Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
It was so long in the making, so utterly predictable, that the news that Pakistan and India are now arguing over water carries with it the dull ache of inevitability.
When I was living in Delhi, which I left in 2004, a few analysts were already warning that the next war between Pakistan and India would be over water, rather than over Kashmir. The mountain glaciers which fed the rivers which are the lifeline of both countries were melting, they said, and sooner or later India and Pakistan would blame each other for climate change. I did not take it that seriously at the time. Not even after seeing first hand how far the Siachen glacier – the world’s longest glacier – had receded.
Nor indeed did it properly register after talking to an Indian sherpa who had led the first Indian military expedition to Siachen in 1978 in what India considers part of its own Ladakh region At the time, Ladakh was much colder, he said, and the snow on the glacier came right down into the valley. It had receded in recent years because of global warming, exposing the black tracts of scree I had scrambled up during my trip there. “It was like a beautiful road coming right down from K2,”he said, , “black moraine on either side.” There was nothing, and nobody there.
From the records of the India Office of the British Library, I unearthed an account written by the American explorer Fanny Bullock-Workman of her own travels in Siachen in 1911-12 – so little consulted nowadays that the pages of her book began to come away in my hands. She suggested that Siachen had been receding back in her days too, so I was able to put the ebb and flow of the glacier down to natural changes in the climate.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is used to being Pakistan’s most popular politician, but lately he has become the country’s most criticised.
The government had planned to push through the parliament this month a reform package that would have stripped President Asif Ali Zardari of his sweeping powers, but that seems unlikely now after Sharif abruptly raised new objections on Thursday. Sharif was the one who loudly and actively campaigned against his arch-rival Zardari.
Iran has been hosting regional leaders, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, to celebrate the Persian New Year, or Nowruz (a spring festival whose equivalent in Pakistan, incidentally, is frowned upon by its own religious conservatives).
The Nowruz celebrations, which also included the presidents of Iraq, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, are part of Iran’s efforts to build regional ties and followed renewed debate over the kind of role Iran wants to play in Afghanistan. As discussed here, it has also been improving ties with Pakistan, and both countries may have worked together on the arrest last month of Abdolmalik Rigi, leader of the Jundollah rebel group.
Joshua Foust has a great piece up at Registan.net about a two-day workshop he attended on tribal engagement in Afghanistan. While essentially focusing on how far the United States should rely on tribes to find a solution to Afghanistan, he raises a fundamental question about the nature of the debate on what to do in a war now into its ninth year:
“There is a bit of a crippling strain of experientialism in the military. It leads a lot of people to trust implicitly their own experiences and to assume those experiences are shared or generalizable. It also tends to engender a degree of mistrust of academia, since most academics gain their understanding through voracious reading rather than extensive experience.”
Few who follow South Asia could miss the symbolism of two separate developments in the past week – in one Pakistan was cosying up to the United States in a new “strategic dialogue”; in the other India was complaining to Washington about its failure to provide access to David Headley, the Chicago man accused of helping to plan the 2008 attack on Mumbai.
Ever since the London conference on Afghanistan in January signalled an exit strategy which could include reconciliation with the Taliban, it has been clear that Pakistan’s star has been rising in Washington while India’s has been falling.
from Tales from the Trail:
Pakistan's foreign minister heads his country's delegation to Washington this week for high-level talks, but there was no mistaking who was the star at a reception at the Pakistani Embassy on Tuesday night: Army General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Guests crowded around Kayani at the annual Pakistani National Day party at the embassy, posing for photos and jostling for the military leader's ear. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, also drew those eager for photographic souvenirs of the occasion, but not such a feeding frenzy as that around Kayani.
So much for democracy. When Pakistan holds a “strategic dialogue” with the United States in Washington this week, there is little doubt that the leading player in the Pakistani delegation will be its army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani.
We have got so used to Americans dealing with the Pakistan Army in their efforts to end the stalemate in Afghanistan that it does not seem that surprising that the meeting between the United States and Pakistan would be dominated by the military. Nor indeed that Dawn columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee would describe Kayani as the most powerful man in Pakistan. Even the grudging admiration granted in this Times of India profile of Kayani by Indrani Baghchi is in keeping with the current mood.
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 the High Commissioner of Pakistan to Britain.
By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Pakistan has a rollercoaster history of civilian and military regimes taking turns. Unfortunately, democratically elected governments have always assumed charge at a time when the political, economic and social crises were at their peak. Dictatorial rulers in Pakistan survived each time for a decade, ironically, due to the fullest support of Western democracies.
from India Insight:
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a senior Kashmiri separatist leader, has urged Saudi Arabia to use its influence and bring India and Pakistan closer to solve the decades-long conflict over the disputed Himalayan region.
Farooq arrived in the Kingdom last Thursday to perform the Umrah pilgrimage and his visit, two weeks after the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is being considered significant.
After the chief minister of Pakistan’s biggest province reportedly asked the Taliban to spare his region from attacks, he kicked off an uproar and earned the scorn of a woman member of a provincial parliament, who sarcastically offered him her scarf and said “the women of the frontier province” would protect him.
Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Punjab province, on Sunday said he didn’t understand why the Taliban were targeting the Punjab when his party — the PML-N — and militants alike opposed the policies of former military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, who allied with the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks.