Post 9/11 US-Pakistan War On Terror And Its Social Impact In Pakistan – OpEd


The 9/11 attacks, also known as September 11 attacks, were the series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed in 2001. Nineteen militants were associated with the Islamic radical group Al-Qaeda against targets in the United States of America and were deadliest terrorist attacks on America in U.S. history. The attacks caused extensive death and destruction which prompted the U.S efforts to fight against the terrorism immediately.

The consequences were that a huge fear spread everywhere throughout U.S and people distressed emotionally. The proof collected by the United States shortly had convinced most governments that the Islamic militant group Al-Qaeda was responsible for the attacks. According to the U.S reports and statements, Al-Qaeda was headquartered in Afghanistan and had counterfeited a close relationship with that ruling Taliban militia, which afterward refused U.S. demands to send back bin Laden and to end al-Qaeda activity there.

In 2001, President George W. Bush proclaimed that he wanted Osama bin Laden take into custody dead or alive and lured a bounty worth of $25 million for information leading to the killing or capture of Osama bin Laden. It was thought that Osama Bin Laden was living somewhere in the Afghanistan-Pakistan tribal regions and eventually tracked by U.S forces in eastern Afghanistan. Then United States led an alliance to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan when the Osama Bin Laden went into hiding after that evading capture by U.S forces. U.S had continued its struggle to search him and war on terror remained continue in Afghanistan-Pakistan borders. Consequently, In May 2011, U.S intelligence located him in Abbotabad, Pakistan early in the morning and was shot and killed on the orders of U.S President Barack Obama.

Association of attacks with Islam and Pakistan: spoiled image

After the 9/11, U.S and Pakistan had been fighting war on terror and then after the killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011 in Pakistan, had made the mindset of international community that Islam and Pakistan have something close to terrorism and extremism. The 9/11 attacks and aftermath activities had been closely associated with Pakistan and Islam.

These attacks and war on terror had changed the perception of people globally that had spoiled the soft image of Pakistan. The war on terror the term was used by U.S to describe its global counterterrorism campaign originated in response to 9/11 attacks. The military intervention launched by U.S in Afghanistan in 2001 had unfavorable impacts on Pakistan, as it was the discernment that Pakistan is the harbor of Taliban and terrorist group. From that time, Pakistan had been fighting war on terror since two decades and had been associated with terrorism, Islamic extremism, radicalism and talibanization that spoiled the good image of Pakistan and changed the perception of people at domestic and global level.

Islamic and social culture in Pakistan: Public Perceptions

The 9/11 attacks, other terrorist activities and its repercussions had a terrible impact on social culture of Pakistani people. As culture is something credible which covers the social behavior, values, and morals, norms originate in different human societies, in addition, the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, attitudes, tradition, civilization, customs, competences, capabilities and habits of the individuals in these groups of societies.

If we study Pakistan in the lens of Islam and cultural perspectives, people in Pakistan have varied culture which make one group different from others but based on these norms and behaviors. This was the culture that Pakistani people had learned and adopted from their forefathers. People in Pakistan had high norms and great values each other. They had the belief and their civilization taught them to help, care and respect for each other and for others. Pakistani people and society is exceptional in its way of life, thoughts and morals.

Fundamentally, the culture is somewhat based on the social values of human societies. Human beings bring changes in their behavior, morals, attitudes, habits and knowledge according to the circumstances of that time.

These changes may the lead the human towards wrong or right path with respect to the nature of circumstances. Unfortunately, the war on terror, extremism, radicalization and terrorist attacks had embossed fear and apprehension in the heart and mind of Pakistani people. This fear has instigated the people to change their behavior and attitude towards their own people because of the feelings they have induced by perceived danger or threat occurred in their mind as an irrational concern which has changed to phobia now. This observable fact and scenario has changed the entire perception of people as domestic level.

Impacts on Pakistan’s social culture in the lens of Social constructivism theory

The theory of social constructivism in the subject of international relations and social sciences explores all the circumstances that happened during and after 9/11 attacks and war on terror that how the perceptions and behaviors of people have changed towards their own people within the country. Social constructivism explains that people living in group or society work and interact together. Social constructivism states that individuals learning take place when they interact socially each other in group.

In the terms of ontological and epistemological concepts, people behave, act and respond socially with respect to their past experiences and knowledge. Pakistani people had learned from the past that there is an act of extremism and terrorism in the country and they in the state of fear that was inducted through war on terror.

We can understand the behavior of people in the light of an example that there is a person who is needy and lost his or her everything or he or she has lost mobile phone somewhere or do not have charging in mobile phone and want to talk at home in an emergency. Nobody is ready to provide his services or help because of his fear or irrational concern or phobia that had been injected in him via war on terror as he or she has learned from the past experiences that happened in the society. This phobia has created a distrust and suspicion in Pakistani people towards their own people because they are not ready to help and support any person even to his or her own relative.

The war on terror has socially and psychologically constructed the approach of people by changing their behavior, attitude, way of conduct and beliefs towards their own people. There is a dire need to develop the trust among people by creating awareness and to remove their suspicions about their own people that have constructed socially.

*Tariq Khan is an expert on international affairs and non-profit professional who has focused on the issues of international importance. He has extensive experience in the non-profit sector, doing everything from research, communications and leadership to project development. Currently, he is the founder and chairman at PINPOINT institute a research and dialogue based think tank in Islamabad, Pakistan. He is also founder of International Unity Forum (IUF) and Islamabad Chapter President at Euphrates Institute (California, USA).

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