Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
The suicide bomb attack on the Pakistan Army in Pakistani Kashmir on Friday was not only unprecedented; it also raised questions about the state of militancy in Pakistan.
At its simplest level, the first suicide bombing in Pakistan’s side of Kashmir was seen as a reaction by the Pakistani Taliban to Pakistan’s military campaign against them in South Waziristan. “The militants are hurting and they are reacting. And this is a reaction to the successful operations we’ve had in Waziristan and we’ve had in the Malakand division,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Reuters.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, while a government official described the bomber as a Taliban militant from Waziristan.
What is puzzling, however, is the decision to target Pakistani Kashmir. While there are historical links between Pakistan’s frontier tribesmen and Kashmir dating back to partition, as discussed by Indian strategic analyst B. Raman in this article, the region has until now been the preserve of Punjab-based militant groups focused on fighting India in Indian Kashmir. The biggest of these, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), has avoided staging attacks on Pakistani targets, and of all the militant groups operating in Pakistan, it would be expected to be critical of attacks on the military.
President Barack Obama chose his words carefully when asked in an interview with Dawn earlier this week why the United States has been silent on Kashmir in recent months:
“I don’t think that we’ve been silent on the fact that India is a great friend of the United States and Pakistan is a great friend of the United States, and it always grieves us to see friends fighting. And we can’t dictate to Pakistan or India how they should resolve their differences, but we know that both countries would prosper if those differences are resolved,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Some people in India are calling upon the new coalition government to make a series of bold moves towards Pakistan that will compel the neighbour to put its money where the mouth is.
If Pakistan keeps saying that it cannot fully and single-mindedly go after militants on its northwest frontier and indeed increasingly within the heartland because of the threat it faces from India, then New Delhi must call its bluff, argued authors Nitin Pai and Sushant K. Singh in a recent piece for India’s Mint newspaper.
Conspiracy theories have filled a void in Pakistan that opened up as soon as the dozen gunmen who attacked the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team made a leisurely getaway without any apparent casualties after a 25 minute gun battle.
Since the attack on Tuesday, Pakistani authorities have yet to reveal where the investigation was going, despite Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi saying “important leads” had been established.
An Indian military presence in Afghanistan to put further pressure on Pakistan? That would be the red rag for Pakistan, and the end of its long struggle to seek strategic depth in Afghanistan against its much larger eastern neighbour.
Indian newspapers have reported army chief General Deepak Kapoor as saying at a news conference that such a move would squeeze Pakistan, although he seemed to be at considerable pains to stress this was a decision that India’s politicians had to take.
The bodies of nine Islamic militants killed while attacking Mumbai in November still lie in a public morgue there. Indian Islamic leaders have refused to bury them in a local Muslim cemetery, saying terrorists "have no religion" and do not deserve a religious funeral. Although India suspects the militants came from neighbouring Pakistan, Islamabad refuses to take the bodies back as this could presumably undermine its claim to have no link to the gunmen. Indian officials say they still need the bodies for their investigations into the Nov. 26-29 massacre, in which 179 people were killed, but those inquiries will end some day. What should the Indians do with the bodies then?
A U.S. historian has come up with a proposal that would dispose of the bodies without requiring Pakistan to take them. Leor Halevi, a professor of Islamic history at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, wrote in the Washington Postthat India should cremate them and scatter the ashes in international waters, as Israel did after executing the Nazi commander Adolf Eichmann in 1962. He notes this would be an un-Islamic method of burial and would avoid a permanent grave that could become a memorial for other militants. He writes:
According to Pakistani newspaper the Daily Times, Pakistan’s decision to crack down on the Jammat-ud-Dawa, the charity linked to the Laskhar-e-Taiba, came as the result of pressure from China. Jammat-ud-Dawa was blacklisted by a UN Security Council committee this week.
The Daily Times noted that earlier attempts to target the Jamaat-ud-Dawa at the Security Council had been vetoed by China. “It is the Chinese “message” that has changed our mind. The Chinese did not veto the banning of Dawa on Wednesday, and they had reportedly told Islamabad as much beforehand, compelling our permanent representative at the UN to assert that Pakistan would accept the ban if it came,” the newspaper said. “One subliminal message was also given to Chief Minister Punjab, Mr Shehbaz Sharif, during his recent visit to China, and the message was that Pakistan had to seek peace with India or face change of policy in Beijing. Once again, it is our friend China whose advice has been well taken…”
India’s governing Congress party’s unexpectedly good showing in a clutch of state elections should give Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a little more breathing space as he considers a response to Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks which New Delhi says were orchestrated from there.
Imagine a scenario in which the Congress had lost all five states whose results were announced this week (results from Jammu and Kashmir, the sixth state, will be released later this month). The knives would have been out both within his increasingly restless Congress party and from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which has targeted him for being soft on national security, running ads with blood splattered against a black background in the middle of the Mumbai siege.
Pakistan has begun a crackdown on Lashkar-e-Taiba following intense pressure from India and the United States to take action against the militant group blamed by New Delhi for the Mumbai attacks. According to intelligence officials and local residents, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, was arrested following a raid on a camp near Muzaffarabad in Pakistani-held Kashmir.
As discussed in an earlier post, India has long complained about what it saw as Pakistan’s failure to crack down on Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, another Pakistan-based militant group, which it says were nurtured by the Pakistan spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI, to attack Indian targets in Kashmir and elsewhere.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged Pakistan to cooperate “fully and transparently” in investigations into the Mumbai attacks, while U.S. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has pointed a finger at Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant group.
That’s probably the kind of language that would go down well in India, which has been frustrated in the past by what it saw as the United States’ failure to acknowledge the threat from Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups, instead preferring to rely on Pakistan as a useful ally in the region while focusing its own energies on defeating al Qaeda and the Taliban.