Dead Osama bin Laden's (OBL) ghost has struck again claiming over 80 lives in Charsaddah. As a consequence of May 2 Abbottabad episode such incidents are not unexpected. Pakistani nation, its leadership and military shall have to brace themselves more for such tragedies. In normal circumstances elimination of OBL, should have been a cause for relief since he symbolised global terrorism. The UN Security Council resolutions 1267 and 1373 provided the necessary legal framework for taking OBL to account. This objective was achieved on 2nd May 2011.
However, within hours of the operation the media onslaught against Pakistan left bitter taste in the mouth. Was it a deliberate attempt to malign Islamabad to pressurise it to "do more" or was it aimed at diverting the attention from the main debate. After OBL's killing, Pakistan is in debate as to how he could live in a garrison town without the knowledge of Pakistan's security forces. Reactions to it in the media are varied. Analysts have even been suggesting snapping of relations. Many foreign experts have claimed vindication of their views about the duplicitous role of our agencies with regard to al-Qaeda. Adversaries have hastened to re-orchestrate their mantra of we-told-you-so in order to gain political capital out of OBL episode.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani's address in the National Assembly recently was aimed at taking the nation into confidence and to bring the multifacets of the issue before the parliament so that the collective wisdom of the nation is garnered in finding a solution to the challenges that have emerged as a consequence of Abbotabad episode. Without repeating the erstwhile Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and advent of Arab Jihadists as major players, Prime Minister rightly said that Pakistan alone cannot be held to account for flawed policies and blunders of others.
Nevertheless an inquiry has been instituted into the matter under a serving General. It is also under discussion in the Parliament and there is no reason not to expect a positive outcome and a well coordinated response, especially a united resolve to defend ourselves. There is, however, a need to look at it dispassionately and address the challenges in keeping with the national interests. It is ironic that instead of taking a sigh of relief over OBL's demise it has become an object of Pakistan-bashing and targeting its security apparatus of smear campaign. Our friends conveniently ignored that some 40 of the key al-Qaeda operatives including Chief Operating Officer Faraj al-Libbi and Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the master-planner were captured by ISI. (Overall 248 Al-Qaeda operatives were arrested and handed over to the US by Pakistan).
Pakistan's operations against extremists and terrorists in Swat, Malakand, South Waziristan, Mohmand and Bajour Agencies have successfully defeated the Taliban phenomenon in the country and proved those predictions wrong which apprehended Talibanization as an "existential threat" to Pakistan.
It is a tribute to democracy that despite innumerable challenges Pakistani state has emerged victorious whether it concerns Swat operation, disastrous floods or terrorist attacks against innocent people. Islamabad's success against extremists is the single most astounding feat of the democratic order which brought about awareness for unity amongst the masses against the scourge of terrorism. In fact democracy has emerged as an invincible phenomenon that shelters and protects its institutions from external pressures.
Any attempt to malign Pakistan or its institutions at this crucial juncture would amount to harming Pakistan's fragile democratic institutions that enjoy legitimacy within and outside. During Gen. Musharraf's dictatorship people refused to own the fight against extremists. Advent of a democratic order in 2008, brought about a positive change and ignited a will among the masses to grapple with terrorism. Tables have been turned and our armed forces are singeing the beards of the terrorists in their dens. Now the entire nation owns the war against the obscurantist forces. Any truck with them is against our political ideology and our actions enjoy the support of the masses. We have sacrificed a governor and a federal minister for democratic ideals.
Our leader Mohatarma Benazir Bhutto offered the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of democracy and to fight extremism. Any doubts about Pakistan's sincerity in the fight against extremism would be an insult to the sacrifices rendered by its people and security forces particularly 30000 civilians and 5000 security personnel. Any unilateral action by any one will have disastrous consequences when our armed forces are compelled to pre-empt. Blame game would amount to maligning Pakistan's security institutions. It will also discourage them to offer their cooperation in a comprehensive manner.
It must be realised that OBL's death must have caused panic in al-Qaeda's ranks. This makes it imperative upon all stakeholders to unite. Most importantly, when the coalition forces are preparing for a drawdown in Afghanistan, any talk of tensions between the US and Pakistan should be the last thing to think about. It rather needs retrospection. We have come a long way in the war against terrorism. We should realise that a paradigm shift has taken place in Islamabad in defeating terrorists. The painstaking sacrifices have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. It must not be allowed to be turned into failure. Time is running out. It need not be wasted in treating the symptoms. Whole-hearted international efforts would be needed to effectively cure the dreadful disease caused by terrorism.
(The writer is Pakistan's High Commissioner in London)