Prior to coming to power Prime Minister Imran Khan foreshadowed the futility of intervening in Afghanistan and engaging militarily in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Dubbed as a graveyard of nations that has brought great powers to their knees, Afghanistan has stood resilient in the wake of multiple invasions in its territory.
The US’ plight after its twenty years of engagement in Afghanistan and its urgency to withdraw its troops highlights its devastation after the Vietnam War in the 1960s which led to the economic meltdown and inflation in the US.
The US war on terror which had cost US taxpayers $2 trillion dollars is ironic because the former is reduced to sign a withdrawal deal with the Taliban they set out to oust in 2001.
Warrior’s Race: Does the past speak of the future?
PM Imran Khan predicted years ago that siding with the US in its war against terror would be destructive for the region and Pakistan in particular. If history is the guide, Afghanistan had stood resilient and relentless in the wake of imminent invasions in its territory. Due to their firm narrative on Jihad against foreign forces, British powers and the Soviet Union got stuck in the quagmire of their acts of aggression.
Imran Khan explicated this aspect in his book “Warriors Race” which he wrote on tribal areas. He highlighted that for 80 years British forces remained stuck in the tribal quicksand and were forced to leave without achieving their objectives of subjugating the tribal people.
Afghan Taliban's Leader Mullah Omar had said in 2001:
"ALLAH has promised us victory, and Bush has promised us defeat. We'll see which promise is more truth".#MullahOmar #Taliban #Afghanistan #ashrafghanitraitor pic.twitter.com/zPek3DXlKY
— Rai Mobeen Ishaq (@raimobeenishaq) July 12, 2021
He highlighted the fact that bombing in the tribal areas was counterproductive as it resulted in emboldening the jihadist freedom fighters. By drawing parallels with the Pakistan army’s engagement in Waziristan during the US war on Terror period, he highlighted the repercussions of this move.
The subsequent suicide attacks on GHQ, naval, and airbase by the militants in tribal areas marred the international credibility of Pakistan and tore apart its social and political fabric. The Pakistan army was perceived as mercenaries of the US forces and the resultant aura of distrust and chaos led to a massive loss to the economy and human lives.
Disengaging from the US war on terror
Imran Khan proposed that Pakistan’s disengagement from the US war on terror is a viable option on the table since the country has suffered drastically on the domestic and foreign policy front. By being a key player in War against terror due to its geography, it has faced the influx of refugees from Afghanistan along with cross-border smuggling of weapons and spill-over of militancy.
Furthermore, even though US aid had been the need of an hour at that time, it came at a cost because drone attacks by US forces in tribal regions led to infrastructural destruction and aggravating socioeconomic loss. Thus, the best way forward in the wake is to deconstruct the notion of Jihad which is responsible for dividing the country into sectarian and ethnic lines.
De-weaponizing Pakistan and strengthening the police institution to structure the law and order situation is conducive for lasting peace and solidarity in the country. Imran khan iterates that the country would stand firm on the rhetoric that no militancy would spring from its soil and for this the focus needs to shift from conflict to co-existence.
Pakistan’s geostrategic location
Imran Khan explained that South Asia will be the harbinger of trade and prosperity in the 21st century. Thus, Pakistan due to its ideal geostrategic position, with Stephen Cohen states, “Although history has been unkind with Pakistan, its geo-strategy is its benefit” can play a key role in forging economic connectivity by connecting regions under a win-win situation.
From Prime Minister Khan's address to the inaugural session of the Islamabad Security Dialogue
PM Khan on the importance of peace in Afghanistan, its benefits to the region & Pakistan.
From geostrategic to geoeconomics #IslamabadDialogue#PMatIslamabadDialogue
— Mehr Tarar (@MehrTarar) March 17, 2021
In this respect, the PTI government’s priority goals rest on ruling out corruption, ensuring equitable progress domestically, eradicating poverty, and investing in human development. He notes that countries such as Singapore and Turkey were able to reach economic progress through strong leadership, moral authority, and investing in human potential. Thus, Singapore ranks as the most competitive economy in the world and Turkey’s GDP is second to China.
Leadership with strong moral authority
Therefore, Pakistan needs strong leadership infused with a moral authority that strives to eradicate corruption which is the mother of all ills. Corruption creates poverty and the gulf between rich and poor.
Thus, there is a need to catch big fish to end corruption by creating a culture of accountability, strengthen rule of law, document the economy, and reform the taxation system which is the key source of revenue for the country.
Read more: How India lost Afghanistan to Pakistan?
Imran Khan continued that his government’s narrative would remain firm on fostering peaceful co-existence with neighboring countries based on mutual interdependency and latent power in foreign relations. By keeping Pakistan’s national interest at the forefront, it strives to ensure economic development over and above being conflicts and being party to anyone’s war.