The assassination of Pakistan Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, is the second murder of a politician who opposed Pakistan’s Blasphemy law. First evidence suggests that the assassination was carried out by Pakistan’s Punjabi Taliban.
There is no real problem between India and Pakistan insofar as the bulk of Pakistan’s civil society is concerned. Apart from the extremists who fan Indo-Pakistan discord, support terrorism and keep alive the Kashmir dispute, the people of Pakistan would be content with peace and better governance. That cannot be delivered to them until terrorism is eliminated.
There is no real Kashmir problem between Kashmir and the rest of India insofar as the people are concerned. Apart from the rootless separatist leaders who are too scared to test their strength in elections, and the misguided youth who are motivated by them to pelt stones, the people of Kashmir would be content with better governance. That cannot be delivered to them until the shadow of terrorism is removed.
The real problem between India and Pakistan as well as in Kashmir therefore is terrorism. Until it is rooted out the region cannot be stabilized and India will not have peace.
Up till now New Delhi has pursued a policy of dialogue with Islamabad and attempted to search for formulae that would bring peace. But time is running out. However sincerely the government in Pakistan may seek peace, if it cannot deliver results in curbing terrorism, should India wait endlessly?
The key to curbing and eliminating terrorism rests with the Pakistan army. The time has come for Pakistan’s civilian government to confront General Kayani. The time has come for General Kayani to confront the hardcore elements within the military that sympathize with terror outfits even if that entails disaffection within the army. That is something that must be risked if General Kayani is sincere. The subcontinent urgently requires peace in order to play its rightful role in the emerging global order. The invitation from the Muslim Brotherhood to the Indian government to help organize the Egyptian elections slated for June is not insignificant. It reveals the potential role South Asia can play in the creation of a new West Asia. If either by design or by default Pakistan cannot deliver, India must consider using the hard option with Pakistan.
What is the hard option?
It is to minimize contacts with Pakistan; to reduce all diplomatic contact; to recognize the aspirations of the people of Baluchistan and offer them moral support; and to recognize the aspirations of the people of NWFP and offer them moral support to unite with their brothers in Afghanistan. This would have to be accompanied by lobbying in the UN to impose sanctions against Pakistan until the government effectively curbs terrorism and prevents its export to the world. In other words it would encourage the disintegration of Pakistan. Balkanized Pakistan would indeed be a tragedy. But it would help curb terrorism.
The reason for that is that only nationalist fervour prevails over the ideology spread by global jihad. That is why the Afghanistan Taliban is distancing itself from Al Qaeda and why the US has belatedly decided to initiate a dialogue with it. Baluchistan has had a separatist movement for sixty years. NWFP sought independence in 1947. These strong nationalist sentiments could have been successfully addressed by a genuinely federal polity granting autonomy. That did not happen. It is unlikely to happen under the present dispensation in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. That is why it is imperative that New Delhi convey its frustration and impatience to General Kayani through Prime Minister Gilani.
One believes that even today if General Kayani puts his mind to it he can take on the terrorists. But that would call for a basic reappraisal of strategic goals. Is he up to it? Is the Pakistan government up to it? If not, India would be left with no option but to take the hard option. And that would be to distance itself from Islamabad and offer moral encouragement for the breakup of Pakistan without firing a single shot.