We can all appreciate why Pakistan is upset with the recent loss of lives of its soldiers this past Saturday, but what we can’t understand is its rash response. Pakistan’s government has been throwing a fit, without proper due process, which most likely was an accident by NATO forces that were responding to fire originating from Pakistan close to the contested “border” posts.
As a consequence of the recent attacks on Pakistani “border” posts, which killed 24 soldiers, the Pakistani government has decided to seal the “border” with Afghanistan to prevent supplies, meant to fight an insurgency raging for the last ten years, to reach the international community stationed in landlocked Afghanistan. Moreover, Pakistan has announced that it will not participate in the upcoming key conference in Bonn, Germany regarding the post-2014 future of Afghanistan. With this tantrum, one once again wonders whose side is Pakistan on. Why is Pakistan being an obstacle to stabilizing Afghanistan? Is Pakistan on the side of Al-Qaeda, and other fundamentalists, as accused, or is it on the side of the international community, which has risked the lives of Afghans and international community to quarantine and eliminate religious fundamentalism?
It appears that Pakistan will use every excuse to attempt to derail any stability in Afghanistan. From the reactions and past experiences it obvious that Pakistan hasn’t abandoned its faulty geopolitical theory of obtaining “strategic depth” towards India by controlling and influencing the events in Afghanistan. Pakistan fears Indian presence in Afghanistan, as it would be encircled militarily both from the east and from the west. In order to prevent such a theoretical phenomenon, Pakistan has been engaged in meddling in the affairs of Afghanistan to exert control over the rulers in Kabul; to put it bluntly, Pakistan is seeking to instill a puppet ruler in Kabul that will play to Pakistan’s tunes at a cost to Afghanistan’s national interests.
Pakistan’s most potent tool so far to that end has been empowering and supporting religious fundamentalists like the Taliban and Haqqanis, who are more pliable under the banner of Muslim brotherhood to accept Pakistan’s intentions, versus ordinary Afghans that view the broad international community as its community not just the Muslims, and seeks to secure Afghanistan’s borders to fend any incursion into their liberty and sovereignty. From past experiences, it appears that Pakistan will continue to destabilize Afghanistan by whatever is at its disposal until it sees an Indiaphobic regime in Kabul, and its present tantrum is a manifestation of that frustration.
Besides fearing an India friendly Afghanistan, Pakistan is fearful of Afghan nationalism, which could potentially risk inciting the Pashtuns in Pakistan to demand cessation. Empowering religious fundamentalists and using Islam as a tool, Pakistan has been able to placate, to some degree of success, internal Pashtun dissent in the name of Muslim brotherhood. Having achieved measurable success within its borders, since the early 1980’s, Pakistan has been working tirelessly to replicate the same religious card to pacify the masses in Afghanistan to its own benefit. Thus, we see Pakistan’s double dealings with the international community and Afghans. On one hand it pledges support against fundamentalism and on the other it provides the necessary accommodations for religious fundamentalists to use its territory, and supply them with the tools, to attack Afghanistan and the international community.
It is no longer a secret as to whether Pakistan supports religious extremists and has been playing a double game, the question is how entrenched is its policy of double dealing, and home much risk Pakistan is willing to take to continue with its erroneous policy of destabilizing Afghanistan, the region and the world. 9/11 already demonstrated how far Pakistan’s tolerance and support of fundamentalism could reach. The international community and Afghans are rapidly losing patience with Pakistan’s insincerity, and its decision to boycott the upcoming conference in Bonn, Germany regarding Afghanistan’s stabilizing post 2014 will add further furor and anxiety.
Pakistan has been providing safe havens and supporting the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and the Haqqanis, and its refusal to attend the Bonn conference further demonstrates its lack of sincerity, and this poor decision clearly aligns it with terrorist groups that have been destabilizing Afghanistan.
The most rational action for Pakistan is to attend the Bonn conference and be sincere in its anti-terrorism statements with measurable actions. Otherwise, Pakistan will lose the billions of dollars of aid and political support it has received for decades from the West. Unfortunately, unless Pakistan corrects its previous errors, the fire will continue to burn in Afghanistan and in the international community, and it will eventually engulf Pakistan itself more than it already has.
If Pakistan continues with its double dealings, the time is ripe for the international community to take a strong stand against its misguided policies and exert as much pressuer as needed. We should not take Pakistan’s threats of leaving the war on terror seriously, as it will have the most to lose. Pakistan’s military and civilian population desperately needs support from the international community, and it wouldn’t made sense for it to give up aid, given there is no indication that an alternate entity will step in to fill the monetary and military void.
Moreover, Pakistan should be warned that it will be designated a state sponsor of terror, unless it once and for all renounces sponsorship of terrorism for its political and military ends. So far, the internationally community’s appeasement of Pakistan with billions of dollars hasn’t changed its behaviors; perhaps to witness meaningful results, it is time to consider curtailing economic, political and military aid rather than further appease it with billions of dollars, which hasn’t produced any meaningful results in the last ten years.