Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
Let’s start with President Barack Obama’s speech on May 1 (May 2 in Pakistan) when he announced that bin Laden had been killed in the town of Abbottabad (note the diplomatic finesse in his suggestion that President Asif Ali Zardari was the first to be informed, as would normally be the case in relations between two countries.)
“Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.”
Here is a reconstruction of events, as described by senior Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi and written after Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Lieutenant General Shuja Pasha (DG-ISI), the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, held a special briefing last week for a select group of senior journalists.
We are unlikely to know the full truth about the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan for months, and probably years. So I have decided to retreat into history, where we have more, though still fragile, hope of understanding what really happened. Here is one version.
General Khalid Mahmud Arif worked closely with Pakistani military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq, the architect of the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. His memoirs, ”Khaki Shadows”, show how the internal narrative of the Pakistan Army was constructed at a formative time for the current military leadership. I’ve extracted some details from his chapter on ”The Military under Zia” and leave you to judge which remain relevant today:
Our liveblog on Pakistan and what’s next for the country after Osama bin Laden’s death starts at 10a.m. EST/3 p.m. BST tomorrow (Tuesday, May 10). We’ve already received some comments and queries for Myra MacDonald. Here is one: Myra, In Pakistan there is a lot of resentment in the relationship with USA and a sense of betrayal. Also, the troubled relations with India, means that Pakistan is besieged by many problems at different fronts at the same time. My concern and also the question to you is, is Pakistan heading towards isolation? given the strategic implications of the OBL raid and killing, will Pakistan manage to control the damage to its credibility and emerge as a normal country?
Please keep sending in your questions by posting them below in the comments section.
Cyril Almeida at Dawn has written a powerful and anguished column about the bewilderment among many Pakistanis on discovering that Osama bin Laden had been hiding in Abbottabad, a garrison town in the heart of the country and home to the Pakistan Military Academy.
“It’s too frightening to make sense of. The world’s most-wanted terrorist. A man who triggered the longest war in American history. The terrorist mastermind the world’s only superpower has moved heaven and earth to track down. A decade of hunting. Hundreds of billions of dollars spent. The blood of countless Americans and others spilled. And when he was finally found, he was found wrapped in the bosom of the Pakistani security establishment.”
On Tuesday, May 10 at 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. EST, Reuters is hosting a liveblog about Pakistan and what’s next for it after Osama bin Laden’s death. Reuters journalist Myra MacDonald, who runs the “Pakistan: Now or Never?” blog on Reuters.com, will answer your queries and respond to your comments so please leave them below in the “comments” section at the bottom of this post.
More specifically, Myra will discuss the role of the military in Pakistan, and its relations with both the United States and India. Her latest piece, “Pakistan’s mixed messages on bin Laden sow confusion”, tries to get to the bottom of whether Pakistan was involved with the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. For more of her pieces, click here.
from Reuters Investigates:
Our special report "Why the U.S. mistrusts Pakistan's powerful spy agency" examines in the history of the ISI, and what led President Obama to make the decision to keep his supposed allies in the dark about this week's raid on bin Laden's safe house.
The killing of bin Laden exposes just how dysfunctional the relationship has become. The fact that bin Laden seems to have lived for years in a town an hour's drive from Islamabad has U.S. congressmen demanding to know why Washington is paying $1 billion a year in aid to Pakistan. Many of the hardest questions are directed at the ISI. Did it know bin Laden was there? Was it helping him? Is it rotten to the core or is it just a few sympathizers?
from Lauren Young:
"This is actually Twitter's defining moment."
That's what I tweeted on Sunday evening as I watched the news unfold about the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden...on Twitter, which didn't even exist when the hunt for the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks began nearly a decade ago.
I was sitting in my home office, helping my husband file our, um, overdue taxes when I noticed a Tweet from Reuters at 21:54 ET that the president would "make a statement shortly."
India and Pakistan have agreed to try to improve trade ties during the first meeting of their commerce secretaries since the November 2008 attack on Mumbai. The official statement released after the talks in Islamabad suggests the agreement is so far largely aspirational, with working committees set up to look at everything from tariff barriers, to India selling electricity to Pakistan, to visas for businessmen.
But the aspiration in itself represents a dramatic shift in relations between India and Pakistan, who have embarked on what may turn out to be their most organised, if slow, attempt at peace-making in their history. Pakistan has in the past been wary of a a gradual approach to peace-making, fearing India would try to normalise ties while maintaining the status quo on Kashmir. The Indian government has said that it is ready to discuss all issues, including Kashmir.
During a visit to Beijing in late 2009, President Barack Obama asked China to help stabilise Pakistan and Afghanistan. The logic was obvious. China is a long-standing ally of Pakistan with growing investments there and in Afghanistan; it has the money to pay for the economic development and trade both countries need; and with its own worries about its Uighur minority, it is suspicious of militant Islamists. The challenge was in achieving this without angering India, which fought a border war with China in 1962 and is wary of its alliance with Pakistan.
A year-and-a-half on, efforts to forge that economic cooperation between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan are in full swing – though perhaps not entirely in the way Obama envisaged. The Wall Street quoted Afghan officials as saying that Pakistan was lobbying Afghanistan’s president against building a long-term strategic partnership with the United States, urging him instead to look to Pakistan and China for help.
For some time, Pakistan has been complaining that it is unfairly criticised for failing to fight al Qaeda-linked insurgents on its side of the border when U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan are also struggling to make headway. This has been particularly the case in Bajaur, where Pakistan said its own military operation against militants were undermined by a decision to pull Western troops back from neighbouring Kunar in Afghanistan. The row over who is to blame for not doing enough to prevent militants moving back and forth across the border between Bajaur and Kunar has been both a reflection of the distrust in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, and a persistent source of strain.
The mantra, repeated so often that it is rarely questioned, is that al Qaeda’s safe havens are in Pakistan. That is partially true – the organisation is believed to have secure bases in various parts of Pakistan’s tribal areas. But Pakistani officials respond by saying that al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents also have safe havens inside Afghanistan. And just as the Pakistan Army is unwilling to fight in every part of the tribal areas at once – it has resisted U.S. pressure to launch a full-scale military operation in North Waziristan – the U.S. Army is also reluctant to spread out its troops too thinly, choosing instead to focus on populated areas.