You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of mankind in your own native soil. [Mohammed Ali Jinnah]

Friday, January 30, 2009

Numbing statistics

By Muhammad Ali Siddiqi

THE statistics are numbing and mind-boggling and should make any Pakistani sit up: in 2008 the country saw 2,148 terrorist attacks, which caused 6,825 casualties — 2,267 of them fatal.

Suicide attacks alone killed nearly 1,000 people — 967 to be precise — and wounded or maimed for life over 2,000. Of the 63 suicide attacks countrywide, the highest — 32 — occurred in the NWFP, killing and wounding over 1,000 Pakistanis; 10 in Punjab (201, dead, 580 injured), and 16 in Fata (263 dead, 497 injured).

Compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, these statistics do not include those who fell in ‘operational attacks’. According to the think-tanks’ report for 2008, more than 5,500 people were killed or injured in operational attacks (a minimum of 3,182 dead and 2,267 wounded).

What is scary is the steady rise over the years in the number of terrorist attacks and the consequent increase in casualties. In 2006, terrorist attacks left 907 dead and 1,543 injured; in 2007 there was a quantum jump in the figure for the dead — 3,448.

If to those killed in acts of terrorism we add those who died in operational attacks, sectarian and factional clashes and US drone attacks, the total number of civilians and security personnel killed in 2008 comes to a morbid 8,000, with the number of the injured approaching 10,000. The grand total for 2008, thus, comes to 18,000 Pakistani people getting killed or injured in acts of political violence.

Is the world aware of this Pakistani trauma? Going by the doubts cast on our commitment to fight terrorism and the ‘do more’ litany one doubts if we have been able to inform the world what this country and its people have been going through for years. In fact, it appears as if, barring US Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Richard Lugar in America and Foreign Secretary David Miliband in Britain, very few top personalities in the policymaking apparatus in the western world seem to be aware of Pakistan’s plight and the scourge which terrorism has become for us Pakistanis in our daily lives.

Our post-Mumbai diplomatic effort has not been all disaster. It did indeed succeed in convincing the world diplomatic community that Islamabad was not involved in the Mumbai crime. However, Pakistan’s advocacy of its case was characterised by diffidence. It failed to show our justifiable anger over India’s attempt to obfuscate the issue, and often we appeared to be pleading rather than telling.

Has India suffered anything even remotely resembling Pakistan’s trauma as seen in the cold statistics above? The answer is no, but the world evidently doesn’t think so. What the world does is to view the situation in terms of the ‘safe haven’ which is supposed to exist in Fata and elsewhere for the Taliban. That deprives us of the sympathy we deserve.

Read full opinion at DAWN - Opinion; January 26, 2009

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War on Terror: Time to pull out?

DAVID Miliband’s assertion that the ‘war on terror’ was a mistake, together with Nato’s Secretary-General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer’s criticism of pro-American Afghan President Hamid Karzai clearly indicates a rift between Europe and America towards Afghanistan and Pakistan.

International relations and global realities have changed tremendously since 9/11. The war on Iraq has exposed the limits of American military might. Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghuraib exposed the moral bankruptcy of American regime which tremendously weakened American political power.

The resurgence of Taliban in Afghanistan is testing the commitment of International Security Assistance Forces. The conflict between Georgia and Russia and now between Europe and Russia over gas supplies has marked the return of a belligerent anti-western power to the international stage.

The Iraq war and the recent butchery of Gazan Muslims in Palestine have exposed the bias inherent in international institutions such as the United Nations towards the West and its interests. And, above all, the most severe economic crisis has hit the West and crippled its economy, shattering the core capitalist principles of free market economy.

All of these factors have weakened western powers and their ability to influence states like Pakistan. Now is the time for Pakistan to review its foreign policy and make radical changes in it. The challenge on the eastern front provides Pakistan a golden opportunity to make a case for pulling out from the self-destructive war on terror.

The Pakistani government has already indicated that it would pull out from the war on terror if India isn’t reined in by the international community. After the rift increasing between America and Europe over the war on terror, Pakistan should actually move beyond just sending signals.

DAWN - Letters; January 22, 2009
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