It's party time in Pakistan but the nature of this party is different from the typical weekend clubbing. Heck, there are not even any hangovers. This party is related to Pakistani security establishment's success -- or at least initial victory -- in convincing the United States to include Pakistan in the yet-to-be-planned dialogue with the Taliban -- and deliberations about future Afghan setup.
New York Times has reported that Pakistan has agreed to 'broker' a deal between the US and Taliban, including the ferocious Haqqani network. This offer comes at a critical juncture where Pakistani forces have been able to flush the bad Taliban out of South Waziristan. Hakim Ullah Meshud, the leader of these bad Taliban aka Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, has been recently killed, serving a major blow to the terrorist outfit. The teetering strength of Pakistani Taliban has enabled Pakistani military establishment to encourage the Americans to embrace the good Taliban i.e. Haqqanis and others of their ilk.
Pakistani media is all gung-ho about the apparent success of Pakistani security establishment in ensuring a bigger role in any future Afghan setup. Time has come for the Haqqani network, which has been nursed by ISI for years, to play its role in realizing Pakistan's dream of strategic depth in Afghanistan. India will be kept at bay under this arrangement and things will go back to pre 9/11 situation, in one way or another.
Amid all this celebration, which many are saying will ultimately result in quick US withdrawal, there are many questions that remain unanswered -- or no one wants those answers. Even if things go as per the plans of Pakistani security establishment, peace will not return in this region. Haqqani group might not be involved in sabotage activities in Pakistan but it is the biggest perpetrator of suicide attacks against both the allied forces and common Afghans. Its leadership is the most conservative Islamic faction that has learned no lessons in these nine years of virtual exile in Pakistan.
And what about other factions in Afghanistan? Pakistan is following its tried and tested (and failed) policy of banking on the Pashtuns. Hazaras, Tajiks and Uzbeks, constituting around 40% of Afghan population, have gained enormous grounds in these years -- and they are not friendly with Pakistan. Security establishment in Pakistan is following the old narrow-minded approach that has backfired in the past and will do so in future.
Obama administration, though still suspicious of Pakistani security establishment's motives, might start towing the line, albeit in a desperate bid for peaceful withdrawal. While the American soldiers will be back in their barracks, things will take a turn for the worse in Pakistan. The mujaheddin started fighting with each other immediately after Soviet withdrawal in 1988 with each faction receiving covert support from Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Millions of refugees rushed to Pakistan and most of them are still living in this country.
A security analyst, who wished not be named, said that this will happen again and its fallout will be greater than what happened during the 1990s. Pakistan cannot support any more refugees -- with some of them hard-line jihadists -- for its own economy is in shambles. He said that the whole premise of strategic depth in Afghanistan is a flawed concept and Pakistani army is wrong in its thinking that violence will come to an end after American withdrawal. The situation might turn in quite the opposite direction. Many factions of the Taliban now harbor strong anti-Pakistan stance and then there are others that yearn for an Islamic revolution in Pakistan. They will not sit back and relax but will take American withdrawal as their victory, an indication that they can chug along, taking the world with their guns.
A retired Pakistani general, who was involved during the Afghan Jihad but since has remained mostly away from public eye, told me that the security establishment is intent on turning the things back to pre 9/11 position.
It appears that he is right in his thinking. Pakistani military chief has admitted that Pakistan is India-centric and will remain in so until Kashmir issue is resolved. It is an open secret that weak democratic governments in Pakistan simply kowtow to military-decided tenants of foreign policy; they simply wield no power.
The ultimate sufferers of this policy would be ordinary Pakistanis. They are already living under fear and any increased Islamic militancy might result in more bombed girls schools, public lashings and a total descent into chaos.
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