Borders should not be a means to wage war or to expand territories. No conquests. No capturing of capitals. No threatening but the will to resolve issues peacefully for peace brings prosperity.
War brings destruction, creates hate and a perpetual erosion of human values. When we talk of open borders, we do not sideline the problems, what we think is the economic interaction of a magnitude where interdependence will become a compulsion for both Pakistan and India to find acceptable and honourable solution to their problems.
We have lived with the conflicts and wars and war-like conditions so far and did not achieve anything other than instability and uncertainty in all fields. So, why not give the other and better option a chance. And given the conditions we are in, why not give ourselves and our generations a chance.
GIVE PEACE A CHANCE
by Abdul Baqi
Though we have been living in an abnormal environment, since our very beginning as a nation 62 years ago; never before were we as aware of ourselves as we are today. What we should have done or not is clear to us today, and we have certainly started doing different things.
Yet, the impressions of past are not allowing some of us to accept the change. Almost all politico-religious parties one way or the other are stressing on halting the military operation. They want the government to start dialogue with the militants again. The other job of the government that has earned it opposition is the trade agreement with Afghanistan. Many writers and analysts are warning the government against the bad outcome that would result if the trade agreement includes India.
The military operation was the last instrument left with the government after the Swat agreement failed to materialize due to the rigidity shown by the local Taliban on everything mutually agreed upon. They wanted to implement their own Shariah through their own Qazis, their own administration. They had also marched into the adjoining areas after ‘conquering’ Swat. Besides, they had started speaking with utmost contempt against the constitution and democracy. If this was allowed to take place, it would have meant Talibanization of Pakistan within months. All this was enough to shake not only Pakistan but the entire world. And all this was enough to give logic to the military operation. An abnormal opposition could not be tackled otherwise.
The militants have made life miserable for all of us and our soldiers are sacrificing their lives to save us from both, the militants and miseries. The war could have been avoided had the militants behaved, but the question is how long can the militants behave. Those who are unaware of the on ground as well as world realities and are carrying guns on their shoulders cannot behave. We are all worried about the situation and its future dynamics.
We are definitely gaining ground and our future will be of peace and development, yet not many among us and in the world are as hopeful as they should have been after watching our recent operational performance. Why? This is perhaps due to our past. But this time a unique harmony is prevailing between the ruling political parties and defence forces. Both are determined to eradicate militancy and religious extremism. We did not tackle the Afghan refugee problem wisely. But more than anything else we are seen as a country whose borders are not safe for travel and trade. Unfortunately, our western borders are turbulent too.
It is no doubt a big tragedy that millions of innocent people are suffering. Displacement of one-and-a-half million persons is one outcome of the operation; the other is that those who are staying behind would live no better. They will remain hostage to the militants and thunder of anti-militant guns till the war ends. The operation will end a menace and that indeed will be the nicest thing that will happen to Pakistan. However, if the operation continues for a long time, it will create many problems unless the displaced and affected persons are given extraordinary attention. It is a difficult job that requires not only commitment but also billions of rupees. The provincial government of the besieged province has appealed for Rs10 billion help. The provincial minister in charge has said that if the centre does not come forward, the provincial government will stop development projects and divert funds to meet the requirements of the refugees. No matter how it can be done and how much will it cost as all the children of the refugees should be admitted to the schools and also in boarding houses where available.
About the adult refugees much more is to be done. We must not repeat the mistakes that we made while caring for the Afghan refugees.
Now let us turn to the basics, to the western borders, which were beauty of our existence as a nation state. The worst that we did to ourselves is that we turned them into a barrier partly at the behest of the Americans and also due to our own policies. Had our border been open from the beginning, we would have known much earlier that the Russian threat of reaching warm waters was nothing but a myth. We would have also seen that relations among the nations and various segments within the nations depend mostly on economic interaction.
Had our borders been open, it would have opened a trade route from East Pakistan to India to Afghanistan to USSR to Europe; and we would have been living in a different Pakistan, in a different region and also in a different world. There would have been no militants and quite less miseries around. We would have been living in a prosperous and progressive Pakistan.
We are not talking about the toll that we would have collected on the goods passing through our borders. The open borders would have engaged us in a huge economic activity having more than a million dimensions.
First of all it would have meant that so many conflicts that we had acquired or inherited would have been resolved and the unresolved ones could have been resolved through peaceful means.
The one example in this regard that should make the opponents of the border trade wiser is the energy crisis we are facing and will keep on facing if we do not make our borders peaceful and open. The agreement means connecting to an energy rich region also. It means connecting ourselves to the future.
Simply extend your imagination to a point in time where thousands of trucks carrying cargo will pass through our borders and see for yourself what change it will bring about.
Having written about the benefits of open borders we must realise that the opponents of regional trade do have a point to sell. They are not against a trade agreement but they simultaneously want resolution of small and big problems that we have with India.
Extremists on both sides of the border would want to treat each other as “dushman” for ever. But this concept has to die down and die down it must. Relations between countries are neither a matter of love nor of hate, its a matter of mutual benefits, as between two friends who share the toils of commonalities together and benfit..
The pro-agreement people are not sidelining the problems, what they think and their thinking is right in the sense that economic interaction of that magnitude where interdependency will become a compulsion will by need compel both Pakistan and India to find acceptable and honourable solution to their problems. We have lived with the conflicts and wars and war-like conditions so far and did not achieve anything other than instability and uncertainty in all fields. So, why not give the other and better option a chance. And given the conditions we are in, why not give ourselves and our generations a chance.
The writer is a defence and political analyst based in Islamabad.