In a seminar on “Changing Patterns of Extremism and Terrorism in Pakistan” at Woodrow Wilson Center on February 13, 2018, three renowned speakers, author Madiha Afzal, assistant professor, School of Public Affairs, American University, Stephen Tankel and senior editor, Radio Mashaal, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Daud Khattak, all participated.
They suggested that declaring Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism will generate an irreversible situation and will fail to force Pakistan to change its policies and will not help US objectives in Afghanistan.
Stephen argued, “labeling a country a state sponsor of terrorism, is not a surgical instrument, that’s a really, really heavy hammer. The sanctions that come with that pretty much obliterate any chance you have engaging on a whole host of other issues.”
Daud Khattak raised a question; “Let’s declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism today. But what next, if there’s no change? Will you take some more serious steps?” He said this would be a counter-productive move.
Madiha Afzal also opposed the US proposal and suggested, “There are other avenues, less single-minded approach, to actually make Pakistan move while urging the Trump administration to work with China to persuade Pakistan to listen to US complaints about Islamabad’s role in Afghanistan. Pakistan will listen.”
US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats at the Senate Intelligence Committee in Munich said, “Pakistani military leaders continue to walk a delicate line. Ongoing Pakistani military operations against the Taliban and associated groups probably reflect the desire to appear more proactive and responsive to our request for more actions against these groups; however, the actions taken thus far do not reflect a significant escalation of pressure against these groups and are unlikely to have a lasting effect.”
US has failed to formulate a combined strategy with its military approach and soft approach which could provide an ideological alternative to the extremist narrative.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa told US policymakers, “the cause of the current stalemate in Afghanistan was not only the Haqqani network or Afghan Taliban; it was also the pursuit of a wrong strategy which led to their resurrection”.
These two statements put a major impact on the ongoing debate on the very hot topic in the international community regarding Pakistan’s role in South Asia, specifically in Afghanistan. Bajwa highlighted that the US has failed to formulate a combined strategy with its military approach and soft approach which could provide an ideological alternative to the extremist narrative. He explained that to discredit the terrorist ideology is also important.
Counterterrorism strategies had not remained an effective tool to fight against terrorism. Equal efforts were required for “War on Terror” to kill the ideology of terrorism. Consequently, more terrorists have been created because the terrorist groups have worked on spreading their ideology by misusing Islam, a religion of humanity, through the brainwashing of deprived or poor people to be part of their section. They claim whatever they do, is in the name of Allah. Terrorists pursue their political objectives through the tactics of terrorism and misuse Islam.
In the seminar, Madiha Afzal also tried to correct the perception in Washington that “ordinary Pakistanis condone, if not celebrate, the violent jihad”. She added that violence against civilians in the name of Islam was never justified.
Regarding US aid suspension, Trankel strongly disagreed with the US aid suspension proposal and said that assistance is a form of engagement and by ending this totally takes in the opposition direction. He proposed, “I prefer placing new conditions that are much more realistic than the ones we had on it in the past and then enforce them.”
Terrorism is a global phenomenon and Pakistan remained a frontline state in fighting terrorism. Thus cutting security aid to Pakistan and isolating it may not work entirely to restore peace and stability in Afghanistan as well.
Pakistan will continue its efforts to counter terrorism in the region by engaging other countries in the region such as China and Russia through their joint ventures on counter-terrorism strategies. The US may revise its proposal to engage Pakistan again to help achieve its security objectives not only for both countries but the whole region including Afghanistan. It should not continue to undermine Pakistan’s countless efforts.