Here are a few facts about Pakistan's role in the "war on terror" since Sept 11, 2001:
First, none of the terrorists who carried out the 911 attacks on the United States were from Pakistan.
Second, the former Pakistani President Musharraf
condemned the 911 attacks and quickly allied his country with the United States in the coalition to fight the US-led "global war on terror".
Third, Pakistanis continue to pay the heaviest price
among the US coalition partners ten years after 911.
Would Pakistanis have been better off if President Musharraf had kept his country neutral after President George W. Bush delivered the following ultimatum to the entire world: "You are either with us, or against us?" Before answering this key question, let us examine the heavy toll the "war on terror" has taken on Pakistan:
1. Before 9/11, Pakistan had suffered just one suicide bombing — a 1995 attack on the Egyptian Embassy in the capital, Islamabad, that killed 15 people. In the last decade, suicide bombers have struck Pakistani targets more than 290 times, killing at least 4,600 people and injuring 10,000, according to data reported by the Los Angeles Times
2. Pakistan averaged nearly six terrorist attacks of various kinds each day in 2010, according to a report by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies
3. As of April 25, 2011, the Pakistani military has confirmed that since 2004, 2,795 of its soldiers have been killed in the war and another 8,671 have been wounded. There have also been 21,672 civilian casualties (at least 7,598 of these were killed) since September 11, 2001, up to February 18, 2010, according to the military.
4. Pakistan's current leadership says that the alliance with the U.S. against Islamic militants has destroyed the country's investment climate, caused widespread unemployment and ravaged productivity. The government estimates the alliance has cost it $67 billion in direct losses over the last 10 years.
5. There have been incalculable indirect costs of massive war-related societal divisions and disruptions caused by acceleration of internal displacements and migration and proliferation of guns, drugs and violence in major urban centers of Pakistan since 911, the most striking being the increasingly destabilizing violence in Karachi.
Now let's turn to the "what-if" analysis of the road not taken by Pakistan after 911 and ponder the following:
1. Would Pakistanis have been better off by snubbing the world's sole superpower which Musharraf described as a "wounded bear" after 911 attacks?
2. Would Pakistan not have been isolated as a pariah state by the United States with support from the international community by slapping the most stringent international sanctions imaginable?
3. Would Pakistan not have faced the combined military might of the US and India if it had not allowed American troops on its territory to fight Taliban in Afghanistan after 9/11 terror attacks?
4. Would parts of Pakistan not have been heavily bombed into "stone age" with some parts of the country occupied by US military to facilitate NATO supply lines into Afghanistan?
As mightily as Pakistan has suffered at the hands of the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists and their affiliates since 911, I do believe that Pakistanis would have been much worse off if Musharraf had not sided with the United States when asked after the worst terror attacks on US mainland.
As the only nation in the history of the world to have used nuclear weapons against civilian targets, I have to agree with Stratfor's George Friedman's characterization of America as "barbaric"
, particularly when it feels threatened by any external force. I believe the United States would not have hesitated one bit in using all of its political, economic and military might against nuclear-armed Pakistan had Musharraf's decision been any different.
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