Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
According to the New York Times, Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor arrested in Pakistan for shooting dead two Pakistanis in what he says was an act of self-defence, was working with a CIA team monitoring the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.
The article, by Washington-based Mark Mazzetti, was not the first to make this assertion. The NYT itself had already raised it, while Christine Fair made a similar point in her piece for The AfPak Channel last week (with the intriguing detail that “though the ISI knew of the operation, the agency certainly would not have approved of it.”)
But it was the first article I’ve seen which focused almost exclusively on U.S. anxieties about the Lashkar-e-Taiba — blamed for the 2008 attack on Mumbai — while also linking these explicitly to the furore over the Raymond Davis case:
“The CIA team Mr. Davis worked with, according to American officials, had among its assignments the task of secretly gathering intelligence about Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant ‘Army of the Pure’. Pakistan’s security establishment has nurtured Lashkar for years as a proxy force to attack targets and enemies in India and in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. These and other American officials, all of whom spoke only on condition of anonymity, are now convinced that Lashkar is no longer satisfied being the shadowy foot soldiers in Pakistan’s simmering border conflict with India. It goals have broadened, these officials say, and Lashkar is committed to a campaign of jihad against the United States and Europe, and against American troops in Afghanistan.”
President Asif Ali Zardari’s trip to Britain was particularly ill-fated. When he first planned a visit which should have culminated in him bringing his son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, out into the political arena, no one could have predicted such a bewildering series of crises. A row with Britain over remarks made in India by British Prime Minister David Cameron that Pakistan must not “look both ways” in its approach to Islamist militants. Pakistan’s worst floods in 80 years. A plane crash, and then riots in Karachi.
So it was perhaps par for the course that his final event in Britain, a political rally in the city of Birmingham for British Pakistani supporters of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), should be dogged by controversy. Zardari faced a firestorm of criticism for going ahead with the visit while his country faced so many problems, and the combination of protesters outside the rally and a shoe-thrower inside appeared to mark the culmination of a disastrously ill-judged overseas tour.
“Whatever the result, this meeting will be a turning point in Pakistan’s history,” Pakistan President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto told his daughter Benazir as he prepared for a summit meeting with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1972 in the Indian hill resort of Simla after his country’s defeat by India in the 1971 war. “I want you to witness it first hand.”
If there is a slightly surreal quality to President Asif Ali Zardari’s controversial state visit to Britain - where he is expected to launch the political career of Oxford graduate Bilawal Bhutto at a rally for British Pakistanis in Birmingham on Saturday - it is perhaps no more surreal than taking your daughter, herself then a student at Harvard, to witness negotiations with India after a crushing military defeat.
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.
With one million Britons of Pakistani origin, and as the former colonial power, Britain has a unique relationship with Pakistan. But concerns about Britain’s vulnerability to bomb attacks planned by Pakistan-based militants — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said that three-quarters of the most serious plots investigated by British authorities had links to al Qaeda in Pakistan — has made for a rocky relationship.
Irfan Husain, a columnist for Dawn newspaper who divides his time between Britain and Pakistan, writes that these tensions are being worsened by the problems Pakistanis have in obtaining visas to visit Britain.
Saeed Shah at McClatchy has an interesting story about Jaish-e-Mohammad, an al Qaeda linked militant group, building a big new base in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
The group, which was blamed for killing U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl and for an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001, already has a headquarters in the town of Bahawalpur in south Punjab.
Memories seem to be short in the British government when it comes to Kashmir. Foreign Secretary David Miliband stirred up a diplomatic row over the region during his visit to India earlier this month. As this piece in The Times says, Miliband angered Indian officials by giving what they described as “unsolicited advice” on Kashmir, over which India has three times gone to war with Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947 and over which it is in no mood to be lectured by outsiders, let alone the former colonial power.
It was on a visit to Pakistan and India in 1997 to mark the 50th anniversary of those two countries’ independence that the then British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, also got into trouble over Kashmir. Cook, who also served the Labour government, was forced to row back from suggestions that Britain might help resolve the long-running dispute. His intervention cast a serious shadow over the visit by Queen Elizabeth, who was at one point forced to cancel a long-planned speech.
The visit, during which the queen was accompanied by Cook, went downhill after that, and at one point a senior British diplomat was seen sitting, head in hands in despair, on the pavement outside Chennai airport. There were even suggestions, denied of course, that the British High Commissioner might be recalled. Tony Blair, then prime minister, had to patch up ties by assuring his Indian counterpart, Inder Kumar Gujral, that London would not meddle in Delhi’s dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir.
One wonders whether Miliband was reminded of all this before he went to India, and if he was, why did he walk into the Kashmir minefield once again. Or maybe he wasn’t, which poses a different set of questions about competence and institutional memory at the Foreign Office.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband may yet end up achieving the opposite of what he intended in India when he called for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute in the interests of regional security.
To some Indians, linking the attacks in Mumbai - which New Delhi says originated from Pakistan – to the issue of Kashmir is not just insensitive, it is also a wake-up call. The lesson they have drawn is this: for all the world’s sense of outrage over Mumbai, India will have to deal with Pakistan on its own, and not expect foreign powers to lean on its neighbour in the manner it wants.
India is piling on the diplomatic pressure to convince the international community to lean on Pakistan to crack down on Islamist militants blamed by New Delhi for the Mumbai attacks.
According to the Times of India, “India has made it clear to the U.S. and Iran as well as Pakistan’s key allies, China and Saudi Arabia, that they need to do more to use their clout to pressure Pakistan into acting…” The Press Trust of India (PTI), quoted by The Hindu, said India had used a visit by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal to Delhi to drive home the same message.
When the British left India in 1947, they bequeathed what was arguably a European notion of the nation state on a region for which the very concept was alien. I say ”arguably” because anything one writes about Partition or the nation state is open to dispute. And until the financial crisis, I relegated this argument to the realm of historians – a subject that interested me personally, but did not seem relevant today.
That was until I noticed a new debate bubbling up on the internet about the future of the nation state. Will it become more powerful as countries scramble to protect themselves from the financial crisis as George Friedman at Stratfor argues in this article? Or does the need for global solutions to the crisis sound a death knell for the nation state, as John Robb suggests here?