EDITORIAL: When words are not enough


As the follow-up to President Zardari’s visit to Russia last month to attend the Sochi Summit, President Hamid Karzai has come to Pakistan for a two-day tour. Addressing the press in Islamabad on Wednesday jointly with President Zardari, a number of issues were addressed in the same manner that they always are: the same polite noises were made about the set of problems between the two neighbours that refuse to go away. Both presidents have announced a bolstering of intelligence sharing and more confidence between their respective security agencies. President Zardari has claimed that Pakistan wants to be part of the solution and not part of the “problem”, but that is exactly where the deepest fissures in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s relations lie.

The fact that for too long now Pakistan has pursued the holy grail of strategic depth in Afghanistan has cast a long shadow of suspicion over any friendly overtures towards that unfortunate country by our state. While such interactions and statements are positive, it is hoped that finally action will follow the nice words if there is to be any peace and security in the region. Afghanistan has long blamed the ISI for funding and training the Afghan Taliban. Hence Karzai’s reiteration that the only way to defeat the scourge of terrorism is to tackle the “sanctuaries, training, finances and resources” of the militants. One does not need to dig too deep to know what he is talking about. In this bloody climate of terrorism, the formidable ISI has gained a schizophrenic reputation with many sources, both local and foreign, claiming that it is courting the Afghan Taliban whilst launching military campaigns against the Pakistani Taliban. This ‘good Taliban, bad Taliban’ minuet will make any attempts at intelligence sharing extremely implausible, at least beyond the civilian level. Dual policies rarely ever work in the long run. Such fissures, unfortunately, also exist between us and the US and NATO forces. There remain too many doubts on their side as to whom our intelligence agencies are supporting; how are we to believe that such suspicions will not exist on the Afghan side as well?

During the session, Interior Minister Rehman Malik seems to have suffered from his usual bout of putting his foot in his mouth as he stated that Afghanistan is providing sanctuary to “elements” involved in the unrest in Balochistan, especially the head of the Balochistan Republican Army (BRA), Brahamdagh Bugti. One must remind Mr Malik that the Baloch insurgency is much bigger than Mr Bugti and the BRA alone. It is fuelled by the long-standing grievances of the Baloch people, not a vendetta concocted by just one faction of the entire nationalist movement. Mr Rehman needs to do a bit more homework. Afghanistan shares a similar culture with Balochistan. The former has traditionally given sanctuary to any Baloch fleeing the province for reasons of safety. Even if Brahamdagh is being helped, he is not the sole cause of Balochistan’s unrest. Let us not burden the Afghans with problems that require a complete political solution from our side. President Karzai has also said that his country is not being used by India to fan the unrest in Balochistan, an accusation that we have levelled against the country time and again. Until some solid proof exists that corroborates these allegations, we should stop throwing such wild cards into the air.

All in all the conference was the usual diplomatic papering over of the problem, where polite dialogue and encouraging words were employed to further the fight against terrorism. It is hoped that such expressions will lead to positive action where our intelligence agencies will not be forever accused of exporting and supporting jihad. That enterprise’s days are arguably over. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: A classic intifada

The All Parties Conference called by the Indian government to discuss the ongoing protests in Kashmir, which have spread to the entire region, failed in not only addressing the basic question of the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, but also coming to a consensus for the solution of the current unrest. The conference’s deliberations were premised on the accord among all political parties that Kashmir is an integral part of India. However, while the Congress party pressed for a solution based on Kashmir’s special constitutional status, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was adamant on not giving autonomy to the region or diluting the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which has resulted in many human rights abuses at the hands of the security forces in Kashmir. Surprisingly, when in power, the BJP was ready to reconsider its hardline position in order to find a permanent solution to this issue. Now it is reverting to the same hard line to gain political mileage, completely ignoring that the highly volatile situation in Kashmir could explode. All the conference could agree on was sending a fact-finding mission to the Valley.

For a very long time, India has been able to brush Kashmir under the carpet on the pretext that elements from across the border are fomenting trouble in the occupied territory. However, with the current spate of spontaneous protests picking up pace, with Kashmiri youth at the forefront, it is no longer feasible for India to stick to its traditional position. The new generation, armed with nothing but stones, is asking for the rights their parents and forefathers could not get during the 63-year struggle since partition. They are out in the streets, baring their chests to the security forces’ bullets.

This classic case of intifada cannot be suppressed through force. If the Indian ruling elite does not change its attitude, the bloodshed and repression is likely to continue. The cocoon or veil of silence that India has woven around Kashmir while relegating it to the status of a bilateral issue may be about to unravel. Such widespread discontent with Indian rule can no longer be hidden from the attention of the world. It must be dealt with wisely. Otherwise, it could jeopardise the peace of the entire region.

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