The killing of Osama-bin–Laden on May 2, 2011, by US Naval SEALs in a campaign coded as “Operation Neptune Spear at Abbottabad, can be likened to the recent demise of Mullah Mansour, but this time the stage was set at Noshki, Balochistan, but once more in the territorial jurisdiction of Pakistan. The US then alleged that Pakistan’s spy chief, Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha was well conversant with the movement of the religious leader in the country.
In a similar episode in 2006, a drone attack came in the dawn on a Madrassa in the Bajaur tribal area. Paradoxically, the strike came the day the government was expected to sign a peace agreement with militants in Bajaur. The drone strike engulfed as many as 82 people, majority of whom were children. The military government was awfully embarrassed to the extent that it had, perhaps, no choice except to ‘own’ the incident accepting all involved as “miscreants getting terrorist training in the seminary.”
The peace agreement, had it been signed, would have resulted in the grant of a pardon to a few militants, in exchange of ceasefire and even long-lasting peace there, as well as other parts of the country at one hand, and building trust between the government and the militants on the other. But this was, perhaps, intentionally jeopardised by the international stakeholders, being sceptical of the peace efforts taken by the Pakistan government.
Like any other modern state, Pakistan always has irritants of various types with all its neighbouring countries. Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh have all posed problems in the past and even friends like China are on that list, causing it continuous annoyance and disturbance which shall be discussed independently in some other columns. However, at present, Pakistan’s Afghan policy in the US context seems to be most critical, and needs special mention here. Like numerous tentacles, it has got multifarious dimensions.
Firstly, Pakistan is compelled to maintain its chronic dogma of strategic depth by way of having pro-Pakistan governments in neighbouring Afghanistan. Although, having successfully been able to make its presence deeply felt by the international stakeholders, especially the United States, Pakistan, perhaps, has not fairly been able to reconcile its irritants hanging between Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Afghan Taliban, Afghan government and the United States as Pakistan has to face stiff criticism from all those corners besides acute internal law and order situation arising actually from the above-strained relations. Pakistan has to come up with an impression that it is fighting its own war instead of any other stakeholder and let it not be blamed by TTP or any other group that Pakistan is merely fighting a proxy war for US-led NATO forces at one hand and that it may not become any hindrance in execution of genuine terrorist elements by United States on the other.
Secondly, the Afghan government seems to look at Pakistan’s genuine efforts to eliminate miscreants within and across its western borders with untrustworthy eyes and always demands us to “do more” safely by using the paw of United States, despite the fact that Pakistan itself has become a victim of its competency by doing more than even the declared expectations of its western allies.
Thirdly, unlike in the past in late 80s, United States, perhaps, would not like to afford any Geneva Accord like situation where Pakistan intended to safeguard its genuine concerns in the wake of withdrawal of Soviet troops from Kabul. It is, perhaps, the reason that US would never hesitate even for a single moment to jeopardise any peace agreements on the spur of the moment, while they are being finalised between the Pakistan government and the militants to desist any absolute control in any future set up there. The killings of Osama-Bin-Laden, Mullah Mansour and other Taliban leaders once loyal to Pakistan are nothing short of sending a loud and clear message to and laying moral pressure on Pakistan’s political and intelligence establishment that they are closely monitoring their movements. Every time this happens, so many questions arise and create embarrassment for Pakistan as to whether it was aware of any such presence or activity. Whether the US government took Islamabad or Rawalpindi in confidence or not before conducting such substantial raids. Whether, such Islamist leaders were not pampered by the US itself. Also whether they had been arrested or executed much earlier and the current occurrences were merely the formalities to make it public at that time deemed appropriate by the US. If the US and the west would like to have their own governments on the western borders of Pakistan and China to maintain an effective check and balance thereupon and would never like them to have their supportive governments and mega projects like Gwadar and CPEC there by any means?
Fourthly, the proposed model of primitive caliphate is taken with a grain of salt by the modern political scientists who generally believe in absolute exclusion of religion from the affairs of state whereas Islamist groups led by Mullah Omer, Mullah Mansour or even the new Taliban leader, Hibatullah believe in revival of caliphate in all its primitive form, posing threat to the west and even to Pakistan’s liberal leadership and society, not in terms of its utility and effectiveness but the manner they prescribe for its establishment.
On a fifth level, Pakistan’s intelligence establishment is alleged to pamper Taliban leadership on its soil by providing Shura Councils to the Afghan Taliban and hence posing direct threat to the international stakeholders by establishing its clout across the western borders after withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. The establishment may prove to be so resilient as to survive to the day that having got frustrated, the international stakeholders will finally withdraw from their ideals and let the establishment achieve completion of its western geo-strategic as well as geo-economic initiatives and projects.
Lastly, the principled differences between the political and establishment leadership also seem to pose threat to the internal stability which may be best reconciled by way of achieving healthy consensus amongst the national stakeholders with the punchline that internal peace stands one of the most important prerequisites for socio-economic growth having preference and overriding effect over all other policies including that of strategic depth at any critical time in the best interest of the nation. The current situation requires the leadership to have magnanimous decisions to identify, modify, remove or reconcile all those irritants both with the foes as well as the friends at the earliest, not only to minimise the damage but also to lead the country to its ultimate flight.