Leading Pakistani newspapers have retracted stories that appear to have partly depended on fake WikiLeaks cables to support long-standing Pakistani allegations against India, particularly in causing instability inside Pakistan. The stories also quoted U.S. diplomats as ridculing India and its army.
Pakistan: Now or Never?
Reading through some of the WikiLeaks cables, I have been struck by how easy it might be to take the fragmentary and often outdated information contained in them and make a case to support either side of the India-Pakistan divide. Now it turns out someone did, but without even the support of the underlying cables, according to this version of Pakistani media reports by the Pakistan blog Cafe Pyala of alleged Indian skulduggery, including in Baluchistan.
Last week’s suicide bombing of a mosque in Zahedan, capital of the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan, is another reminder of how far two of the United States’ main foreign policy challenges – its row with Iran over its nuclear programme, and its policies towards Afghanistan and Pakistan – are intertwined.
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?
Pakistan’s military offensive in South Waziristan appears to be showing considerably more success than earlier attempts to take control of the tribal region on the Afghan border, at least according to army accounts which are the only real source of information.
According to the New York Times, Pakistan has objected to the influx of U.S. troops into southern Afghanistan, saying this will drive Taliban militants across the border into its troubled Baluchistan province. It quotes a Pakistani intelligence official as saying that a Taliban spillover would force Pakistan to put more troops into Baluchistan, troops the country does not have right now.
Pakistan is already under intense pressure from the United States and India to crack down on militant groups inside its borders. Now Iran has added its own pressure after 25 people were killed last week in the bombing of a Shi’ite mosque in Zahedan, in the southeast of the country towards the Pakistan border.
The Pakistan Army is engaged in what appears to be a very nasty little war in the Swat valley against heavily armed Taliban militants. With journalists having left Swat, there have been no independent reports of what is going on there, though the scale of the operation can be partly measured by the huge numbers of refugees – nearly 1.7 million – who fled to escape the military offensive.
Read President Barack Obama’s speech on his new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan and compare it to what he said a year ago and it’s hard to see how much further forward we are in understanding exactly how he intends to uproot Islamist militants inside Pakistan.
Concern is mounting over the health of John Solecki, an American working for the UNHCR, who was kidnapped from the Pakistani city of Quetta 45 days ago.