President Trump’s speech on South Asia comes at a very important time for the area and the people. However, many listeners may have missed the nuances and the urgency, because the speech must be understood in context of the history of South Asia.
Being from Pakistan, I could relate to much of what Trump said, and here is how I understood what the president was saying:
Since 1947 (when Pakistan was created) until today, it has not made up its mind whether it wants a Benazir Bhutto-style democracy or a Zia ul Haq style military-mullah alliance
The result of this indecision is rampant corruption and failed institutions. For example, even today there is lack of electricity in Pakistan as well as a huge water shortage
Being a nuclear power puts Pakistan in a sensitive geo-political position
There is no doubt – from the common man to the peasant to a general or the ruling elite – that Pakistan supports terrorist organizations through its intelligence agency the ISI
President Trump named 12 of these terror groups but in fact there might be more. Since 9/11 it has become obvious that Pakistan is playing a double game. Some experts call Pakistan a “frenemy” – a friendly enemy.
Let us understand what the reality on the ground really is:
China is expanding its tremendous financial and physical presence in Pakistan by buying out its ports so they will have strategic access in both commerce and the military
To make matters worse, this is being done in Baluchistan (the largest province area-wise) which has a separatist movement underway
Meanwhile, Pakistan has soured its relationship with three of its four neighbours – Iran, Afghanistan and India
To maintain a global strategic balance, it is imperative for the US to win the war in Afghanistan while keeping Pakistan under check and encouraging trade and logistic support between India and Afghanistan
The Pakistan-Afghan border is porous, which poses a huge challenge. Still, Pakistan has to stop providing a safe haven for terrorists
President Trump is going to leave it to his generals to strategize this new phase
Winning the war in Afghanistan means leaving a stable country once the terrorism has been rooted out
Bush went in to destroy Al Qaeda, but since he did not fully recognize how Al Qaeda had infiltrated all walks of life in Afghanistan, he was not successful
Obama beefed up the military, but he had Islamists influencing him so he was not successful
If President Trump (as he says) leaves it o his generals to get rid of the terrorists, he has a chance to bring stability to the country – leaving the “nation-building” to the Afghans.
Here’s hoping this new initiative will bring peace to this region plagued by turmoil.
Raheel Raza is an adviser to Clarion Project. She is an award-winning author, journalist and filmmaker on the topics of jihad and sharia. She is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and an activist for human rights, gender equality, and diversity.