Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Pakistan’s slow path to salvation in Waziristan

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Pakistan’s militants have unleashed a guerrilla war in cities across the country in retaliation for a military offensive against them in their South Waziristan stronghold. But while they have seized all the attention with their massive bomb and gun attacks, what about the offensive itself  in their mountain redoubt ?

Nearly two weeks into Operation Rah-e-Nijat, or Path of Salvation,  it is hard to make a firm assessment of which way the war is going, given that information is hard to come by and this may yet be still the opening stages of a long and difficult campaign.

Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan whose uncharacteristically low profile over the past few weeks has spawned speculation, said at the weekend that it was too early to make a call on the operation. and that he had asked his intelligence officers and they had no definitive information. Pakistan’s Dawn quotes him as telling reporters in Washington “‘it’ll take a while before we know whether the enemy they’re fighting has been dispersed or destroyed or some mixture of the two.”

Looked at in another way and judging purely by what has not happened so far, this hasn’t shaped up into the mother-of-all battles that many had predicted it to be. No major ambushes or a tribal uprising has happened as the Pakistani army inches deeper into the Taliban mini-state,  taking the village of Kotkai, the home of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud.

The fog of war on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border

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Pakistani soldier near the borderPakistan’s Frontier Corps soldiers and U.S. led coalition-led troops just over the ill-defined border in Afghanistan must have been barely a few hundred yards apart on Tuesday night when 11 Pakistani soldiers were killed in an air strike that has touched off a new row between the two allies.

But their accounts of what really happened  in the frontier region of Mohmand are very different and sketchy, and to add to the confusion,  there is a third version from the Pakistan Taliban.

Anti-Americanism in Pakistan

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U.S. ambassador Anne W. Patterson, in a speech reported by the Pakistan press, said last week that the depth of anti-Americanism in Pakistan, especially among the middle-class, had surprised her. Pakistan’s long-term interests were aligned with those of the United States, and those opposing U.S. engagement in the country had a limited understanding of  how the partnership based on economic assistance had changed the lives of Pakistanis, she told a meeting in Karachi. For added measure, she said that the “ïncreasingly prosperous middle class” would be the first to suffer if  hardliners gained ground.

KFC outlet in Lahore

She needn’t have looked further than to events last  week to see why America sits rather uneasily on the Pakistani mind, a heavy hand of friendship that Pakistanis are increasingly chafing against.

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