Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Pakistan and the United States are in the middle of such a public and bruising fight that Islamabad’s other pet hate, India, has receded into the background. A Pakistani banker friend, only half in jest, said his country had bigger fish to fry than to worry about India, now that it had locked horns with the superpower.
But more seriously, India itself has kept a low profile, resisting the temptation to twist the knife deeper into its neighbour when it faces the risk of isolation. Much of what Pakistan stands accused of, including the main charge of using violent extremism as an instrument of foreign policy, is an echo of what New Delhi has been blaming Pakistan for, for two decades now. Even the language that America’s military officials led by Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and diplomats have employed such as “proxy wars” , “cross border raids” or terrorism central to describe Pakistan is a throwback to the 1990s and later when India and Pakistan were dueling over Kashmir.
“What Mullen has said with regard to the role of certain forces in Pakistan, is also something which is nothing new to us. In fact when we were the first to flag this issue earlier, the world didn’t believe us,” the Press Trust of India quoted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as telling reporters on board his plane on the way home from the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.
But the tone and tenor of the Indian response to Pakistan’s predicament, including on the Hindu right, has been remarkably restrained. This, as former Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran wrote in The Indian Express on Thursday, is hardly the time to gloat over Pakistan’s situation.
The United States has a set of expectations that it wants Pakistan’s government to meet, Secretary of State of Hillary Clinton said ahead of her short trip to Islamabad last week, the kind of language Washington has frequently employed to bring its conflicted partner in the war against militant Islam to heel, each time there has been a crisis. Clinton didn’t elaborate, saying only at the end of her meetings in Islamabad that she expected Pakistan to take decisive steps in the days ahead.
But on Monday, Pakistan’s The News reported that the military was preparing to launch an air and ground offensive against militants in North Waziristan, a demand that the United States has repeatedly made over the last two years. It said the decision was taken during discussions that Clinton and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of State Admiral Mike Mullen had with Pakistani government and military leaders.
Pakistan’s army has said it won’t be diverting forces from the fight against Islamist militants while it helps deal with the country’s worst floods in 80 years . Troops who were on training have been called back to lead the flood relief effort, leaving those deployed on the Afghan front to continue operations against militants, the army said.
But with the floods devastating the trunk of Pakistan running from the northwest to Sind, through the growthengine of Punjab, disrupting the lives of an estimated 20 million people - which is 12 percent of the population – and delivering a serious blow to an already enfeebled economy, it’s hard to imagine that there won’t be any impact on the deadly, costly battle to win back ground from the extremists, bothinside Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is hard enough for any nation to fight a war such as the one Pakistan is engaged in, willingly or otherwise, against an enemy that it once nurtured. But to be at war when a third of the land is affected by the most devastating floods yet, crops worth a $1 billion are damaged in a country in a country where agriculture is the mainstay and popular anger is running high, calls for nerves of steel. And all this when it is already on a $11.3 billion IMF bailout programme whose stringent conditions Pakistan was struggling to meet even before the floods struck.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Last week's suicide bomb attack on a base in Afghanistan which killed seven CIA officers and a Jordanian spy is raising fears in Pakistan that it could encourage an intensified drone bombing campaign to target those who planned the assault.
Although it is too early to say for certain who ordered the attack, possibilities include the Pakistani Taliban who claimed responsibility; the Afghan Taliban who had earlier said the bomber was an Afghan army officer; the Haqqani network; al Qaeda; or a combination of different groups working together.