Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
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 a defence expert and author of two books on the Pakistan Army.
By Brian Cloughley
On 11 May several Frontier Corps soldiers were killed by insurgents in Pakistan’s Orakzai Tribal Agency. Concurrently there was a report that US Secretary of State Clinton had once again been indignantly critical of Pakistan’s supposed lack of effort to rid itself of murderous fanatics seeking to destroy Pakistan and create a so-called ‘Islamic caliphate’ in the region.
Clinton declared her belief that “somewhere in the government [of Pakistan] are people who know where Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda is [sic], where Mullah Omar and the leadership of the Afghan Taliban is [sic], and we expect more cooperation to help us bring to justice, capture or kill those who attacked us on 9/11.”
The psychotic Mullah Omar hates America, to be sure; but for the US Secretary of State to assert that Omar and his adherents were responsible for the atrocities of 9/11 is absurd.
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
It is, no doubt, a tribute to British democracy that all sections of its society are represented in parliament. For us it is also heartening to note that out of nine Muslim members elected in the May 6 election, seven are of Pakistani origin (five belonging to Labour and two from the Conservatives). For the first time in British history two women of Pakistani origin have made it to parliament. Compared to previous elections, this time three more Pakistani MPs will be sitting in the House of Commons.
from Afghan Journal:
(C. Uday Bhaskar is a New Delhi-based strategic analyst. The views expressed in the column are his own).
By C. Uday Bhaskar
The May 12 summit meeting in the White House between visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his host, U.S. President Barack Obama comes against the backdrop of the mercifully aborted May 1 terrorist bombing incident in New York's Times Square.
“The effort required to bring about a compromise was indistinguishable from the requirements of victory—as the administration in which I served had to learn from bitter experience.”
The quote is from Henry Kissinger on Vietnam but you could just as easily apply it to the current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan of aiming to weaken the Taliban enough to bring them to the negotiating table. And unfashionable as it is to compare Vietnam to Afghanistan (it was hopelessly overdone last year), it does encapsulate one of the many paradoxes of the American approach to the Taliban.
Whatever Osama bin Laden once aspired to, it was not to be passed around the table like a bottle of port in the British Raj nor worse, handed on quickly in a child’s game of Pass the Parcel. Yet that is the fate which for now appears to be chasing him.
For years, the default assumption has been that bin Laden is hiding somewhere in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
After the media frenzy following last weekend’s failed car bomb attack on Times Square, you would be forgiven for thinking that something dramatic is about to change in Pakistan. The reality, however, is probably going to be much greyer.
Much attention has naturally focused on North Waziristan, a bastion for al Qaeda, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Afghan fighters including those in the Haqqani network, and the so-called “Punjabi Taliban” - militants from Punjab-based groups who have joined the battle either in Afghanistan or against the Pakistani state. The Pakistan Army is expected to come under fresh pressure to launch an offensive in North Waziristan after Faisal Shahzad, who according to U.S. authorities admitted to the failed car-bombing in Times Square, said he had received training in Waziristan. Unlike other parts of the tribal areas on the Pakistan-Afghan border, North Waziristan has so far been left largely alone.
The failed car bomb attack on New York’s Times Square this weekend is almost certain to rekindle questions about a “jihadi highway” where citizens of western countries, often radicalised at home, seek either inspiration or training from one of many militant groups based in Pakistan.
According to a U.S. law enforcement source, Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American arrested on suspicion of driving the car into Times Square this weekend, told authorities he was acting alone. But investigators are also looking into a recent trip he made to Pakistan to see if he had links to Islamist militants based there, which include al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban and a host of Punjab-based groups and splinter organisations, some originally linked to the fight against India in Kashmir.
Baluchistan, Pakistan’s biggest province, rarely gets much attention from the international media, and what little it does is dwarfed by that showered on Afghanistan. So it is with a certain amount of deliberate provocation that I ask the question posed in the headline: Is Baluchistan more strategically significant than Afghanistan?
Before everyone answers with a resounding “no”, do pause to consider that China – renowned for its long-term planning – has invested heavily in Baluchistan, including building a deep water port at Gwadar on the Arabian Sea to give it access to Gulf oil supplies. The region is rich in gas and minerals; attracting strong international interest in spite of a low-level insurgency by Baluch separatists.
As predicted, the prime ministers of India and Pakistan agreed during a meeting in Bhutan that their countries should hold further talks to try to repair relations strained since the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters at a regional summit in Thimphu that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani had decided their foreign ministers and foreign secretaries (the top diplomats) should meet as soon as possible.
In agreeing to hold more talks, India and Pakistan have overcome the first major obstacle in the way of better ties – the question of what form their dialogue should take. Pakistan had been insisting on a resumption of the formal peace process, or Composite Dialogue, broken off by India after the attack on Mumbai which it blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group. India had been seeking a way back into talks which stopped short of a full resumption of the Composite Dialogue.
from India Insight:
India and Pakistan held secret talks for more than three years, reached an accord on the thorny Kashmir issue and had almost unveiled it in 2007 before domestic turmoil in Pakistan derailed it, former Pakistani foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri has revealed.
Kasuri says the two nuclear-armed rivals, who rule the Himalayan region in parts, had agreed to full demilitarisation of both the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir with a package of loose autonomy on both sides of the Line of Control, a military control line that divides the region between two nations.