US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was being tactful in giving Pakistan a clean chit. She said that evidence suggested that nobody in “the highest level of government” knew about Osama bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. If by that she meant that President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani were not kept in the loop by General Kayani she could be right. But her certificate would be small comfort to the Pakistan government. France has suspended arms supplies to Pakistan. Germany has demanded truth related to the Osama episode by Pakistan. Prime Minister Gilani tried to pressure America by fibbing that he was negotiating a naval base with China at Gwadar port. Beijing promptly rubbished the report claiming that the subject had not even been discussed.
|When extreme economic hardship accompanies the denial of a region’s identity, the victims in frustration turn to separatism and terrorism. Economic hardship and denial of identity arise from lack of federal democracy that allows people a measure of self rule.
Prime Minister Gilani is clearly put of his depth. Last Thursday he chaired a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet and resolved to crush terrorism. He sought the cooperation of all citizens. One day later he went to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir where elections are due and thundered against India on the Kashmir issue. Poor man does not seem to have a clue on what his priorities are and how to proceed. His undeclared boss General Kayani is equally cockeyed by believing that India is Pakistan’s number one enemy. No person in any position of responsibility in India wants Pakistan to disintegrate. That would only make India’s headache more severe. India wants Pakistan to contain terrorism, improve its economy, become a functional democracy and establish normalcy with India. Pakistan is unlikely to achieve any of these by scampering to Beijing or Washington. It must learn to solve its own problems. Neither Wen Jiabao nor Hillary Clinton can tell Pakistan how. As a fellow Punjabi, I humbly submit that I better empathize to offer practical advice.
The biggest problem facing Pakistan is terrorism. To begin with it was fomented by the Pakistan army. It has now got out of control. America can help with arms and advice on how to crush terrorism. But such efforts will not succeed unless accompanied by political peace moves to augment that effort. To do that the breeding grounds of terrorism have to be neutralized. Any people saddled with genuine and perpetual grievances offer the most fertile ground for recruiting terrorists. India has plenty of experience that testifies to this truth. If the terrorists that have got out of control of the Pakistan army and ISI are decoded it will be seen that apart from the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is controlled by the army for use against India, the Pashtun Taliban and the Punjabi Taliban pose the most fatal threat to Pakistan.
If there is one sentiment so emotively powerful as to negate the pecuniary allurement offered by terrorism to an aggrieved people, it is the assertion of ethnic identity. That is why the Afghani Taliban is showing signs of distancing itself from Al Qaeda. The withdrawal of foreign troops is its quid pro quo for dumping global jihad.
When extreme economic hardship accompanies the denial of a region’s identity, the victims in frustration turn to separatism and terrorism. Economic hardship and denial of identity arise from lack of federal democracy that allows people a measure of self rule. The Pashtuns are denied a common identity because of the Durand Line that artificially divided them between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Punjabis who are overwhelmingly recruited from Southern Punjab belong to a region differentiated from the rest of Punjab by extreme poverty and a distinctly different dialect, Saraiki. This area is the hotbed of terrorist recruitment. It borders India and comprises Bahawalpur, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Jhiang and etcetera. The Punjabi Taliban is at the forefront of terrorist attacks to avenge the death of Osama. Extreme poverty has led parents to sell sons and daughters in Southern Punjab to terrorism and prostitution. A muted demand for a Saraikistan province has been simmering for many decades. Many leaders from this region have leveraged these grievances to occupy for themselves positions of power, only to betray the interests of their constituents after coming to power. Ironically, Prime Minister Gilani and former Foreign Minister Qureshi are both Saraikis! This is similar to how Indian leaders in Telangana have been betraying their people.
What the Pakistan government needs to do is, first, without softening the war against terrorism, to arrange soft borders and free movement of Pashtuns across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border after negotiating with President Karzai. Secondly, to immediately announce the formation in principle of the Saraikistan province and pledge an economic package for its people. Thirdly, it must pledge more autonomy and a fair share of revenue for Baluchistan. And finally, after initiating these changes it can approach India for a similar arrangement of soft borders and free movement across the Line of Control in Kashmir. These measures would shrink recruitment of terrorists. These would help Pakistan get back on the rails. Failing this, Pakistan will continue to drift towards balkanization.