Need to be extra careful
A number of ‘game changers’ seem to have converged on the AfPak situation. The American drawdown was bound to change the complexion of the region. But President Ghani’s cooperative regional policy and the Pakistani military operation in North Waziristan have combined to provide the best opportunity yet of bringing this war against terrorism to a conclusion favourable for all three sides. And a very clear shape of the new arrangement has appeared after President Ghani’s tour of Pakistan and Gen Sharif’s tour of the US. The Americans have already – and quite suddenly – begun accepting some of Pakistan’s persisting demands. Drones have taken out a number of TTP commanders sheltering in Afghanistan, and Mullah Fazlullah seems to have survived for now, but is now hunted by more than just the Pakistani military. The CSF is also back, but with conditions.
Unfortunately, though, Pakistan has more on its plate than just TTP. The Indian situation is grave again. There was the briefest sign of hope when Nawaz went to Delhi, but persistent LoC and (more seriously) working boundary violations by the Indian side gave a clear indication of the relationship under the BJP. And the Uri sector attack has again put Pakistan in a precarious position. The Indians, as usual, are hysterical, and see Pakistan’s hidden hand once again behind their troubles in occupied Kashmir. It didn’t help that Hafiz Saeed went active at the same time. Islamabad will now have to be extra careful since Delhi will beat the proxy card once again in the international media. They are already trying to muddy Zarb e Azb by calling for focus on Kashmir specific groups. Pakistan cannot be seen expressing tolerance, or a soft corner, for some of these groups. The Americans have warned against speculating about a Pakistani hand for the time being, which is assuring, but that support could dry soon if the cards are not played right over here.
And yet another matter of concern is influence of ISIS in Pakistan. That Jamia Hafza – Lal Masjid associate – called for militants to back the so-called caliphate is alarming. This must not be handled in the old way, when such provocation was allowed to pass unnoticed, until the tens of thousands dead prompted the military action. The government must take serious note of this incident. So it is not just the operation, but a host of factors that require very careful handling by Pakistan. So far, since the operation, both the will and ability to handle the most sensitive problems are present. But it will need a lot more to see Pakistan through these challenges.