Implications of War on Terror for Pakistan

saddam hussain samo
Saddam Hussain Samo on Implications of War on Terror for Pakistan

After Pakistan became a “Frontline State” in the US-led Global “War on Terror,” it encountered the spill over impacts of its participation in the war very badly. Pakistan’s assistance was imperative for the US to win the war in Afghanistan because of its geographic location and friendly relations with Taliban. Although, Islamabad faced hard choices, keeping in view its national interest in Taliban’s regime, it extended its support to the US and sacrificed its interest in Afghanistan for four basic reasons:

Firstly, refusing to cooperate with the US, Pakistan would have been declared a state sponsoring of terrorism because almost all the countries were on the same page and favored the invasion of Afghanistan. Secondly, it might have lost Kashmir and its freedom fighters could have been declared as terrorists. Afterwards, India, with the assistance of NATO and UN Security Council, might have attacked Azad Kashmir on the pretext of eliminating terrorism. Thirdly, the US, in collaboration with India, could have attacked Pakistan’s nuclear weapons by projecting that it was falling in the hands of terrorists. Finally, India would have been given a free access to Afghanistan by the US to put pressure on Pakistan’s Eastern and Western borders during crisis. Considering these facts, Musharraf said after he decided to cooperate with the US on Global “War on Terror” that Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan had to be sacrificed to save even more important assets__ Nuclear weapons and Kashmir.1

The following are the implications of War on Terror for Pakistan:

Security Implications:

The security implications are written below in details.

  • Lost of national interest in Afghanistan:

Ever since the independence of the country in 1947, its policy makers have been following the strategy of establishing pro-Pakistani and anti-Indian regime in Afghanistan. The need for this policy evolved when Afghanistan refused to accept the “Durand Line” after the end of foreign rule in India by claiming that the agreement was signed with the British government and thus was not applicable with the newly independent Pakistan. Besides, it voted against the entry of Pakistan in the United Nation Organization (UNO). Moreover, Pakistan was already facing Indian hostility on its Eastern border and it had no capacity to face the similar situation on its Afghan’s border simultaneously. Consequently, it was in the national interest of Pakistan to get -pro-Pakistani government in Afghanistan to prevent India in creating unrest on the two major borders of Pakistan.

Pakistan developed friendly relations with Taliban’s regime in Afghanistan. It was among the first countries to extend its recognition to their government. Taliban were, no doubt, anti-Indian. Pakistan’s support for the Taliban did not mean that they wanted similar government in Pakistan, but it was purely based on geo-strategic reason. It wanted peaceful Afghanistan without Indian interference. For example, Hamid Gul said, “It’s not that we like the Taliban, but they are all we’ve got.”2 Although, Pakistan considered Taliban as partners, Pakistani leaders also developed ideological clashes with them. For instances, Mullah Omar rejected Pakistan’s request to expel Osama-bin-laden and to not destroy statue of Buddha in Bamiyan. Mullah Omar also refused to handover Riaz Basra of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who was given shelter in Afghanistan.3 Since, Pakistan’s aim of keeping India at bay in Afghanistan was achieved, Taliban acted as its national interest in Afghanistan.

After 9/11, Pakistan projected that its national interest in Afghanistan would be sacrificed. On 11 September 2001, a Pakistani General said to Anatol Lieven, “the roof fell in on us.” Thus, Pakistan lost its national interest in Afghanistan by participating in US-led Global “War on Terror” and now struggling again to keep India out of Afghanistan.

  • Influx of Al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan:

Around 2,000 Al-Qaeda fighters fled to Pakistani tribal area and many of them ended up in Waziristan, after the US invasion of Afghanistan.4 The tribesmen developed sympathy for them and stood against the decision of Musharraf to assist the US. Consequently, they welcome the fighters from Afghanistan and provided them shelter and security. On the other hand, Al-Qaeda fighters were familiar with the terrain of the area because they had been trained there during Soviet-Afghan war. After settlement in Pakistan, they created security challenges for the country. For instances, an investigation report of twin attacks on Musharraf in December 2003 revealed that it was masterminded by Abu Faraj al-Libbi, a senior Al-Qaeda leader and carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Musharraf failed to control the infiltration of Al-Qaeda because of three main reasons: Firstly, turning violent on Pakistan after 13th December 2001 terrorist attack on its parliament, India decided to punish Islamabad by waging a war and moved its military to the border. Under these circumstances, it became difficult for Pakistan to launch a large-scale military operation to stop Al-Qaeda and move its forces from Indian border. Secondly, the tribal belt was hardly under the control of Pakistan and the military was not trained to fight there. Finally, the tribesmen developed pro-Osama-Bin-Laden sentiments and protested against Musharraf’s decision. Thus, stopping Al-Qaeda when the local people stood with them was equivalent to ride on a suicide mission.

