Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

India – aiming for diplomatic encirclement of Pakistan?

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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.

As discussed previously on this blog, in the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, India’s response was to look to the United States to put pressure on Pakistan. It also appears to have won some support from Russia, whose officials said publicly that the attacks were funded by Dawood Ibrahim, an underworld don who India says lives in Pakistan. China, Pakistan’s traditional ally, supported the United Nations Security Council in  blacklisting the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charity accused of being a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba.  China’s Foreign Minister has also telephoned his counterparts in India and Pakistan urging dialogue, according to Xinhua

And to complete the tour of the permanent members of the Security Council, Britain blamed Pakistan-based militants for the Mumbai attacks, while France has also called on Pakistan to take action.

“Plan C” – Pakistan turns to the IMF.

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Pakistan has agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a $7.6 billion emergency loan to stave off a balance of payments crisis. 

Shaukat Tarin, economic adviser to the prime minister, said the IMF had endorsed Pakistan’s own strategy to bring about structural adjustments. The agreement is expected to encourage other potential donors, who are gathering in Abu Dhabi on Monday for a “Friends of Pakistan” conference.

The sound and fury of the Pakistan-Afghanistan debate

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Marriott Hotel in Islamabad after bombingThe debate about the fate of Pakistan and Afghanistan is getting noisier by the day.

According to this McClatchy report, a new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate — reflecting the consensus of U.S. intelligence agencies — has described Pakistan as being “on the edge”.

Time to think about Afghanistan end-game?

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Afghan girl in Taloqan/Fabrizio BenschBritain’s commander in Afghanistan has said the war against the Taliban cannot be won and suggested talks with the group might be a way of making progress.

“We’re not going to win this war. It’s about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that’s not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army,” Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith said in an interview with the Sunday Times.

Pakistan: firing reported on Indian and Afghan borders

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Just two days after a suicide bomb attack on the Marriott killed 53 people in the heart of Islamabad, there were reports of trouble both on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan and on the Line of Control with India.  

File photo of Indian bunkerOn the Afghan border, Pakistani troops fired on two U.S. helicopters that intruded into Pakistani airspace on Sunday night, forcing them to turn back to Afghanistan, according to a senior Pakistani security official.  On the Indian side, Pakistani and Indian troops exchanged fire across the Line of Control dividing Kashmir, in the latest breach of a ceasefire agreed in 2003. And as if that was not enough, Afghanistan’s top diplomat was kidnapped in Peshawar.

U.S., bin Laden losing support in Pakistan – Pew report

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Both the United States and Osama bin Laden are losing support in Pakistan, according to the latest Pew Global Attitudes report released this week (download the full PDF report to see details on Pakistan).

The poll, conducted before the resignation of former President Pervez Musharraf, showed faith in U.S. intentions towards democracy  was weaker than ever - only 20 percent believed the United States favoured democracy in Pakistan, down from 39 percent in 2005.

Sharif vs Zardari: A fight to the finish or revival of democracy?

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Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif/Aug 18The resignation of President Pervez Musharraf has, as expected, unleashed a new power struggle within Pakistan’s fractious coalition. Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and widower of Benazir Bhutto, has staked a claim to the presidency, setting him on a collision course with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) sees Zardari’s candidacy as an attempt to garner more power and delay the restoration of judges sacked by Musharraf last November. PML (N) officials are already saying the row could break up the six-month-old coalition cobbled together after elections in February.

So will there be a fight to the finish between Zardari and Sharif that will drag Pakistan deeper into the mire? Or are the two men simply manoeuvring themselves into the best position they can find in the post-Musharraf era?

UPDATE-Will Musharraf’s resignation bring stability to Pakistan?

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PPP supporters dancing in the streets/Athar HussainUPDATE – President Pervez Musharraf’s resignation has been greeted with jubilation from supporters of the ruling PML-N and PPP parties (see picture right), and sparked a rally in the stock market. But reading through the comments on this and other blogs, I can’t see any clear theme emerging, with some praising and others condemning Musharraf’s legacy, some regretting and others welcoming his departure, and many fretting about the future.

I rather liked this comment on All Things Pakistan which seemed to sum up the many contradictions of people struggling to work out how to rally around a common cause:

What price Saudi oil bill deferrals for Pakistan?

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Khurais oilfield in Saudi ArabiaA report in the Financial Times that Saudi Arabia has agreed in principle to defer payments for crude oil sales to Pakistan worth $5.9 billion has raised speculation about what it is looking for in return.

The Daily Times suggests that the Saudis are buying political stability in Pakistan, which may include throwing a lifeline to President Pervez Musharraf.  “Apparently, the immediate impact will be on PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif’s politics of confrontation with Musharraf, which will have to be diluted significantly in line with ground realities,” it says. ”The Saudis, like the Americans, want a stable transition to civilian rule and no confrontation between the politicians and the military, including Musharraf.”

Should Pakistan grow food for the Gulf?

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Queuing to buy wheat flour in Peshawar/May file photoThis is an idea that looks crazy at first glance — Pakistan, struggling with its own food shortages and rising prices, rents out its farmland to grow grains for the rich Gulf states instead. 

But the idea appears to be gaining momentum. Saudi Arabia is holding talks with officials in Pakistan, among other countries, to set up projects to grow wheat and other grains to protect itself from crises in world food supplies. Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj Capital has already said it is looking at investing in agriculture in Pakistan  and other Gulf countries are also showing an interest.

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