I was surprised to read the reported remarks made by David Cameron when speaking to Indian businesspeople in Bangalore this morning, especially when he said: “We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country [Pakistan] is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world”. These remarks are completely contrary to the realities on the ground, and are intended to embroil Pakistan in issues for which it cannot alone be held responsible.
One would have hoped that the British prime minister would have considered Pakistan’s enormous role in the war on terror and the sacrifices it has made since 9/11. He seems to be more reliant on information based on intelligence leaks, despite it lacking credibility or corroborating proof. A bilateral visit aimed at attracting business could have been conducted without damaging the prospects of regional peace.
His remarks have come soon after the leak of US military documents about the war in Afghanistan and the alleged involvement of Pakistan’s security institutions. As far as Pakistan’s role in the war is concerned, it is sufficient to quote the Persian proverb: “Fragrance does not need recommendations of a perfume seller”. The sacrifices endured by Pakistan are enormous. Since 2001 more than 2,700 members of the security forces have laid down their lives and more than 9,000 have been severely wounded. These figures far exceed the total casualties suffered by Nato allies in the region over the same period.
For the west, it may seem as though terrorism began on 9/11. But Pakistan’s experience started back when the Soviet troops occupied Afghanistan. The invasion posed a threat to the “free world”, so we were told, and Pakistan was declared a “bulwark against communism”. We are still struggling with the devastating and economically crippling fallout with limited resources and in an environment of mistrust.
We should not forget that the resistance offered by the Afghans against the Soviets mesmerised the west so much that it bestowed the title of “mujahideen” upon them. The new madrassas – in reality, more like guerilla training centres – were financed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by the free world to recruit and train religiously fanatic elements as mujahideen.
The so-called intelligence leaks that allege Pakistani involvement do not have any credibility. The timing of the leaks is instructive. Just a week ago an international conference held in Kabul called for the need to stabilise the situation in Afghanistan through reconciliation, reintegration and the gradual withdrawal of coalition forces by 2014.
This conference offered an opportunity to stabilise Afghanistan by engaging antagonists in order to find a political solution. The overwhelming majority of the conference favoured this approach. However, a few factions within Afghanistan and some countries in the neighbourhood who are trying to dominate the country do not like the idea.
For the stability of Afghanistan and for a smooth withdrawal of coalition forces, it is important not only that the political process in Afghanistan should be led by Afghans themselves but also that the country’s neighbours honour the commitments made at the Kabul conference of 20 July. Mere lip service will not bring stability.
Pakistan has proved through its actions that stability in Afghanistan is an imperative. Pakistan has taken firm action against terrorists and observes zero tolerance against foreign extremists trying to take refuge within its borders. More importantly, the democratic government in Pakistan believes in a stable Afghanistan and by extension a stable region so that all nations in the region may focus their energies on addressing the plight of their poor. Instead of manufacturing evidence against Pakistan, it would be advisable for us all to work for stability in Afghanistan through peaceful means
Wajid Shamsul Hasan, high commissioner of Pakistan for UK.