Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
Pakistan is dealing with multiple challenges all at once – its sovereignty and its very idea of itself as an independent nation state are tested in the northwest by both the Islamist militants and U.S. forces hunting them. To its east, the old hostility with India is back in full force following the Mumbai attacks. Then above all, some think the economic meltdown is a more serious risk to Pakistan’s survival than the threat of a conflict with India.
Where does a proud nation turn to for deliverance, faced with almost daily prognosis of its imminent demise?
To religion, going by the rise and rise of the mullah in Pakistani society according to a couple of articles in Pakistan’s Newsline magazine. Time was when the village mosque imam was one of the most powerless men in the community whose social functions were limited to being present at births, deaths and weddings, recalls author Mohammed Hanif .
The imam also led the prayers, but it was a different time then. There would be people loitering around the mosque but it never occurred to him to ask them to join the prayers; nor were those hanging outside the mosque embarrassed about sitting them out.
India continues to turn up the heat on Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks, declaring once again on Wednesday that all options were open to disrupt militant networks operating from there. And this, a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said official agencies must have been involved in an operation of such sophistication, a serious charge by a head of government against another state.
But is India really in a position to make good its threats against Pakistan ? The question has repeatedly come up here on this blog and elsewhere since those attacks on November 26 and now in the light of Israel’s Gaza operation, some people are again asking why New Delhi cannot carry out punitive strikes inside Pakistan.
While the firepower and consequently all the media attention has been focused on Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the North West Frontier Province, violence in Baluchistan province to the south has worsened.
The year gone by was the bloodiest in a decade for Baluchistan, the country’s largest but most impoverished province where a low key insurgency has raged for decades, the Daily Times said. Official data showed a steadily rising level of violence, up from 303 people killed in 2005 to 433 in 2008, the first time killings crossed the 400-mark.
There were 120 bomb blasts, 208 rocket attacks, 141 landmine blasts and 32 hand grenade attacks in the past year, and it could have been worse if the three main Baluch nationalist insurgent groups operating in the area – the BLA, the Baloch Republic Army and Baloch Liberation Front – had not declared ceasefire, the newspaper said. One of them, the BRA, has announced the end of the ceasefire from the New Year accusing the government of of kiling tribesmen.The other two groups may well follow suit, the Daily Times said, warning of a difficult year ahead in the vast sparsely populated desert region that straddles Afghanistan and Iran.
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.
By Robert Birsel and Zeeshan Haider
Pakistan’s Taliban have indignantly criticised what they said were India’s “unfounded” threats against Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai assault and they vowed to rally to the defence of the country in the event of an Indian attack.
“If they dared to attack Pakistan then, God willing, we will share the happiness and grief with all Pakistanis,” said Pakistani Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar.
“We will put the animosity and fighting with the Pakistani army behind us and the Taliban will defend their frontiers, their boundaries, their country with their weapons.
“We will defend the Line of Control in the same way as we are defending the Durand Line,” he told Reuters by telephone referring to the frontier with India in disputed Kashmir and the border with Afghanistan.
“We will show Pakistanis whether we are miscreants or defenders of the country.”
The International Institute for Strategic Studies released a note this week looking at the security, political and economic crises afflicting Pakistan.
For Pakistan watchers there was not much new, though the tenor of the note, despite its title “Pakistan on the Brink”, was a little less alarmist than other commentators, many of whom fear a nuclear armed state becoming a failed state.
Of all the reports I have read recently about what the United States should do about Pakistan, none so forcefully puts it in the context of its relationship with India as this latest study by the Center for American Progress (see the full pdf document here).
It’s worth reading not least because the think tank is expected to play an influential role in shaping the policies of President-elect Barack Obama. “Come January, perhaps none will be more piped into the executive branch than the 5-year-old Center for American Progress,” according to politico.com.
Will Israel and India – the first the United States’ closest ally and the second fast becoming one of the closest – emerge as the trickiest adversaries in any attempt by the United States to seek a regional solution to Afghanistan?
The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama plans to explore a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan — including possible talks with Iran.
Afghanistan’s Taliban are appealing to the United Nations, the European Union and the Red Cross to stop President Hamid Karzai from carrying out executions of people on death row, many of them their fighters.
They don’t think the Afghan judicial system is fair, according to a statement by the hardline Islamist group. The UN and the EU have asked Karzai to halt the executions.
The war in Afghanistan-Pakistan is really the central front in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban, U.S. President-elect Barack Obama kept saying throughout his campaign, and within hours of his famous victory, he seems to have been thrown a challenge.
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai said 40 people had been killed in a U.S. air strike in the southern province of Kandahar, most of whom were members of a wedding party, according to other officials. The Afghan leader, who is facing his own election next year, demanded that Obama stop the killings of civilians which this summer have mounted as overstretched U.S.-led coalition forces faced with a resurgent Taliban step up air strikes.