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Pakistan Today Editorial – 11th May 2016

A move to reduce tension

Are we finally getting somewhere?

Attempts are finally afoot on the part of the government to hold talks with the opposition to reduce the prevailing tension over Panama leaks issue. The PMLN leadership has realized that neither the public meetings addressed by the Prime Minister, nor the display of solidarity by the PMLN allies would browbeat the opposition. Nawaz Sharif has finally agreed to attend the NA session on Friday as demanded by the joint opposition. Two federal ministers called on the Leader of the Opposition on Tuesday presumably to seek the assurance that the government’s critics would not cross limits during the PM’s presence.

There are differences between the opposition on how to deal with the Panama leaks issue. On the one extreme is Imran Khan who holds that the Prime Minister has lost the moral high ground and must resign failing which he is determined to hold a sit-in outside the Sharif family’s Raiwind estate. On the other extreme are parties like the ANP and QWP who are oppose agitation against the government. The PPP which is keen to punish the PMLN for its sanctimonious attitude and thinks the Panama affair has provided it an opportunity to show to the people that the PMLN leadership too has indulged in corruption while blaming others for looting the national wealth. While the PPP wants to expose the government, it doesn’t want to derail the system.

The PMLN is keen to gain the support of the PPP. The PPP knows however that in order to retain credibility and improve its position among the public, it has to avoid being seen as a B-team of the government. While being a part of the opposition alliance it has to wring credible concessions from the PMLN which it can present as a gain in return for ending the strife. It cannot therefore afford to let Nawaz Sharif off the hook for nothing. Whatever decision the PPP finally takes, Imran Khan would continue the fight to prove that his party alone is the real opposition.

Good news from Afghanistan

Breaking the ice

Good news from Afghanistan has sadly become a rare thing. Therefore the news of Ali Haider Gilani’s recovery from Ghazni province – after a joint raid by Afghan and US forces – is all the more welcome. No doubt the Afghan, and also the American, governments must be thanked for undertaking the operation and rescuing the former prime minister’s son. After Shahbaz Taseer’s release recently, hopes were raised that the Gilanis might be treated to similar good news. And, thanks to Kabul – which remains a friend despite renewed strains in the relationship – that moment has arrived.

It behoves Pakistan to now respond in kind. Any manner of acceptable reciprocity that would appease the Afghans should be offered. That would, of course, impinge upon the security paradigm that has halted progress time and again with the western neighbour, since the Afghans will no doubt ask for some manner of action against their Taliban still inside our borders. But we’ve been staring such questions in the face for a while now, especially since Zarb-e-Azb took off. And since we have already, publically, made the threat of expelling (at the very least) non-cooperative Taliban, perhaps it is about time some of our warnings came true.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Kabul is the key to Pakistan’s relations with NATO – and especially America – in the present setting. It was not really surprising that President Ghani’s recent outburst was quickly followed by more ‘do more’ from Washington. Our significance in the allied security matrix, for the time being, depends on our ability to control the Taliban card in the Afghan endgame. And since all principal parties either want the Taliban finished or negotiated with, Pakistan’s choices, too, are limited. Any opportunity of breaking the ice with Kabul should, therefore, be welcomed. Surely both governments have learnt enough from the war to understand that the enemy will feed off of one to harm the other unless both unite and eliminate all militants together. Hopefully, both will also display the maturity needed to achieve such a mechanism.

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