pass; and much that could have been accomplished in high politics has been denied or deliberately squandered. Lamentably, a nation with abundance in talent, resources and mismanagement still waits for a Godot to steer the vessel home. During the past ten years the clock has turned full circle and the country is back to square one. Eight years to say the least are a decade of failing statecraft. Pakistan is still being asked the same questions that it was, as a prelude to the unstinted support. The fissures between Pakistan and its overbearing ally USA are widening as the situation gets from bad to worse.
While the political establishment continues to make discredited statements over issues it has no control on, the military at least in public, for the first time appears to have locked horns through the ISI-CIA tangle. The military oft acclaimed the custodian of all frontiers is left badly exposed by the Panetta, State Department and Mullen tirades over its overall management of the. The statement of GOC 7 Division in favour of the accuracy of drone attacks is fodder for critics who maintain that these attacks manifest a behind the door agreement that has the military as one of the major actors.
The country lacks political credibility towards governance and has willingly plummeted into an economic quagmire. Despite major national crises, the squabbling politicians have displayed no purpose, sensitivity and ability to address issues over which they enjoy full control. Playing second fiddle to the inflexible foreign policy, they are content to keep the masses misinformed through unimaginative and purposeless soap operas. Lacking self belief and solid commitments, they are unwilling to cut themselves off from that umbilical chord that sustains them through the NRO while plummeting the country into darkness each day.
Away from the high dramas of Islamabad, the resilience of Pakistanis is visible. Field commanders, young officers and soldiers continue to wade through the explosive minefields of FATA at an unprecedented heavy cost, a sacrifice gone unnoticed by the international community and Pakistani leaders. Despite indiscriminate drone attacks, the suffering people of FATA continue to swear allegiance to Pakistan. Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf’s Dharna in Peshawar was an indicator of this resolve attended by people of all shades that included tribesmen, Baloch, retired government servants, common men of all descriptions, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians.
Amidst the trauma of an earthquake and unprecedented floods, the proud Pakistanis continue to pick up shreds and piece life together. This year Pakistan expects a bumper crop; thanks to the seed distribution programs and on farm advisories initiated by Imran Khan, his workers and some NGOs in the flood affected areas. The barter system is once again replacing the cash economy as a hedge against the rising double digit inflation. The unregistered and unregulated sector of Pakistan’s economy is coming to life to ensure that Pakistan survives the artificial poverty crises.
The message is loud and clear. Common men will tailor life to survive. Undeterred by the stigmas of bad governance and corruption, life will go on. The societal diversity considered as fault lines by sceptics are proving a strength .Pakistan will refuse to fail. All that the government and the establishment need to do is to back its people through friendly policies.
Eight year into its failures, the US policy in the region has begun to talk peace and withdrawal. Unfortunately, in Naseer Ullah Babar and Imam, Pakistan has lost two very credible individuals who exercised clout with the Afghans. While Babar died a natural death, Imam’s murder was treacherous and leaves many questions unanswered. A few days before his capture, he had confided in me his ability to broker a sustainable peace with Mullah Omar. However, he was weary that like the 1996 Accord of Benazir Bhutto in which he and his mentor Babar were major negotiators, USA may not support it. If at all, he was killed in cold blood immediately after the Raymond Davis fiasco?
In memory and as a tribute to these two visionaries, Pakistan must relentlessly pursue the same blue print in the best interest of the people of both Pakistan and Afghanistan; a broad based, diverse government in Afghanistan within a federation guaranteed by all affected international actors. As per my study and analysis of the conflict, the peace would start becoming a reality within 100 days.
Pakistan’s political and establishment negotiators also need to understand that Afghan Taliban need to be used as an asset for a universal durable stability in the region. They are also required to dispel the misperception that Pakistan considers them a strategic asset against India and a tool to blackmail the world. The strategic advantages of such a policy far outweigh the misnomer of Strategic Depth in that the objective of all conflicts in DIGNIFIED PEACE.
So is this two prolonged policy of building with people and pursuing credible peace possible?
At the home front, the government has to initiate a Fast Track Socio-Economic Program aimed at stabilisation, jump start to economy and productive GDP (not consumer based but based on ability to produce and consume and a precursor and agitator to exports ie GNP). To make the policy sustainable all issues of the Baloch people will have to be addressed with an out of the box strategy for herein rests the promise of a developed Pakistan. In my studies, Pakistan will experience a socio economic turn round within a year and keep growing.
On the Afghan front, the government, its establishment and USA have to revisit the drawing boards and initiate sustainable and mutually beneficial trust and confidence building measures to bring a viable solution to Afghanistan. Pakistan must demonstrate its ability at tough and persuasive negotiations against drone attacks and ability to rehabilitate all factions that agree to end militancy. Pakistan also needs to develop a rehabilitation program geared towards harnessing this tremendous notion of romanticism towards positive nation building.
Once the two prolonged policy is realised and implementable the government must move to the next step of devolution. Too early a step, will spell disaster for the federation tantamount to moving into the enemies’ trap.
This two prolonged strategy looks too simple. As history proves, all practical and implementable plans are invariably simple. However, this simplicity is belied by the necessity of good governance, tough and objective negotiations and peace as primacy. Within the grey of intentions, perceptions and image theories are valleys full of vested narrow interests and peaks cordoned by sharp cliffs. The difficulty factor is the major challenge to this simplicity. Though the nation is, are our ruling elites willing to eat grass?
Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.