To all those who didn’t get the title of the piece, UXO refers to ‘unexploded ordnance’. Pakistan is in such a quagmire that factoring in the UXO has become crucial. Remember: It can detonate anytime. We’re in jeopardy. A time bomb. One that can’t be deciphered comprehensively, one that isn’t easy enough to locate; but, you sense it’s somewhere around, it’s ticking. Unless, you bring your A-game to the fore, you might end up scratching your head in agony. It’s serious ‘counter-terrorism’ stuff guys, debunking it wouldn’t do you any good.  To understand and implement the most-appropriate policies in Pakistan, one has to study Iraq and Syria. Please allow me to revisit it a bit.  

How did Iraq descent into chaos? Was it the coyness of the international community? Or, it were the policies that belied the wicked prophecy. When Abu Musab al- Zarqawi joined Al-Qaeda’s training base in Afghanistan in 1989, it was a start of a new beginning of how the things would shape up in the future.

After turbulent relations with the leadership, Al-Zarqawi finally vowed allegiance to the Al-Qaeda leadership in 2004, thereby, setting up Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which served as a precursor to ISIS. Although, he was killed in 2006 by a U.S. airstrike, the platform, by then, had been laid. The organization continued with its violent ways, until 2010, when Abu-Omar al- Baghdadi, successor to Al-Zarqawi, died following a U.S. airstrike. The Islamic State of Iraq (previously known as the Al-Qaeda in Iraq and renamed after Al-Zarqawi’s demise) experienced a downward shift before Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi rescued the ship.

When the Arab Spring sprung up in Syria in March 2011, Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi emerged as the eventual gainer. In view of the uprising against Bashar-al-Assad, Al-Baghdadi handpicked soldiers who were to fight Assad and the coalition forces. Abu-Mohammed al-Golani was to spearhead the campaign on behalf of Islamic State of Iraq. Golani and his men gained support in Syria, and they rebranded themselves as the 'Al-Nusra Front'. The re-branding didn’t stop there. ‘Jabhat-al-Nusra’ and ‘Jabhat Fateh- al-Sham’. Does this ring a bell?

 The independent working of the Al-Nusra Front prompted Al-Baghdadi to unify the two organizations under one banner, i.e. the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), but the power-tussle prevailed. The two organizations parted ways in February 2014, when Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri disowned ISIS and labeled Al-Nusra Front as the only legitimate Al-Qaeda representative fighting in Syria.

Did the world powers miss a trick there? President Obama’s complete withdrawal of forces from Iraq in 2011 may have created a power vacuum favorable for the local militias, but apparently, the forces on ground were unable to sense the dwindling relationship among the jihadist organizations. As described, the simmering relations between ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front could have been the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back.

Instead, just five months before ISIS became a worldwide name with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announcing the establishment of the Caliphate, President Obama chose to debunk ISIS in an unprecedented manner, stating: “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.”

Jessica Stern, a member of the Task Force on National Security under the Obama Administration, noted that: “President Obama pledged to make his counter-terrorism policies more nimble, more transparent, and more ethical than the ones pursued by the George W. Bush administration.” If providing the platform, overlooking the danger and refraining from directly going after the ultraists is what being ‘nimble’ and ‘ethical’ refers to, then you can’t really question what the Americans were up to on November, 08- can you?

There’s a reason I delved into President Obama’s policy. It’s for you to think about it. You can’t provide them the room to maneuver. You can’t provide them with the free passageway. You just can’t look the other way around. Americans, of late, have been doing the same with Al-Nusra and the ‘moderate rebels’. As I noted in one of my earlier pieces, all of these organizations will end up on ISIL’s side. You just can’t back the rebels to fight the enemy.

For Pakistan to get rid of this unexploded ordnance, extremist ideology has to be catered to. It has penetrated deep down within. The dichotomy continues. Counter-extremism policy isn’t being implemented across the board. It doesn’t bode well. A power vacuum seems to be in the process of being created. Consider this: If an entity hasn’t hit you yet, does that imply it wouldn’t in the future? There’s plenty to fine-tune. There’s plenty to think about. There’s plenty to reconsider. There’s plenty to introspect, and surely, there’s plenty to act upon. Military courts are going to expire come January 07, 2017. How would the authorities go about it? Or, if I rephrase it, how ‘should’ they deal with it? Extension? No-extension? What do you guys think? Don’t hesitate letting me know.  Just remember:

“Without words, without writing and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity.” 

(Hermann Hesse)