An existential fight
JONATHAN POWELLPakistan has no choice but to exterminate the militants.
The question is can the new Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, do anything about it? If he fails Pakistan might rip itself apart.
“Blowback” is happening because the shots are increasingly being called in political life by the extremist Islamist fighting units that the now threatened Pakistan political establishment itself created.
Going way back to soon after the nation was born in 1947 when it split off from India to form an
independent Muslim country the military’s Inter Service Intelligence agency has funded and supplied
the jihadists to do what the army could not do more publicly.
The targets remain the same: first Kashmir and later Afghanistan. In Kashmir the objective has been to wrest the Muslim-dominated province out of the hands of India. In Afghanistan the initial purpose was to aid the Taleban take over after the withdrawal of the Soviet occupation forces in 1989. Today, as the US and Nato troops prepare to leave, the militants are geared to supporting the Taleban to gain control of the country once again.
Thus, despite pledges after 9/11 to support the Americans fighting in Afghanistan and to facilitate supply routes, the ISI continued with supporting the Taleban.
The militants are prepared to go to any length to fulfill their aims and after becoming more financially and militarily independent act increasingly without the backing of the ISI. For their part the government and its military have, over the years, become more cautious, constraining the activities of the ISI. But the tail still too often wags the dog. This was seen most horrifically when five years ago militants from Pakistan attacked a hotel in Mumbai killing 166 people. The Pakistani government was deeply embarrassed by the event but nevertheless refused to either hand over to India — or arrest and try the suspects. It appeared to be too frightened of crossing the militants. The organisation behind
the bombing, Lashkar-e-Tayaba, regularly holds rallies in Lahore.
Last weekend, extremists attacked Peshawar, a city of four million that sits close to Afghanistan. They came from the unruly, adjacent so-called tribal areas, where the militants exert a growing influence. Groups such as the Pakistani Taleban have seized control of large parts of South Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan, enforcing an extreme version of law and participating in attacks on government and coalition targets in Afghanistan. The Pakistan army has been compelled to divert resources to try and root out the extremists.
In recent months, the government of Pakistan has tried to break loose from the policies that have favoured the Taleban, reaching out to the Afghan government, perhaps fearful a victorious Taleban would give support and strength to the extremist movements inside Pakistan.
Kashmir and Afghanistan are intertwined. The Pakistan government, first under Musharraf and more recently under President Asif Ali Zardari, negotiated with India to end the Kashmir dispute. Musharraf would probably have achieved a mutually acceptable settlement if Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, had closed a deal, which offered so many Pakistani concessions. Sharif knows he has to push for a deal if only to sideline the Kashmir-based Pakistani extremists.
Sharif will have to fight not just for the soul of Pakistan, but for its very being as a unitary state.
This abrigded article is taken from Khaleej Times online.