Writer – Balbir Punj
Pakistan is in deep trouble. It’s reaping what it had sown. For decades, it has exported terror to India, as a part of a doctrine propounded by General Zia to ‘bleed India through 1000 cuts.’ Now chickens are coming home to roost.
Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP), an Islamist group, created by Pakistan, is hissing at its creator. The beleaguered nation is also riven by intra-faith violence, fractured by regional pulls and suffering aftermath of devastating floods . Reeling under stagflation, the country is on the brink of bankruptcy.
The Islamic nation is facing an existential crisis. For the first time in its chequered history , Pakistan Army, the only stable institution in the country, has become controversial. TTP with support from Afghanistan Taliban regime, is wreaking havoc on the western areas of Pakistan. The lower ranks of the army, fed on hate against kafirs since the birth of the Islamic nation are confused , because they are being asked to take on TTP cadres who are fellow believing Muslims and fighting for the glory of Islam
TTP seeks to delegitimize Pakistan’s claim on an area bordering Afghanistan. More precisely, this means changing FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area) status back to semi-governed. It also wants the removal of border fencing and enjoys full support of the Afghan Taliban in pursuit of its anti- Pakistan agenda.
To top it all, TTP’s aims to impose Afghan-style Sharia in FATA before extending the Islamic system across Pakistan. This means end to female education, justice via limb-chopping, installing a shura system headed by an Amir al-Mu’minin in place of democracy, and cutting Pakistan off from the modern world. Such prospects, are a nightmare for non-Muslims, Shias, Barelvis and westernised Muslim elite which controls Pakistan.
TTP was created, with the US help, to fight the erstwhile Soviet Union when it invaded Afghanistan. The cadres were trained by Pakistan to fight kafirs. In 2007, Pakistan again trained TTP cadres, to resist the Afghan Taliban. Now, the situation has reversed. The Afghan Taliban is arming TTP against Pakistan to fight for bringing sharia law and make a greater Pashtoonistan. Everyone is fighting against everyone else, to uphold Islam!
The reversal of roles started in 2021. According to an UN report, between four and six thousand TTP fighters were sheltered by the Afghan Taliban. The Interior Minister of Pakistan, however, estimates, that between seven to ten thousand Taliban are being trained against Pakistan.
Since October, highly motivated TTP is on a killing spree and enforcing sharia in areas of its influence in Pakistan, particularly in Swat valley. The Islamic outfit has swooped on family parks in Swat, beating women, for their alleged unislamic lifestyle.
Over 155 attacks were carried out by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in 2022. On December 19 last TTP took Bannu Counter Terrorism Department hostage. TTP even attacked the Chinese in Gwadar and police in Islamabad, sending a message across the world that even the capital was within its reach. Such blatant terror acts have obviously set alarm bells in the world.
China’s new foreign minister Qin Gang in his first phone call to his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari the other day expressed his concern about the safety of its citizens in his country. The US Embassy came out with a statement prohibiting its staff from visiting the Marriot Hotel (Islamabad). The UK High Commission and Australian embassy too issued similar statements. The UAE imposed a visa ban on 24 cities in Pakistan.
The Pakistan establishment is in real dilemma on how to deal with TTP. The radicalised sections of urban Pakistani society, as well as backward areas, welcome the version of Sharia, being pursued by the militant Islamic outfit. The top echelons of Pakistan ruling elite and common people aren’t on the same page. The top brass of the army, safely removed from combat areas, is trying to minimise the scale of TTP threat to civil society.
However, the morale of ordinary soldiers in the affected areas is low. They can’t make any sense of this war – waged by a declared Islamic state against their ideological comrades — the Taliban and other Islamic groups. No wonder, defections from the army to TTP are being reported.
The chasm between the security forces and local people is widening. The clerics in Waziristan and Swat are refusing to conduct funeral prayers for soldiers killed in action. In this area , anti – establishment sentiment runs deep. Way back in 2012 attack on Bannu jail , Islamic group had forcibly released 384 terrorists, with prison guards standing aside and raising slogans in support of the Taliban and imposition of sharia.
Internecine and intra- religious wars are bleeding Pakistan bone dry. According to official figures, there were 70,000 deaths from such wars in 2002-2014, whereas the number of Pakistanis killed in all four Pakistan-India wars adds up to around 18,000. It’s a classic case of fratricide – Muslims killing fellow Muslims, in the name a shared faith. Statistics aside, TTP swears allegiance to the emir of Afghanistan.
All these developments, coupled with radicalisation of sections of citizens in large parts of the country and rampant corruption have created an atmosphere that’s hardly conducive for any tangible economic activity. Peaceful atmosphere, an independent judicial system and rule of law are prerequisites for big ticket investors to invest. No wonder Pakistan economy is in doldrums.
Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have dropped to an eight year low of over US $ 4.5 billion (as on January 8) just enough to cover imports for three weeks. There is a strong possibility that the beleaguered. Islamic nation may default in meeting its international financial obligations. Pakistan will have to repay approximately US $ 8.3 billion in the shape of external debt servicing over the next three months (January – March) of the current fiscal year. It’s caught in vicious cycle, a debt trap. It will have to borrow, to clear old loans
Pakistan’s inflation rate touched 24.5 percent in December due to a massive spike in prices of food products. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), prices of perishable food items soared by 56 percent . The prices of onions increased by 415 percent in cities and 464 percent in villages over the last one year. Tea prices registered 64 percent increase. Wheat prices have move up by 57 percent and that of flour (atta) by 41 percent.
The financial crisis has escalated to an extent that the government auctioned a Pakistani embassy property in the US a few days. The government also hiked the prices of sugar and ghee by 25 per cent to 62 per cent for sale through the Utility Stores Corporation (USC), reported The Dawn.
Pakistan is in grip of acute power shortage as well. To save power, the Sharif Government has issued orders to shut markets, restaurants and wedding halls by 10 pm daily. All government departments have been asked to reduce electricity consumption by 30 per cent.
Thousands of shipping containers are held up at a Karachi port because banks have been unable to guarantee foreign exchange payments. Cargo includes perishable foodstuffs and medical equipment worth tens of millions of dollars “A major hospital in Karachi could not carry out eye surgeries for a month because of a lack of equipment”, said Masood Ahmed, chair of the Healthcare Devices Association of Pakistan.
Cash strapped Pakistan is desperately seeking help from abroad. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has made calls to the Chinese premier Li Keqiang, seeking Beijing’s help to avert a looming default while army chief General Asim Munir met the Saudi defence minister in Riyadh. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif last week held talks with the IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva to break the deadlock over the release of the next tranche of assistance.
Servicing foreign debt and paying for crucial commodities such as medicine, food and energy are among the chief concerns of Pakistan establishment. Meanwhile, TTP, with help from Afghanistan Taliban regime is threatening to dismantle Pakistan, because it’s not Islamic enough.
Question is: Why and how Pakistan has landed in such a mess? Pakistan was born more out of hate against the pre-Islamic civilisation of the sub-continent, rather than love for Islam. A hate-soaked mindset helped it unite against `kafirs’. But the country lacks a positive common resolve to hold it together for common good. The Islamic nation has dissipated its entire energy and resources, since its birth in 1947, in destroying India – and in the process has wrecked itself.
Mr. Balbir Punj is a Former Member of Parliament and a Columnist.
DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.