UNITED NATIONS — The Hydra-headed challenge of global terrorism continues as the multi-faceted threat changes and mutates in response to increasingly effective counter-measures.
Few countries have been in the cross hairs of violence as has been Pakistan, so it should come as no surprise that in the Security Council’s urgent meeting to discuss “A Comprehensive Approach to Counter-Terrorism, “ featured Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who led the debate.
The meeting came on a day when:
* Unnamed terrorists bombed Syria’s Aleppo University killing 88 students, a week after 100 Pakistani civilians were killed in violent attacks.
* Al Qaida kidnapped over forty foreign nationals at a natural gas facility in Algeria.
* French military operations were being launched against Islamist Al Qaida-aligned rebels in the West African state of Mali.
“One lesson we have learned is that a lopsided or one-dimensional approach will not work as we try to defeat this hydra-headed monster of terrorism. This is truly a global threat. Our strategies and responses must also be global,” Minister Khar implored.
As a female Foreign Minister in a heavily Islamic Pakistani society, Hina Rabbani Khar through her presence poses a challenge to many of the militants. Educated as an economist at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst before becoming Foreign Minister, Khar presents the profile of a secular reformer, something loathed by fundamentalists.
Minister Khar stressed, “Terrorism is a serious threat to Pakistan. We have been one of the biggest victims of terrorism.” Pakistan suffers from Islamic fundamentalist violence, sectarianism, and violent spillover from the Afghan conflict.
“Pakistan’s comprehensive approach to counter-terrorism is based on Three D’s; deterrence, development and dialogue.” She added, “Development and security are interrelated.”
Khar offered an example, “Success of a counter-terrorist operation cannot be measured only by defeat of the terrorists. After successful operations in Swat we had to first absorb and then rehabilitate 2.2 million displaced persons, through a massive national effort.”
In separate comments at New York’s prestigious Asia Society, Khar derided criticism that Pakistan has failed to do enough to combat armed insurgencies which are often connected to neighboring Afghanistan. Conceding that “the seeds were sown thirty years back” (a reference to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) the ongoing spillover and cost from violence has “been a $75 billion direct cost” to Pakistan.
Addressing wider foreign policy issues, Khar stressed that Pakistan will try to “fix the fault lines” and reach out to India. Relating to the disputed region of Kashmir, long a flashpoint between both the nuclear armed powers, she recalled a sixty year history of conflict and cautioned “not fall victim to a hostile narrative.” The Minister pleaded for “dialogue and restraint” after a recent border clash stressing “Both India and Pakistan cannot afford conflict.”
Turning to Afghanistan and the wider context of the regional conflict Minister Khar stated, “We have suffered too much and gained too little.” She stated that 150,000 troops are deployed on the Pakistan/Afghan frontier. Seven thousand Pakistani troops and police and over 37,000 innocent civilians have fallen victim to terrorism.
During a dialogue with Time Magazine’s Joe Klein, in a question on Afghanistan, she became more circumspect and equivocal. Relating to the Afghan endgame, Khar stated “My region is more unstable,” and the “extremist mindset is gaining ground.”
“There have been gains, but how to sustain these gains?” More controversially, she stated the Islamabad government’s position that Afghan peace will come when all parties to the conflict compromise, “make them stakeholders” in the country. She did not mention Taliban militants by name.
The Minister restated the long-overlooked reality that Pakistan still houses three million Afghan refugees and few have returned home. Concerning her views on the massive amount of American aid to Pakistan, she described the results as “A mixed bag,” but said her country was grateful.
Serious political rifts have marred the once close political/military relationship between Washington and Islamabad in the past few years culminating in what many observers saw as Pakistan’s quasi-official complicity in the Osama bin Laden’s hideout in the country literally in the shadow of the military academy, before being killed by the U.S. military.
Many diplomatic and military observers, have cited Pakistan’s unofficial or surreptitious support for many Taliban and fundamentalist factions despite the danger posed by these very same groups to Pakistan state security.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asserted boldly, “Nothing can justify terrorism — ever. No grievance, no goal, no cause can excuse terrorist acts.” He added “Terrorism festers where conflicts are endemic.” Sadly it appears Pakistan is a prime territory.
John J. Metzler is a U.N. correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He writes weekly for WorldTribune.com.