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External players will continue to exploit Pakistan’s internal security threats if left unmanaged

“The security challenges to Pakistan in the form of religious extremism, terrorism and radicalization, are internal and real, which if not managed through a comprehensive security policy will continue to be exploited by the external players. Once the internal security issues are resolved, the external links of the miscreants, militants and nationalist insurgents will cease to exist or reduced to minimum”. Mr. Muhammad Amir Rana, Director Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) argued while responding to a question in a session on “Security Landscape of Pakistan” held at PIPS office, Islamabad on 17 April 2009. The dialogue session was held in honour of a Norwegian delegation comprising Jan Egeland, Director Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and former United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, and Miss Laila Bukhari, Research Fellow at NUPI.Professor Shabana Fayyaz, Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Mr. Imtiaz Gul, Chairman, Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Miss Safiya Aftab, Research Fellow at Strategic and Economic Policy Research (SEPR), Mr. David Hansen, PhD Candidate at University of Oslo, and the PIPS staff members were also part of the discussion.

Mr. Muhammad Azam, a PIPS researcher, introduced PIPS to the participants whereas Mr. Safdar Sial presented his paper on “Understanding Conflicts in NWFP and FATA”. Mr. Amir Rana explained the genesis and evolution of the jihadi and sectarian outfits in Pakistan and their current status and threats they pose. Responding to a question raised by Jan Egeland on how these jihadi elements meet with their financial expenditures and what are the domestic factors behind their growth, Mr. Amir Rana said that the legitimate charity from the masses is the primary source to generate fund which goes to religious parties, organizations and seminaries, and ultimately most of it, if not all, goes to jihadi groups. The illegitimate money is the other main source. He further elaborated that these organization and groups have the potential to survive without the help of external forces, even in the case if the government cuts down their illegitimate sources to acquire funds.

Responding to second part of the question [on domestic factors], Mr. Imtiaz asserted that we cannot neglect the history particularly the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan and the role of Pakistan’s government and external forces. “But the rising unemployment, very poor governance, poor justice delivery, poverty and lack of good education, they all-combined have pushed Pakistan toward instability and chaos. When poor people will not have sufficient resources to send their children to public sector schools obliviously as a result they would prefer to send their children to religious schools (seminaries) where they will be able to get free education”. Ms Shabana argued that a particular state of mind of the government has been another major domestic factor. “Almost all the regimes have used religion for the political legitimacy and for their own survival. In the past sectarian, political and religious elements were used as a security force by the governments, mostly by military regimes, to counter their oppositional forces”, she pointed out.

Responding to a question raised during the discussion, “Is it real paranoia that India wants to destabilize Pakistan”?, Mr. Imtiaz said it is imperative to understand the historical relationship between India and Pakistan to answer it. Mr. Amir Rana opined that we have a long history of covert wars in South Asia, particularly India and Pakistan. “But the real issue is internal stability of a country. Internally destabilized and insecure, you always offer opportunities to neighbouring countries to meddle into your affairs and get advantage of it. It is happening in FATA and Balochistan, in Pakistan today. We (India and Pakistan) inherited few problems and disputes from colonial period including Kashmir and border issues. But the countries have failed to resolve their issues and disputes and, now, the burden has been shifted on the international community to get involved to resolve their conflict”, he said.

War on terrorism, Indian presence in Afghanistan and possible scenarios of Pak-America relations were also debated extensively. Mr. Rana was of the view that USA and the other powers should try to establish a neutral regime in Afghanistan, sans Indian dominance, which is not the concern of Pakistan only but also of Iran, Central Asian States and China. Miss Safiya divulged upon the fact the Pak-America relations have always been mired by objective conflicts in the region.

Mr. Imtiaz said, while giving his concluding remarks, that the international community must play its role to resolve conflicts in the region, especially in Pakistan. This assistance should also be to build democracy and state institutions in the country.