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Changing relationships

Recently the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made an offer of a peace and a non-aggression treaty to Pakistan. At the same time there are rumors of a possible settlement of the Siachin and Sir Creek dispute between India and Pakistan. The Indian Prime Minister warned that it would be a mistake to keep every thing on hold in Indo-Pak relations till the resolution of the Kashmir issue. He also complimented Gen Musharraf for fighting terrorism. This is quite a change from the recent belligerent statements coming out of New Delhi; why the sudden change? Is it because the Indians want to blind – side us till US congress approves the understanding between India and the US on nuclear co-operation. Pakistan’s disquiet will worry congressional leaders.

President Musharraf in his 23rd March address at the Minar e Pakistan, warned that he would be harsh with the Baluch and the Waziristan insurgents; he also said that as long as Punjab supported the army, he could deal with any issue. He reiterated that all the water reservoirs will be constructed; an obvious reference to the construction of Kalabagh Dam. A first comment would be that the statements are self serving aimed at getting Punjab support; I thought it was evident to the President that his party was the army and he did not need the backing of any federal unit for gaining legitimacy, unless he was thinking of the future as a non-army President. However, the harsh statements in the same address aimed at the Baluch and the Waziristan insurgents will not end those difficulties. Arrogance in political matters is always counter productive. It would be more helpful to the country to end these crises.

President Karzai made cabinet changes by the removal of foreign minister Abdulla Abdulla, who was not a favorite with Pakistan; however his replacement by the former Maoist of Shula e Javaid, Spanta should not make any one happy in Pakistan; he is not fond of this country because of the support that was lent to Hekmatyar. Yet another brittle page was added to our already poor relationship with Afghanistan, when 16 of the Noorzai tribesmen fromBaluchistan were killed in Spin Boldak. Pakistan has charged the Afghan government of being complicit in this gruesome murder; the men were arrested in Kabul, while on their way to Mazar e Sharif in northern Afghanistan; they were brought to Spin Boldak before being executed. Pakistan has condemned this abominable act of state terrorism. I think Karzai must answer the allegations; Pakistan should demand a joint criminal investigation; I wish we had cooperated with Afghanistan in doing the same when Karzai gave a list of Talibans, who were allegedly in Pakistan.

Another mystery developed the other day at Torkham on the Pak-Afghan border, when security forces blew up a fully loaded oil tanker and its driver arrested on the grounds, that it was carrying bombs within the fuel! I don’t believe a word of this. If you connect the events, I think provocation is being caused to us to re-act. If this plan continues then I feel that we are heading towards another closure of borders with Afghanistan in the future. It is likely that the relationship with that country will deteriorate, let us not forget that according to one estimate there are about 60,000 Pakistanis working in that country; the trade between the two is estimated to be more than Rs 1.4 billion per year. There is a lot that will be lost, if the conditions between the two worsen.

Events in Waziristan are not too good (see previous news letter). Attacks on government posts are a daily occurrence; there are assassinations of loyal government maliks; in short we have lost administrative control in both South and N. Waziristan; the only dialogue between the government and the tribes is of violence. The coalition authorities must realize that forcing the Pakistan government to always re-act violently against its people will lead to further radicalization of the region. If the Waziristan hinterland is restive, how will the military be able to remain stretched on the Durand line? They will come under attack and would have to regroup in the rear; the result will be an open border with pro-Taliban supporters leading excursions into the Afghan territory, which the allied and the Afghan forces will not be able to neutralize. The causalities will escalate and Pakistan will be accused of not doing enough! We should realize that the approach for dealing with the Waziristan insurgency is flawed. The problem has deepened instead of easing up.

It is time to re-strategize our approach to security in Afghanistan. In refusing to do so we are alienating and killing our own people. The time has come to re-think the existing terms of reference of the tri-partite security arrangements between Pakistan, Afghanistan and CENTCOM; a political committee should be formed to look at the total picture. War is too serious a business to be left to the military alone. We are seeing the decay of the existing arrangements and development of belligerent relationship is in the offing with our neighbour. This ought not to happen given so many sacrifices on both sides.

In this context there is also a need to re-think our foreign policy after the very clear pronouncements of the US President during his visit to South Asia. He said that the US shared common values with India; while with Pakistan the US shared interests. After this unequivocal pronouncement, no further explanation is required. It is evident that values are more permanent; interests keep on shifting. The time has come to recognize this and move towards permanent peace with both India and Afghanistan.

Closer to home the comparatively more disciplined attitude of the MMA Islamist parties in the NWFP and in Parliament keeps on getting creditable ¬†with each passing day (except bribe taking in the recently held senate election in NWFP). There are many, who criticize the poor performance of the MMA government in the province, however you will find that it a historic factor that any provincial government’s survival is dependent upon the federal government’s intent. There are some issues, where the MMA continues to receive niggardly support. Witness the non-payment of funds to the province under the net hydel profit dispensation under the constitution or the non-availability of civil armed forces, meant for the protection of the NWFP, but which are mostly deployed in Sindh and Punjab. It makes the provincial government ineffective in maintaining law and order and causes criticism.

Some MMA legislators from the JUI-F component of the coalition reportedly took bribes to cast their votes for the PML’Q. The party investigated the matter and 4 legislators asked to resign from the provincial assembly. Such acts build creditability amongst the electorate. Combine this action with the recent convention of the Jamat e Islami in Peshawar, where Islamist leaders from Hamas and other organizations world wide participated, together these actions show a deep commitment to a way of life (however much others may disagree with it); a fact not appreciated by the West but something which will be remembered by the electorate, when elections take place. With these acts the MMA has gained more support and legitimacy and is becoming a formidable political force.

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