Let­ters

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Putting a ru­pee fig­ure on the tens of thou­sands of lives lost to the mil­i­tant men­ace is im­pos­si­ble. We do, how­ever, have some idea of how much money has been spent fight­ing mil­i­tancy. Ac­cord­ing to re­cent tes­ti­mony given by Fi­nance Min­is­ter Rana Afzal to the Se­nate, the state has spent close to Rs300 bil­lion in our war against ter­ror­ism in the last decade. A por­tion of this spend­ing was sup­posed to be cov­ered by the US but of the $132 mil­lion that was pledged for coun­tert­er­ror­ism ef­forts we have only been given $111 mil­lion. Now that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has sus­pended most se­cu­rity aid to Pak­istan, the coun­try will have to bear an even greater cost in fight­ing mil­i­tancy.

Much of the money has been spent in the form of military op­er­a­tions like Zarb-e-Azb and in procur­ing equipment, with a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion also al­lo­cated to the re­build­ing of Fata and the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of those who were dis­placed by the fight­ing. For all our suc­cesses in de­feat­ing mil­i­tant groups, we should not ex­pect any sig­nif­i­cant drops in counter-ter­ror ex­pen­di­tures in the next decade. Mil­i­tant groups have shown that they are still ca­pa­ble of strik­ing at any time. If any­thing, Pak­istan may have to spend even more on se­cu­rity for all po­ten­tial mil­i­tant tar­gets. As high as the Rs300 bil­lion fig­ure is, it does not amount to even a frac­tion of the price the coun­try has paid in fight­ing the war against mil­i­tancy.

The Pak­istan Eco­nomic Sur­vey for 2016-17 es­ti­mated that the loss of life, dam­age to the coun­try’s in­fra­struc­ture and lost eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties since 9/11 cost Pak­istan’s econ­omy an as­tound­ing $123 bil­lion. This rep­re­sents nearly 40 per­cent of the coun­try’s total GDP, giv­ing a scale of just how badly we have been hurt by mil­i­tancy. This fig­ure alone, more than any pres­sure from the US or any in­ter­na­tional re­solve, should steel our re­solve to be rid of mil­i­tancy once and for all. Any no­tion that ac­tors in the state may have of di­vid­ing mil­i­tant groups into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cat­e­gories needs to be re­jected. Ev­ery mil­i­tant group that has the abil­ity to op­er­ate on Pak­istani ter­ri­tory – even if they are con­cen­trat­ing on Afghanistan – will even­tu­ally turn its guns on us. The les­son we should have learned from the 1980s and 1990s that turn­ing a blind eye to or even sup­port­ing mil­i­tant groups as a way of ad­vanc­ing what we be­lieve to be our in­ter­ests is not a sus­tain­able policy. Even­tu­ally it will end up cost­ing the coun­try dearly, both in lives lost and money squan­dered.

Ab­dul Riaz,

La­horeK

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