NEW DELHI: At last renowned Indian diplomat and analyst G Parthasrathy wrote the truth, which was not unfolding, that India and the United States are very worried over the defeat of President Musharraf allies in the recent held elections in Pakistan. Parthasrathy, who was India’s High Commissioner in Pakistan besides remaining on key posts in the Indian foreign affairs ministry, wrote in the Indian daily “Pioneer” that the White House in Washington and the South Block in New Delhi are very worried after the defeat of allies of President Pervez Musharraf in the 18 February elections.
According to Parthasrathy, the rulers in Indian and the United States thought that Pervez Musharraf was invincible and Washington and New Delhi regarded Mushrraf as the best protector of their interests in Pakistan and thus they openly supported Pervez Musharraf till the very end. But after the 18 February elections, it is beyond the understanding of Washington and New Delhi how to protect their interests in Pakistan? In his article, G Parthasrathy, while expressing his hatred for Muslim League [N] Quaid Nawaz Sharif, has voiced reservations over his reconciliation with Peoples Party.
The February 2008 election in Pakistan, in which Gen Pervez Musharraf’s loyalists were routed, sent the diplomatic establishments in the White House in Washington and South Block in New Delhi into a tailspin. Despite warnings about Gen Musharraf’s growing unpopularity, the diplomatic establishments in New Delhi and Washington remained wedded to the “Musharraf is our best bet” syndrome and wrongly believed till the very last moment that the General was invincible and irreplaceable in Pakistan. While India mercifully steered clear of dabbling in Pakistan’s internal politics, (though its pro-Musharraf tilt was plainly visible), Washington has been shaken at the extent to which its policies of supporting Gen Musharraf have backfired, he observed.
“Washington assiduously sought to forge a Musharraf-Benazir Bhutto alliance to give the election a measure of credibility. It was also perceived as an active participant when former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was bundled off to further exile in Saudi Arabia, when he tried to return to Pakistan from London. Worse, the wise men in Washington’s diplomatic establishment openly aired their misgivings of Mr Sharif being a closet Islamist. A severely embarrassed King Abdullah was forced to step in and facilitate Mr Sharif’s return to participate in the election. Mr Sharif has neither forgotten nor forgiven the Americans for the humiliations he suffered. He now has two immediate objectives. The first is to restore the judges led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry who were sacked by Gen Musharraf last year. Second, he appears determined to force the Americans to recognise that they will have to pay a price for their unconditional support to Gen Musharraf and that they can no longer expect unconditional Pakistani support on Afghanistan,” he said.
For once, the ruling elite in Pakistan appears to be attaching only secondary attention to relations with India. The primary focus on dealing with the terrorism that Pakistan currently faces from pro-Taliban jihadis who had been armed and trained by the ISI. “Recent reports from Pakistan indicate that as foreign rescue teams poured into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir after the October 2005 earthquake, the ISI was forced to shift around 10,000 jihadis from PoK to the North-West Frontier Province. These jihadis joined the pro-Taliban tribals to wage war against their mentors, the Pakistan Army, since 2007. They have fought the well-armed Pakistan Army to a standstill in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and carried their jihad into the Punjabi heartland of Pakistan,” he alleged.
Pakistan’s newly elected leaders have not taken kindly to public warnings from the US that should NATO forces get “actionable intelligence” they will strike across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Taking note of the widespread public anger against the Army, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has decided, that at least for the present, the Army should lower its profile and appear deferential to the civilian rulers. The first interaction between the Army brass and the top political leadership took place in the wake of a warning from new Foreign Minster Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi that Pakistan would not “tolerate” American intrusions into its territory. Some details of what transpired between the Army and the politicians were made known by pro-Sharif circles. It was stated that during the meeting there was “unanimity of view that a political solution to the problem of extremism and terrorism in the tribal areas would be sought, while the military option would be used as a back up measure and that too would be managed exclusively by the country’s armed forces,” Parthasarthy maintained.
While the politicians in Islamabad may favour a ceasefire and talks with militants, the reality is that having exposed the limitations of the Pakistan military, the militants will not end their support for the Taliban and Al Qaeda unconditionally. A senior leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan, Maulvi Faqir Mohammed, said that the militants would not lay down arms, or end their jihad till the Pakistan Government ended support for the US’s ‘War on Terror’, the Pakistan Army was withdrawn from tribal areas and all American and NATO left Afghanistan. The Maulvi also demanded that shari’ah should be introduced fully in Pakistan. The Taliban have indicated that they will soon commence operations to disrupt supplies for American forces in Pakistan. Petroleum tankers carrying fuel for NATO forces were recently attacked and destroyed at the Torkham post on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. American patience at its troops in Afghanistan being attacked from Pakistani territory, with Pakistani soldiers looking on passively, will crack sooner rather than later.
These crucial problems have to be addressed amid emerging differences between Mr Sharif on the one hand and PPP leaders Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani on the other. Mr Zardari does not share Mr Sharif’s zeal for the unconditional restoration of the judiciary led by the mercurial Justice Chaudhry, though he has little choice other than going along with Mr Sharif on this issue. Mr Zardari also wishes to avoid a confrontation with Gen Musharraf, which would inevitably happen if Justice Chaudhry is restored unconditionally. Finally, Mr Zardari and his associates in the Pakistan People’s Party are far more US-friendly than Mr Sharif, who certainly would not endorse the Foreign Minister’s assertion that “the US played pivotal role for the revival of democracy and transparent elections” in Pakistan. Failure to “manage contradictions” brought down a Government in India led by a politician as wily as Mr VP Singh. It remains to be seen how Pakistan’s politicians manage their contradictions.
Given the contradictory statements voiced in Islamabad on complex issues like Jammu & Kashmir, India should avoid forcing the pace in relations with Pakistan. While there appears to be a growing Pakistani consensus on improving trade and economic ties with India, two essential factors cannot be ignored. First, Mr Sharif has remained conspicuously silent on how the issue of Jammu & Kashmir should be resolved and how the dialogue on the Valley should proceed. Second, groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba enjoy political patronage from high circles in the Pakistan Muslim League.
One should not be surprised if efforts are made to relieve pressures the Pakistan Army faces on its western borders by moving some its erstwhile jihadi allies back to springboards for infiltration across the Line of Control. A willingness to promote co-operation, enhance confidence and address the complex issue of Jammu & Kashmir by India has to be coupled with realism about the uncertain and volatile political and security situation in Pakistan.-SANA