Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
Violence in Kashmir is down to its lowest level since the separatist revolt began in 1989, but peace remains a distant prospect in one of the world’s most beautiful regions.
The Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Studies which tracks militant violence across South Asia says 541 people were killed in militant-linked violence in 2008, continuing the declining trend from the previous year when fatalities had fallen to 777. That was well below the 1,000 mark used to define a high-intensity conflict and way lower than the 2001 peak of 4,507 deaths in a single year.
Just for purposes of comparison on a broad level, a separate analysis by the Institute shows that the number of people killed in militant-related violence in Pakistan hit 6,715 in 2008 from a 2003 figure of 189, reflecting a dramatic deterioration in the security situation.
So, as Pakistan fights the militants in its most serious internal challenge yet, some of whom it fostered to fight Indian forces in Kashmir, is peace at hand in the Himalayan region ?
One of the more recurrent themes in U.S. political punditry these days is the need to nudge India and Pakistan towards peace. The theory is that this would bolster the new civilian government in Islamabad by encouraging trade and economic development, reduce a rivalry that threatens regional stability, including in Afghanistan, and limit the role of the Pakistan Army, whose traditional dominance has been fuelled by a perceived threat from India.
So what are the chances of progress? (assuming the latest bombings just being reported in Delhi do not trigger a new downwards spiral)
With hindsight, it seems clear that a mass movement named after Mao’s Long March but also claiming Gandhi’s principles of non-violence risked disappointing its supporters. The failure of the Long March by Pakistan’s lawyers to restore judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf, and its dispersal last Saturday, has prompted much debate about why its leaders gave up without at least staging a sit-in.
Defence analyst Ikram Sehgal called the Long March a logistical success in its ability to garner mass support without violence, but a tactical failure. “The tactical failure of this long-lasting tremendous effort founded on great principles has become a strategic disaster for Musharraf’s opponents,” he writes in The News. “About Pervez Musharraf, ‘with such friends who needs enemies’, one can paraphrase the saying for him: ‘With such enemies why does he need friends?’”