Pakistan’s reliance on terror as an instrument of foreign policy has backfired, and its role as a perpetrator of terrorism is now beyond doubt, experts and academics told a seminar here.
The seminar, organised by The Democracy Forum and Henry Jackson Society, debated the issue “Is Pakistan a victim or perpetrator of terrorism?” It included British MP Bob Blackman, US academic Christine Fair and Pakistani writer and journalist Irfan Hussain.
According to Fair, there has been ample proof over the past 20 years that Pakistani security agencies were supporting religious extremist groups. She analysed the spatial distribution and support for such terrorism and showed that the largest support base is in Punjab, from where the Pakistan Army draws the maximum recruits.
Based on quantitative evidence, Fair concluded Pakistan is a perpetrator of terrorism. She said Pakistan’s reliance on terrorism as a foreign policy instrument has backfired and it is now fighting those terrorist groups that it could no longer control.
Whenever there appeared to be the possibility of reconciliation with India by Pakistan’s democratically elected government, the Punjabi-dominated military undermined it by mounting terror attacks on India, she added.
In a talk titled “Pakistan both victim and source of terrorism”, Hussain said Pakistan began using terror as a strategic tool from its inception.
It started by sending non-combatant tribesmen in 1948 who captured a part of Kashmir and resulted in the state’s division. Pakistan used proxies such as the Jamaat-e-Islami to carry out the killing of Bengalis in 1971 and there is the ongoing cross-border export of terrorism, he said.
Pakistan, Hussain added, is using the nuclear threat as a terror method. He concluded that Pakistan is now plagued by its own monster as the military never expected the jihadists to turn against their former sponsors.
According to Aqil Shah of the University of Oklahoma, the Pakistan Army was not fighting terror, but simply fighting a few terrorist groups. He said the Pakistani military distinguished between “good”, “bad” and “ugly” terrorists. “Good” groups, such as the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba, are free to roam the country and collect funds.
Other groups classified as “bad” can still be brought under control and used by the state. “Ugly” groups, such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, are irreconcilable and are being fought by the military. There was no attempt to acknowledge the blowback against Pakistan from this policy or the operational links, manpower and ideology shared by these groups, he said.
Speaking on the dangers of the $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Blackman said the massive project was designed by China in conjunction with Pakistan to encircle India as part of its attempts to control the region’s sea and air routes.
He said there cannot be peace in the region until Pakistan stops using terrorism, and called for democracies like India, the UK, the US, Australia and Israel to come together and have more cooperation.