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Costly bargain: Pakistan spent $100 bn to fight terrorism in last 11-years

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By NewsGram Staff Writer 

New Delhi: Latest Pakistan Economic Survey of 2014-15 has revealed a shocking piece of information. The country spent around $100 bn (Rs. 6.4 lakh crore) between 2004-05 and 2014-15 to fight terrorism.

Based on current budget allocation, the sum could have sustained Pakistan’s education funds for 134 years to come.

The losses are direct and indirect. Of the $6.63 billion lost due to terrorist attacks in 2013-14, 38 per cent represented reduced tax collection and 30 per cent reduced foreign investment.

Pakistan contends that the heightened incidences of terrorism is a reaction to the conflict and instability in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks.

The US invasion of Afghanistan led to an increased influx of refugees into bordering Pakistan, which “witnessed a sudden spike in the frequency and scale of terrorist attacks”, according to the Economic Survey.

Pakistan’s economy is estimated to have grown 4.2 percent during 2014-15.

How terrorism disrupts business

Terrorism in Pakistan is driven by sectarian and ethnic factors. 54,960 people (including terrorists) have died since 2005, according to data released by South Asia Terrorism Portal(SATP), a resource from the New Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Management.

According to IndiaSpend, Pakistan had seen a 748 per cent increase in terrorism-related deaths over the past decade.

Terrorism has disrupted production cycles, delayed exports and increased business costs. “Pakistani products have gradually lost their market share to competitors,” the Survey said.

Pakistan is ranked 154th out of 162 countries, according to the 2015 Global Peace Index, a measure of unrest, published by the Institute for Economics & Peace, a think-tank based in Sydney.

The index judges peacefulness of a country based on 23 indicators under three broad themes: 1) safety and security in society; 2) domestic and international conflict and; 3) degree of militarisation.

With a rating of 3.049, Pakistan is ranked 8 places ahead of last-placed Syria (ranked 162nd) but 11 places behind neighbouring India (ranked 143rd).

Tribal areas the most violent

The Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Northwestern Pakistan are the country’s most violence-prone region, accounting for more than half of all terrorism-related deaths in 2014, according to SATP.

Sindh accounted for 21 percent of total deaths, followed by Balochistan with nearly 12 percent.

The FATA region is home to the violent Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), founded in 2007 and currently headed by Maulana Fazlullah.

The TTP is a different organisation from the Afghan Taliban, originally founded and supported by Pakistan in the 1990s to exert influence over Afghanistan.

TTP “was founded to fight (the) Pakistani establishment,” D. Suba Chandra, director of Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, said in a comment in The Hindu.

TTP has claimed responsibility for some of the most serious attacks in Pakistan, including that on an army school in Peshawar last year. More than 130 children died in that attack.

Terrorism and counter-terrorism

“This attack is a response to Zarb-e-Azb (sword of the prophet) military offensive and the killing of Taliban fighters and the harassment of their familie”,” TTP spokesperson Muhammad Khorasani had said last year.

The Pakistani Army launched Zarb-e-Azb on June 15, 2014 in retaliation for a deadly attack on Karachi airport that left 28 people (including 10 terrorists) dead.

The operation has led to the death of 2,763 militants over the past year, according to Major General Asim Bajwa, director general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations.

However, Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts have been selective as a US State Department report points out.

It says that the Pakistani military moved against domestically-focused groups, such as the TTP, while the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network leadership continued to find safe havens.

While the Pakistani military action only disrupted the activities of these groups, it did not target them directly, the US report said.

The report further states that Pakistan took no action against groups such as anti-India Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT), which continues to “operate, train, rally, propagandize and fund-raise in Pakistan”.

Terrorism has been a contentious issue between India and Pakistan. Pakistan accuses neighboring India of supporting separatists in Balochistan as well as other militant groups. Pakistani Defence Minister Khwaja Asif recently accused India of helping terrorist groups in the country to launch “heinous acts” and said that India “has designs against Pakistan”.

India, in turn, accuses Pakistan of being a state sponsor of terror, responsible for terrorist attacks in Kashmir and the rest of India – the most serious being the 26/11 attack on Mumbai.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Taliban And The U.S. Set To Meet in UAE

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians

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U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

A Pakistan-arranged meeting between U.S. and Taliban officials will be held Monday in the United Arab Emirates to push a political settlement to the war in Afghanistan.

The special representative for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, will lead the U.S. team at the talks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the gulf state, a senior Pakistani official privy to the development confirmed to VOA on Sunday.

The official, requesting anonymity, said Islamabad has facilitated the dialogue after President Donald Trump wrote to Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier this month seeking his cooperation in bringing the Taliban to the table for peace negotiations.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in a brief statement sent to VOA, has confirmed participation of its political negotiators in Monday’s meeting with American officials, but said that representatives of the host country, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia will also be in attendance.

Imran Khan, Taliban
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Nov. 21, 2018. VOA

Initially, it was Khan who disclosed on Friday that Pakistan-aided talks between U.S. and Taliban officials would take place on December 17, though he would not say where.

The Pakistani prime minister, while speaking in the northwestern city of Peshawar, explained his country has agreed to assist in Afghan peace efforts because Washington has changed its position by requesting help, instead of saying Islamabad is not doing enough, as U.S. leaders have previously insisted.

A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday hailed Khan’s remarks and support for a political reconciliation in the war-ravaged neighboring country.

“The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,” the spokesperson told VOA.

“Special Representative Khalilzad has met, and will continue to meet, with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan,” noted the U.S. embassy official.

taliban, afghanistan
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, right, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, takes part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

 

In his speech on Friday, Khan said that if peace were achieved in Afghanistan, his country will be the immediate beneficiary in terms of security, economic stability and regional connectivity.

Khalilzad, is visiting regional countries to gather support for Afghan peace talks. He is 14 days into an 18-day visit to the region and has already visited Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belgium.

Since taking office in September, the Afghan-born U.S. special envoy has held two meetings with the Taliban in Qatar, where the insurgent group operates its so-called “political office.”

But those talks have been for the sake of talks, say insurgent and Pakistani officials.

Demands, accusations

Pakistani officials privy to Khalilzad’s interaction with the Taliban have told VOA that until now no progress has been achieved because the insurgents adamantly demand “a date or timeframe” for all U.S. and NATO troops to withdraw from Afghanistan before the Taliban decides to participate in an intra-Afghan peace process.

Afghanistan, Taliban
Security forces inspect the site of a deadly blast in the center of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2018. VOA

 

Washington has long maintained Taliban leaders are sheltering in Pakistan with covert support from the country’s intelligence agency. Washington has been urging Islamabad to use its influence to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan and continue to pose serious battlefield challenges for U.S.-backed Afghan security forces.

Also Read: U.S. Welcomes Pakistan’s Actions Towards Peace in Afghanistan

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians, security forces, insurgents and more than 2,400 American soldiers, according to an American University study released recently.

The longest war effort in U.S. history has also cost Washington nearly one trillion dollars. The Taliban has expanded its insurgent activities and currently controls or hotly contests about half of Afghanistan. The conflict is said to have killed more Afghan civilians and security forces in 2018 than in any other year. (VOA)