Trump's Policy on Pakistan Is No Different than Obama's
By Anila Ali
Irvine, CA

When President Obama took over office in 2008, he gave a glorious outreach speech to the Muslim world. Muslims felt that the Middle East crisis would finally be resolved, the people of Kashmir would finally have the right of self-determination, and there would be better understanding of Islam through a President who has had an association with the Muslim world. However, the actions that followed, showed otherwise.
He began by ordering a troop surge, followed by a bombardment of 353 plus drones killing civilians and suspected militants with great impunity. And then followed it by pressuring Pakistan, not calling out Pakistan openly but not mincing words either to ‘do more on the war on terrorism.'
Much to the disappointment of Pakistanis, Obama Administration lumped Afghanistan and Pakistan together under the tutelage of one envoy and one policy, AFPAK, when both countries had entirely different needs and not separating them was an indicator of a lack of understanding of the region.
Let us be clear. Pakistan is not Afghanistan. Pakistan is a nation with a thriving and vocal civil society, although embryonic and occasionally marred by legitimatization and state dynamics, one that has proven to be more dedicated and organized than before. The recent judicial decision that led to the resignation of a sitting prime minister, is proof of a country whose civil society has finally found its voice. Pakistan also has a free press and functional democratic institutions which the US has invested millions of dollars into helping establish from the ground up. On the other hand, Afghanistan is a nation destroyed by years of wars, first the Russian invasion, then the US led intervention and ravaged by Taliban, and suicide bombings.
The fact that Afghanistan has vociferously blamed Pakistan for attacks on its soil by Jihadi groups in Pakistan was to Pakistanis a reflection of Indianinfluence in Afghanistan. Although, Pakistan and Afghanistanhad similar goals, they both wanted to stop terrorism, neither made eradication of Jihadi terrorists, a top priority.
Pakistan provoked by India's increased presence in Afghanistan,decided to counter the balance by keeping certain Jihadi outfits, although outlawing many. It was only after the Peshawar terrorist attack on the Army Public School in December 2014, killing scores of children, that the Pakistan military took a decisive action against the Taliban and safe havens, by asuccessful two-year military campaign called Zarb-e-Azb. If the Obamaadministration had included China as a key partner tostabilize the region,things may have been different. Muslims, hoped that being a man of peace, Obama would have brought in a regional power such as China to maintain the equilibrium in a volatile region.
Fast forward to today- the policy that President Trump has proposed is more of the same. But the fact is that there is a clear acknowledgement from Secretary Rex Tillerson of Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror. “Pakistan has suffered greatly from terrorism and can be an important partner in our shared goals of peace and stability in the region,” and “we look to Pakistan to take decisive action against militant groups based in Pakistan that are a threat to the region.”
Any successful policy on Pakistan must include China, which has a vested interest in Pakistan and has suffered from the wrath of the Jihadi outfits in Pakistan as well. Pakistan has to put Pakistan first and take action against the radical Jihadi outfits that are killing its own people, rather than analyzing ‘more of the same policy.' What America wants is for Pakistan to stop providing safehaven for terrorists. So do the majority ofPakistanis. Terrorism affects Pakistanis and if Pakistan can acknowledge the enemy within, and put Pakistan's national interests first, then there will be no need for anyone, US or Afghanistan, to point fingers. However, Pakistanis also know that when their military establishment wants to completely get rid of terrorism, it will.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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