Pakistan: On the razor's edge

Pakistan: On the razor's edge

A century ago, Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, which then included Pakistan, described India’s border as ‘‘the razor’s edge on which hang suspended the modern issues of war and peace, of life and death to nations’’. In present times, these words are frighteningly true. In Kashmir and in Afghanistan today, hangs the question of the survival of a nation called Pakistan.

According to a report released by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, a terrorism monitoring organisation, in 2009 alone 12,632 lives were lost in Pakistan to suicide attacks, terrorist bombings, predator drone attacks and military operations against militants — only a few hundred less than the lives lost in Afghanistan.
This grim figure of human casualty is a stark indicator of how close we are from losing Pakistan, if not on paper. During the last eight years of invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan has claimed to be an ally worthy of responsibility in America’s ‘War on Terror’. But eight years on and many experts nod in accord that Pakistan has become a problem in its own right, much worse than Afghanistan.

The Islamic republic today broadly mirrors the political, social, cultural and economic situations of its western neighbour. Civil war is tearing the country apart and increasing Taliban gains of large swathes in the country is giving sleepless nights to the White House officials. What is more disturbing is the nature of its Taliban, compared to their Afghan brethren.

Safe haven
In Afghanistan, they are a group driven by a religious calling “to liberate their motherland from the clutches of foreigners,” whereas global jihadists are in-the-making in Pakistan. There are an estimated 8,000 foreign militants in FATA, from Arabs to Chechens, operating sophisticated training camps with impunity and carrying out much of the terrorist attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan and beyond. Add to this, it’s the fear of losing a nuclear-armed nation that has hit the western shores the hardest.
For President Obama, who rode to success on his mantra of ‘Change’, the heat is turning up. Figures released last week, show Obama’s approval ratings in his first year in office have dropped to a record low for any US president.
In the current economic environment when average Americans feel their tax dollars are better spent on more productive enterprises, delivery of promises is the key to survival. Already, Obama’s dream project of health reforms has run into choppy waters, and the pressure on his international venture is ever-increasing. President Obama knows there are no middle grounds in Afghanistan.

And in his troop escalation speech delivered at Camp David in New York, one could sense the unrest. He made it apparent that the US is expected to become more aggressive as it cannot withdraw from the region without a noticeable ‘victory’. What is distressing is Obama signalled that the US is ready to achieve its myopic goals at any cost. While expanding the number of troops by 30,000, he did not shy away from suggesting that if needed the war will extend into regions of Pakistan.

Already, on US terms, the Pakistani army is fighting a proxy Afghan war in its tribal heartland, which has resulted in the displacement of hundreds and a chronic state failure. Though, in the light of recent terror attacks in high-security areas of Pakistan, the success and the intention of the efforts of its army could well be doubted. It is no secret that the menace of Taliban was created with the assistance of Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and its army, with the aim to direct these trained hardliners towards what unfinished business it has in Afghanistan and Kashmir till date.

As for Obama’s AfPak policy, it makes the same mistakes its predecessor had committed. It is short-sighted in its approach. Afghanistan is a testament that military always is not the solution. In a region where anti-America feelings run high, 30,000 more American soldiers mean 30,000 more reasons for the Taliban to keep recruiting more and more young men for the cause of jihad. Pushing the al-Qaeda into Pakistan is not going to make the USA safe. Increased military activity will only make things more unstable.
Past experience tell us that the US will move out any day they decide they have no interests in Afghanistan, in turn leaving behind a deeply anguished population in Pakistan — another failed society which will be the breeding ground for the next generation of Osama bin Ladens.

Hopes are further eroded under the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari, whose government has no popular support and whose writ extends no more beyond 100 miles of Islamabad. There is already a rumour doing rounds that the US administration is willing to accept another military coup in the country.