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No exit

The US must not forget the importance of a democratic, pluralist Pakistan

US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses a press conference in Islamabad US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses a press conference in Islamabad

The recent visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Islamabad is a continuation of the improving relations between Pakistan and the US. From the declared frenemies in 2011, things have changed thereby proving that nothing is permanent in international relations except interests.

Kerry during his visit lauded Pakistan’s ongoing fight against terrorism and urged the authorities to take action against militant groups that threaten regional peace and stability. Furthermore, the State Department has declared Mullah Fazalullah, commander of TTP fighting Pakistani military, a global terrorist and froze his US assets, if any. On Tuesday, Afghan authorities reportedly apprehended 5 suspected planners of the Peshawar school attack based on the intelligence shared by Pakistan. This came after the weekend visit of Pakistani intelligence chief to Kabul and his meeting with President Ghani.

What distinguished Kerry’s current visit from earlier visits by US officials was that Pakistan Defence Council and other such xenophobic networks did not carry out public demonstrations against the US. A clear effort was made that such an embarrassment is avoided. Phrases such as ‘drone strikes’ and ‘violations of sovereignty’ were missing in the official communiques. Both countries are back to their old military to military relationship and trust deficit has considerably narrowed.

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Af-Pak: End this End Game

Published last month here

Pakistan will have to focus on bilateral trust building: with US, Afghanistan and India. This sounds daunting but there is no alternative to stronger diplomatic engagement

A day’s visit to Kabul is hardly sufficient to make an informed comment on the status of the Afghanistan imbroglio. The unfortunate term ‘end game’ implies that for much of the world and regional powers it is all about carving zones of influence in post-Nato Afghanistan. The US wants to exit but is mulling over a partial presence. India wants to consolidate its partnership with the Afghan government and people. Iran has its concerns based on the Sunni strands of extremism. The Central Asian states want to profit from the new arrangements. And, Pakistan, the vital player in the region, wants to ensure that the future Afghan government is not hostile. Above all, it is concerned about being ‘encircled’ by India on its eastern and western borders.

Pakistan, due to its peculiar history and irreversible geography, holds the critical cards in the future process. How far does it have leverage over the Taliban groups is a matter of debate. The country’s detractors say that Pakistan’s influence with the Taliban groups is a stumbling block in holding direct negotiations with the Taliban groups that the US has initiated and wants the Afghan government to extend and deepen this process in the months to come.

There is another view that despite the contacts, Pakistan does not control groups such as the ‘Haqqani network’ and if it pushes them to the wall they could very well turn against Pakistan itself. There are also views on the perceived power of the groups, such as the Quetta Shura, which allegedly operates from Pakistan.

The ‘gaming’ on Afghanistan has generated narratives on all sides. Afghan public opinion is sceptical of Pakistan. The US/NATO narrative is growing resentful of Pakistan’s policies. And within Pakistan, growing anti-Americanism and a particular populist understanding of history have led to paranoia about US intentions towards Pakistan. More worryingly from the Pakistani State’s perspective, the emerging US-India-Afghanistan axis mediated through strategic pacts, aid, relations with the leaders of non-Pashtun Afghan population, among others, are factors which pose a ‘strategic’ threat.   […]

September 6th, 2012|Afghanistan, Published in Hard News|2 Comments

Wikileaks and our fantasies

Pakistanis are not interested in what the west likes or dislikes. We are concerned for our security, especially for the burgeoning youth of this country. It is time to deepen the corrective action within, rather than looking westwards for strategic victories. It is hoped that the civil-military leadership realises this and takes corrective action against the extremists within us and who threaten our very existence