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Daily Times Editorial 25 July 2020

Hello, Dhaka


Full marks to Prime Minister Imran Khan for taking the initiative in breaking the ice with Bangladesh. Such gestures of statesmanship can and should go a long way in normaliing relations between countries estranged due to reasons buried deep in the past. While it is true that the animosity of the past cannot be easily forgotten, and a lot of bad memories tend to erupt at the mere mention of Bangladesh, it is also imperative that we understand that both survival and prosperity demand a confident, forward looking march into the future. The problems of the past now serve as lessons for us. And if we cannot learn enough from them to take the right steps for the future, then we are not learning anything at all.
It was precisely this distance, and of course a lot of other things, that enabled India to drive a wedge so easily between Islamabad and Dhaka. Every now and then, especially at multilateral forums like SAARC, Bangladesh would easily do India’s bidding and frustrate Pakistan just because its interests were aligned with New Delhi’s over a common target. But now regional dynamics are changing. India’s own high-headedness and the Modi administration’s tendency to push allies and take their loyalties for granted has resulted, among other things, in visible cracks in the coalition between India and Bangladesh. And just when Dhaka is realising the many costs of doing business with Delhi in the present setting, and moving away, the time is right for Pakistan to begin the process of not just healing old wounds but also forging a new friendship.
The people of Pakistan and Bangladesh share far more than just a bitter past. Now the two countries must look to build a lasting friendship based on cultural and economic ties. They should explore and exploit their trade potential. Once governments and people of both countries see that their lives will improve by being friendly to one another, in terms of profits from trade, etc, they will automatically want to build on the foundations. And Prime Minister Imran Khan’s phone call can go a long way in forming that foundation. The history of the world has often been pleasantly influenced by bright ideas of forward looking statesmen. With his phone call, Imran Khan has shown that he understands what is at stake, especially the danger of not letting go of a bad past.


Worsening security situation


The worsening security situation needs to be arrested before any more damage is done. After a flurry of terrorist attacks in Balochistan the focus of the enemy recently shifted to Parachinar, which shows the old pattern is emerging again. Clearly the old nexus, where local terrorist elements received support and funding from foreign intelligence agencies, is trying to get active once again. That local security agencies recently busted an Indian spy cell in the country lends further proof to such suspicions. The Pakistani military did a fantastic job of breaking the back of militancy in the country only recently, after it had taken close to 80,000 lives. So these sporadic attacks must be stopped right now, before the enemy manages to gather any momentum.
Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) will no doubt immediately fall back on the National Action Plan (NAP). The main focus, as pointed out in the document, should be on streamlining communication between the few dozen agencies that collect and receive sensitive information. That is extremely important because the more pieces of the puzzle that are in front of the eyes of those who must take action to protect the state, the higher the chances of them taking action at the right time and place. After all the trouble that the government has gone through to meet the threat posed from the coronavirus pandemic – which could well have bankrupted the country – Pakistan simply cannot afford any unnecessary problems on the security front. Not only would that put a lot of innocent lives in danger it would also wreck the economy with all sorts of investors, local and foreign, heading for the departure lounge.
Nobody wants to live through those few years of carnage all over again. That is why it is of the utmost importance that this evil be nipped in the bud right now. Thankfully Pakistan’s security forces are as good as they come, and they have always protected the country successfully against all enemies, local and foreign. And it seems that they are in the process of being put to the test once again. For the enemy has made its intentions clear enough. It is now for the state to demonstrate, as it always does, that no force or country on earth can harm Pakistan at all. Since a counter terrorism effort is currently already underway, hopefully the country will hear soon of more sleeper cells destroyed and enemy operatives arrested.
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