The Great Game

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The ongoing Great Game Part II continues in the region amidst deceptions, double dealings and fierce fighting. This time the protagonists have changed with the US replacing Britain and the Al-Qaeda-cum-Taliban taking over the part played earlier by czarist Russia. Byzantine moves made for maximum gains have led to mind boggling twists and turns. The talks being held with the Taliban were earlier opposed by the US but then suddenly Karzai was given a go ahead and Gen Petraeus claimed the forces under his control had in fact facilitated Taliban leaders travel to Kabul. President Karzai was in Pakistan in September to assure both political and military leadership that he visualized Islamabad playing a vital role in the talks. Weeks after his visit, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was secretly released by Islamabad eight months after his capture. On Friday, Prime Minister Gilani complained that Pakistan has not been taken on board by President Karzai while negotiating with the Taliban, thus jeopardising the future of the peace process.

The PPP-led government has made it known that it owns the war against the extremist militants and has vowed to do its utmost to wipe out terrorism. Other countries, especially the US and Afghanistan, too have to do the maximum required by the situation. That this is not happening can be gauged not only from the moves to keep Pakistan out of the Afghan talks but also from Washingtons offer of a niggardly $2bn military aid package over a period of five years which boils down to next to nothing. Last year, Foreign Minister Qureshi had put the expenses incurred by Pakistan so far in the ongoing war at $35 billion. Pakistan has a right to demand compensation sufficient enough to cover Islamabads losses some of which find little mention like the damage to the roads and bridges by the heavy trailers carrying goods for the US-led NATO forces.

There is a need on the part of all the allies to do more than they have done so far. What is needed most is to take Pakistan on board while deciding the future setup in Afghanistan.