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#647, 26 November 2001
Pakistan’s Role in War against Terrorism: Costs and Benefits
Chintamani Mahapatra
Jawaharlal Nehru University

The US-led international coalition’s war efforts against terrorism have destroyed the military machine of the Taliban forces in Afghanistan , but the ouster of the Taliban from the seat of power has raised several questions about the country’s future.



In this complex war against terrorism, Pakistan was able to make some gains, economically and diplomatically, but appears to have lost its control over Afghan affairs. Pakistan , which created, nurtured and sustained the Taliban Government, has no choice but to join the US against the Taliban. 



By doing that, Musharraf was able to keep Pakistan outside the potential targets of the coalition war. Pakistan came close to being declared as a state sponsor of terrorism with US intelligence fully aware of Pakistan ’s role in training terrorists. It was therefore probable that Pakistan could be targeted by the US campaign against terrorism.



Secondly, Pakistan was averse to any Indo-US joint war efforts against terrorism. Pakistani fears were reflected in its response to the terror attacks in the US . When Indian Prime Minister offered India ’s unconditional support to the US , President Musharraf announced his country’s “unstinted support”. By making this announcement, Musharraf cleared the road for closer US-Pakistan ties to prevent closer Indo-US cooperation from developing.



Thirdly, the events of September 11 brought some economic relief for Pakistan which was in the throes of a massive economic crisis, having accumulated a massive $40 billion foreign debt. Pakistan got a new lease of life as America prepared for a sustained, prolonged and all-out war against terrorism. Washington lifted its sanctions against Pakistan and wrote off, along with Japan , $1 billion of in loans. Concerned about the illicit supply of arms and ammunition to the Taliban from Pakistan , the US announced in early November $73 million in emergency aid to Islamabad to strengthen security on the country’s porous borders with Afghanistan .



Pakistan was also promised helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, night vision goggles, and communication equipment. A few days later, on the eve of President Pervez Musharaf’s meeting with the US President in New York, Washington pledged $1 billion in aid to Pakistan —doubling the earlier proposal to give $500 million. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) decided around the same time to increase assistance to the country from the planned $626 million to $950 million. The President of ADB said that the Bank would substantially enhance its assistance to Pakistan for various projects to cope with the Afghan refugee crisis. And now the UNDP has joined the ADB for enhancing its economic assistance to Islamabad .



The fourth gain for Pakistan came in ending the country’s international isolation. The Chagai series of nuclear tests, Kargil misadventure and military coup had led to Pakistan ’s international isolation. The various Commonwealth Committees had kept Pakistan out of its meetings. Pakistan had also lost sympathy in the US Congress, which was to lift some of the sanctions against only India before the terrorists struck the World Trade Centre and Pentagon.



When the US bombing of Afghanistan began, Pakistan found itself as a frontline state in the war against terrorism. The isolation of the country ended with visits to Islamabad by Japanese, British, Australian and American leaders and high officials. During his recent six-nation trip abroad, Musharraf received praise for his role in the war against terrorism at every stop.



While Pakistan gained these benefits, the fall of the Taliban regime in Kabul and the entry of the Northern Alliance forces into the Afghan capital came as a shock. This happened hours after President George Bush had assured Musharraf against such a possibility. It is clear that the US is no longer taking Pakistani advice on Afghan affairs. Its role in the formation of the next government in Kabul will be limited. Islamabad is yet to come to terms with this new development, which is reflected in Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar’s statement that Islamabad has not yet de-recognised the Taliban Government; Pakistan’s recognition or de-recognition hardly matters.



Given the fluidity of the ground situation, it is premature to draw any conclusion on the long-term consequences of the current developments. But the fact remains that while Pakistan had made some economic and diplomatic gains, it’s political and security interests have been adversely affected.  


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