Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
The New York Times has an intriguing story about the sourcing for a report that did the rounds last week saying that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) rushed Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar to Karachi last week after he suffered a heart attack. (h/t Five Rupees)
To recap, the Washington Post said last week that a private intelligence network, the Eclipse Group, had reported that Mullah Omar had a heart attack on Jan. 7 and was treated for several days in a Karachi hospital with the help of the ISI.
It quoted the Eclipse Group as saying its source was a physician in the Karachi hospital, which was not identified in the report, who said he saw Mullah Omar struggling to recover from an operation to put a stent in his heart. “While I was not personally in the operating theater,” the physician reported, “my evaluation based on what I have heard and seeing the patient in the hospital is that Mullah Omar had a cardiac catheter complication resulting in either bleeding or a small cerebral vascular incident, or both.”
As is the way of these things, the story did the rounds of the Internet, blogosphere and Twitter until the original source of the report — an unnamed doctor in an unnamed Karachi hospital quoted by a private intelligence network — was obscured under the weight of repetition.
The arrest of Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Karachi leaves big unanswered questions about why Pakistan chose to act now against a man credited with giving operational coherence to Afghan Taliban (or Quetta Shura Taliban) operations in Afghanistan.
The answers to those questions depend very much on the assumptions you start out with about what Pakistan is trying to achieve in Afghanistan. But for the sake of of argument, let’s take three of them — that it is pushing the Taliban to sever ties with al Qaeda and enter negotiations on a political settlement; that it wants a stable Afghanistan, and that it is aiming to keep it free of Indian and Iranian influence.