Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
Earlier this month, Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, said relations between India and Pakistan should not be held hostage to Kashmir. The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone.
The writer is Vice Chancellor of the Islamic University of Science & Technology, Kashmir. The views expressed in this article, however, are those of a private citizen.
By Siddiq Wahid
Soon after hearing Asif Zardari’s statement on Kashmir, I received a two line mass-email from a friend in Delhi saying that an unnamed “senior journalist” in Pakistan was “surprised” at the reactions to it in Kashmir. ‘Why is everyone so agitated about this positive statement?” the journalist had asked. My friend in Delhi wondered if the recipients of the mail had any thoughts on this question. I responded, tongue in cheek, that Mr. Zardari seemed a good candidate for an invitation to the many symposia on Kashmir so that he could be educated on the subject. My friend responded that I should be more “generous”, given that Mr. Zardari had come across as “quite reasonable” in his television interview. My friend’s response caused me to read and think a little more about this controversy.
It is clear that reactions in Pakistan to Mr. Zardari’s statement have alternated between perfunctory objections to benign disregard amongst the power-set, largely because of the exposure of a simple political reality about nation-states, to which Pakistan is far from immune: self interest. This reality has emerged with progressive clarity for Kashmiris ever since the funeral of the cold war regime. Witness how the radical resistance that surfaced in Kashmir in 1989 was used with such brutal efficiency by all the parties to self-interest so that today it is an unrecognizable shadow of its former self. In the face of this, the Zardari statement is “no surprise”, as averred by Gul Mohammed of the University of Kashmir.
As the premiere of the long-awaited Koran film by far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders nears, it's not uncommon to hear Muslims call for some way to censor what they expect to be a blistering condemnation of their faith.
But not all see the film -- now expected to be broadcast by the end of this month -- as an opportunity to revive the polarisation of the Prophet Mohammad cartoons clash in 2006, when freedom of expression and respect for faith were presented as implacable opposites.
With NATO saying it is nearing a deal to use Russian land and airspace to supply its security forces in Afghanistan, I’ve been trying to work out what this could mean for Pakistan.
In the Asia Times Online, former Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar quotes U.S. military spokesmen as saying that about three quarters of all supplies are currently sent to Afghanistan via Pakistan. ”On the face of it, Washington should jump at the Russian offer of support to the NATO mission in Afghanistan,” he writes. “Pakistan has proved to be an unreliable partner in the ‘war on terror’. The growing political uncertainties in Pakistan put question marks on the wisdom of the US continuing to depend so heavily on Pakistan for ferrying supplies for its troops in Afghanistan.”
I just came across a feature on Salon.com headlined Killing ourselves in Afghanistan which I’d recommend to anyone interested in U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Writer MatthewCole has collected evidence which he says shows that some of the $10 billion given in U.S. aid to Pakistan since 9/11 has been used to fund Taliban militants killing American and other troops in Afghanistan. “In part because of Pakistani help, the Taliban have made a steady comeback and American and Afghan casualties are at their highest annual levels since the war began,” he writes. “Islamabad has denied complicity and Washington has maintained official silence, but the double-dealing is not surprising. It’s just the continuation of the Pakistani government’s former alliance with the Taliban, which was itself an outgrowth of a decades-old Pakistani policy of trying to exert control over the internal affairs of its chaotic neighbor.”
Benjamin Disraeli, one of Britain’s foremost prime ministers of the 19th century, once said that, “Coalitions, though sucessful, have always found this, that their triumph has been brief.”
News that Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari have agreed on a coalition government raised the same issue.Will theirs be a brief triumph, or the start of a sea change in Pakistani politics?
Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party has delayed naming its prime ministerial candidate, setting off Internet chatter about a power struggle in the party with backroom machinations stretching from Washington to Islamabad. And not far behind is the fear that a prolonged political vaccum at the top will embolden even more lethal militant strikes than the ones witnessed over the past week or so. PPP vice chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim remains the frontrunner as he has from the time Bhutto was assassinated, the Pakistani Spectator says, but her husband and successor Asif Zardari had other ideas and wanted the issue to be debated further and that had opened the way for more pulls and pressures. One comment on its blog complained: ”Will the voices of the people count or will the American and Saudis control this nation’s future ?”
B.Raman, a former chief of Indian intelligence agency RAW, writes in South Asia Analysis Group that the successful election may yet turn out to be a false dawn, arguing that Zardari’s attempt to pass over Fahim partly because he was a fellow-Sindhi, and instead pick someone from politically crucial Punjab, might inflame party workers in the home base and widen the provincial divides never far from the surface.
Asif Ali Zardari has raised hackles in Kashmir and Pakistan by telling Indian news network CNN-IBN that relations between India and Pakistan should no longer be held hostage to the Kashmir dispute. The leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and widower of Benazir Bhutto said in an interview that the two countries should focus instead on building trade and economic ties.
“I am not getting hostage to that issue,” he said. “The idea is we feel for Kashmir, PPP has always felt for Kashmir, we have a strong Kashmir policy and we always had one. But having said that we don’t want to be hostage to that situation. That is a situation we can agree to disagree (on). Countries do, we have positions, you have positions. We can agree to disagree on everything.”