  • Casualty of army in FATA and loss of territories:

Since Al-Qaeda fighters got a safe haven in tribal region and created security challenges for Pakistan, it became a national interest of the country to drive them out. The military first gave a deadline to tribemen to handover the fighters. However, when the deadline expired, Musharraf carried out a military operation in March 2004. The operation proved to be a nightmare for the army as the entire local population resisted the military to protect their so-called guests. At least 50 soldiers were killed in the 12 days of operation and many others captured. Many soldiers took shelter in the mosque when they come under fire. Among them was a colonel who came out with the Quran on his head begging for his life.5 From March 2004 to January 2005, the security forces lost an estimated 230 soldiers without regaining the control of the territory.6

The military finally signed a truce with a leader of the tribe and left. Thus, Pakistan lost a territory in FATA. After many years, the government also signed a Nizam-e-Adl Regulations with Taliban in Swat and lost the control of that area as well.

  • Formation of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in 2007:

From 2007 to 2014, terrorist activities in Pakistan were at peak because of the formation of TTP. Upon reacting angrily on the military operation against Lal Masjid in Islamabad, Pakistani Taliban of different tribal areas held a meeting and formed TTP in 2007 and declared an open war against Pak army and the civilian government of Pakistan. Before 2007, Pakistani Taliban carried out attacks against the US in Afghanistan, but afterwards they diverted their attentions towards Pakistan and wrecked havoc in the country as evident in their attacks on Army General headquarters in 2009, Sri Lankan’s cricket team, naval base, Army public School and so on causing the death of thousands of civilian and armed personnel.     

  •    Fear of division within army:

After Musharraf decided to align with the US in the Global War on Terror against Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, there was a threat to the military unity because some officers and soldiers were Taliban and Al-Qaeda sympathizers and considered Osama-bin-Laden as “Islamic Warrior”.  For instances, dozens of officers and soldiers quit the armed forces and joined anti-American resistance in Afghanistan following Musharraf’s pledge to the US for his assistance.7 Several Pashtun soldiers also refused to fight in an military operation. The military, afterwards, waited for an opportunity to develop the narratives of nation against the TTP. The task was achieved when Pakistani Taliban attacked Army Public School. The sentiments of the entire country turned against them and General Raheel Sharif did not waste more time to crush them completely.

Economic Implications:

According to the State Bank of Pakistan, the total direct and indirect cost of the “War on Terror” between 2002 and 2016, incurred by Pakistan amounted to almost  $118 billion. Besides, the war badly affected the GDP growth rate and Foreign Direct Investment of the country. For instances, as described above, the terrorism was at peak in Pakistan from 2008 to 2014 owing to the formation of the TTP. The GDP growth rate of Pakistan in 2007 was 5.7 per cent and it dropped to 1.6 per cent in 2008. Besides, the FDI in 2008 was $5438 million and it reduced to $2338 million in 2009 and $ 853 million in 2012.8

Human implications:

According to a rough estimation, around 1 million civilian and armed personnel have lost their lives in Pakistan due to “War on Terror” till date. Between 2004 and 2013, approximately 5 million have become internally displaced owing to conflicts in tribal area, according to the report of the International Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) published in 2013. Besides, As per government of Pakistan’s report, total registered internally displaced people during Zarb-e-Azb operation in 2014 stood at 423666.

Social implications:

Education sector was the worst affected due to “War on Terror.” After Pakistani Taliban achieved control of the tribal territories and some part of NWFP, they issued fatwas against girls’ schools and started to destroy them. According to different reports, the militants in these areas bombed close to 1,000 girls schools on the pretext that these schools were providing Western-style education to the girls.

Besides, tourism industry of Pakistan was also negatively affected owing to the rise of terrorism after Pakistan’s participation in “War on Terror.” TTP killed 10 foreigners’ climbers and local tourists in June 2013 at Nanga Parbat base camp. Mountain climbing in Pakistan was a source of attraction for the tourists all around the globe, but after these attacks, the tourist industry saw a sharp decline.

In March 2009, TTP also carried out an attack on Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore injuring 6 foreign players. It led to the ban on international cricket in Pakistan and deterioration of its image in the West. Sectarian violence also spiked between 2007 and 2014 because some sectarian groups found their spiritual father in TTP and got its assistance while killing Muslims of different sects avowedly in Pakistan.


Thus, Pakistan witnessed, security, economic, human and social implications of “War on Terror.” At present, these impacts have been reduced to a larger extent, but not completely eliminated. The military needs to work closely with the civilian government to bring these impacts to the halt.

List of References:

  1. Husain Haqqani, 2016, Pakistan between mosque and military, p.292.
  2. Anatol Lieven, Pakistan a hard country, p.193.
  3. Zahid Hussain, 2007, Frontline Pakistan, p.42
  4. Ibid, p.143.
  5. Ibid, p.148
  6. Zahid Hussain, The Scorpion Tail, p. 77
  7. Ibid, p.61.
  8. Data collected from World Bank country reports, Board of Investment (BoI), Pakistan, Annual Economic Survey of Pakistan, United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD) statistics.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here