Terrorism, this word has gained so much popularity in the recent years that it might just become a ‘Drawing room’ discussion subject. I remember a humor critic suggesting that in Pakistan everybody can talk on two things; Politics and Cricket. In the new millennium, we may need to add to this list. In Pakistan everyone can talk on three things; politics, cricket and Terrorism. Terrorism is not just restricted to the loss of innocent lives and damage to infrastructure. Its effects are far beyond that. Poverty and unemployment are two factors which terrorists have exploited to recruit perturbed youth and people in their organizations. The irony is, that at one side terrorism has used these two essential factors to deepen its roots and at the same time it has been the prime cause of increase in the rates for statistics of these indicators.
The irony is that Pakistan might have fought the menace of terrorism on two fronts i.e. an armed confrontation to this rebellion which the army is doing and secondly the economic front i.e. developing the lives of people in the affected areas like swat, Waziristan and southern Punjab. Pakistan did go on with the option of engaging the terrorists in an armed confrontation but it could not opt for the second. The main reason to it was the unstable and fragile economic situation. During Musharaff’s regime, much of the rapid development we witnessed was a result of foreign capital coming into the local markets. People were getting jobs. Things which were restricted to the elite were becoming available to the middle class. The problem with this development was that it had none or almost negligible trickledown effect. It was not sustainable. It was heavily dependent on a constant foreign influx.
Even when all the development hype was its top, the mistake was to restrict the development to the financial hubs and big cities. Less developed areas of NWFP, Baluchistan, Southern Punjab and Sindh were altogether ignored. Unemployment and poverty rates in these regions remain unchanged even when big cities like Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi and Rawalpindi saw mega development projects being initiated. Not only did this serve to widen the gap between the rich and poor but it also gave terrorists an opportunity to cash this feeling of being ignored in the poverty struck region. They lured young minds to join them by offering them money and recognition. Where money did not work, they played with their emotions and encouraged them to fight for GOD.
To better understand how terrorism has halted the process of development in Pakistan, one has to dig into the digits. According to some reports, foreign investments have declined to $ 910.20 Million from $1.4 Billion in FY 08-09. Due to decline in investment poverty and unemployment rates have gone up considerably. Poverty has reached to 41.4% from 37.5% in 2008-09. Due to relentless terrorism acts in Pakistan World Bank has blocked two key loans of worth $820 Million till the conditions ameliorate to the paradigm.
Similarly, Terrorism has increased the expenditure of forces to meet their needs in fight against terrorism. Pakistan has received total disbursement of $11,998 Million from USA under Coalition Support Fund (CSF), out of this amount $3,129 Million were economic related aid and security related aid amounted to $8,869 Million.
In 2002, Karachi stock exchange (KSE) was awarded “The best performing stock market of the world for the year 2002”. Similarly, On December 2007, KSE closed at index of 14,127 points with capitalization of Rs.4.57 trillion. But after war declared by government within Pakistan, KSE dropped its index to 4,675 points with a market capitalization of Rs.1.58 trillion, a loss of over 65% from its capitalization in 2007.
Furthermore, terrorism is also promoting smuggling in Pakistan. Due to permeable boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan smuggling becomes the source of easy money for the culprits and expedients for terrorists to wash their hands from it. According to US-Pak business council report (2009), Pakistan is a prime victim of Afghanistan’s instability and due to which Pakistan economy has so far suffered directly or indirectly a huge loss of $35 Billion. The point to note here is that Pakistan shares the longest boundary with Afghanistan famously called the Durand Line. Its length is almost 2640 km. It is just not humanly possible to monitor each inch of this boundary 24/7. Plus the indigenous population does know the hideouts and secret passages in this area. Many of the people involved in smuggling are the natives since they have no way of earning money and this gives them enough money to sustain their families.
The figures discussed above give the reader a vague idea about Pakistan’s loss due to terrorism. There is a social side to it also. With development comes social change. Mind sets change. People adapt to more modern ways of life. Civic society becomes more pulsating and dynamic. Terrorism not only damaged the sense of security in the local population but also affected the mind set of multi-nationals which were planning to invest or increase their investment in Pakistan. Before this wave of terror, Pakistan was fast becoming a target market for many. With a population of 170 million (Approx), Pakistan was a potential market for many manufacturers. In addition to that we did see many international food chains setting up their outlets at all major cities and places in Pakistan. Some international luxury hotel chains also showed interest in setting up their brands in Pakistan. But at present no one is willing to invest in a land where “certainty” is a forgotten word.
Last but not the least, the inefficient management of electricity requirements which has flourished into what we call “Load shedding”. During this shedding of load, many industries were forced to shed their activities because they went into huge losses. With no electricity, how are the manufacturers supposed to continue their day to day operations. Reports suggest that many international companies which were buying Pakistani products or utilizing the labor here have moves to new venues. The reason behind this is because industries in Pakistan with foreign contracts were unable to deliver on their dead-lines because of energy crisis.
The crux of the narrative or a point to contemplate for the think-tanks is; how many generations will pay the penalty for it? How many people will pay for the peccadillo they never committed? Fresh graduates wander around the roads daily in the hope to get a job. Many continue this exercise for months or may be years. Many sectors which were booming rapidly e.g. the telecom sector, their climb were hampered greatly when the foreign investment was pulled out. This further creates less job opportunities for the fresh graduates. The soaring unemployment rate is an area of concern for the policy makers. It has become necessary for Pakistan not only to bottle the Terror-Genie, before it becomes bigger in size but also invite foreign investment in the country. Government needs to continue the fight against terror but at the same time it needs to take concrete steps which would ensure foreign investors that their investment is safe in Pakistan. This means that the government has to fightthis war on terror on two fronts i.e. diplomatic and military. Pakistan has to take remedies to put an end to this menace before it hurts Pakistan to a level when the damage becomes beyond repair. Even if we win the war on terror and succeed in eliminating the threat to the sovereignty of this nation; we may have no time to rejoice or celebrate our success because a new terror would be in front of us. Threat whose intensity we do not anticipate at the moment. May be we will name the threat as ‘Our social wreckage.