Even amidst the flurry of political activity in New Delhi, the media has had a field day (or two) with a couple of news reports from Pakistan. The first being the apparent successful military operation against the Taliban in the Swat Valley, and the second being the release of Hafiz Saeed, the Lashkar-e-Taiba chief, from house arrest. As is the case with anything related to Pakistan, there is always more than meets the eye.
The United States and the international community have been hailing Pakistan army’s successes in the Valley. Even The Wall Street Journal joined the chorus, in a very gung-ho editorial that put its weight behind Pakistan and asked the US Congress to approve the military and economic aid package to their “allies in Islamabad”. A couple of days ago, Ahmed Quraishi was on BBC, claiming that the $11 billion military aid doled out by the US to his country was pittance, but couldn’t answer why Pakistan was unable to account for funds provided to them for a specific purpose.
The problem that Pakistan faces is an old one. The British tried, with carrot and stick, to bring the Pashtun in line and failed. The Soviets launched a war — and even declared victory — but eventually had to retreat in the face of ceaseless guerrilla assaults. The Americans have experienced this first hand. The Taliban are not going to fight a conventional military battle against anyone. They will not have war imposed upon them. They fight at a time and place of their choosing.
Despite the apparent losses, the Taliban leadership is still intact. The Radio Mullah and Baitullah Mehsud are still alive, and the Pakistani army faces the unenviable task of asserting itself in territory it hasn’t ever fully controlled. Anyone believing that a military “victory” is the only solution is living in a fool’s paradise. Pakistan will eventually realize that it needs to take a page out of Gen. Petreaus’ book and bribe/appease/cajole/entice their way into some sort of political compromise with the Swati tribes. The question is whether the Pakistani government has the will to sustain a military/political campaign against the Taliban.
Which brings me right along to Hafiz Saeed. His release, after nearly five months of house arrest, is only to be expected. India’s huffing and puffing is as utterly meaningless as its decision to outsource the redressal of its grievances vis-a-vis Pakistan to the US. This blogger has opined previously that Pakistan sees no benefit in abandoning its use of unconventional warfare against India; and why should it? India has no antidote to counter state-sponsored terrorism, and the United States is unfalteringly vague on the matter, for fear of offending its friends in Islamabad. And if this extraordinary report in The Times of India is to be believed, India is working through diplomatic channels to rekindle the “peace process” with Pakistan, a month before Secretary Clinton’s scheduled visit.
Given the lack of will or ability to affect a credible response from Pakistan on the issue of terrorism, the stagnation of the peace process, and diplomatic inertia of the past six months on account of the general elections, the Indian government now sees no way out but to extend a hand of friendship to Pakistan. Stagnation, or indeed, further deterioration of Indo-Pak relations is not acceptable. At least, not to the United States.
Therefore, with the continuation of the charade that is Hafiz Saeed’s trial, and the soon-to-be-broadcast vague, ambivanet utterances against terrorism by Islamabad, readers should fully expect the commencement of the second edition of the India-Pakistan Peace process (IPP-2), which will be dramatically heralded by a series of Twenty20 Indo-Pak cricket matches, and the establishment of a cross-border laddoo exchange mechanism. Meanwhile, the 200 civilians who died in Mumbai will be as purged from our memories as were their lives at the hands of terrorists from Pakistan on 26/11. So much for candlelight vigils and “Never Forget” banners.