As the diplomatic stand off between India and Pakistan continues with accusations from Islamabad of air violation by the Indian Air Force strongly denied by New Delhi, the question haunting every one is will Pakistan dismantle the terror infra structure nurtured by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) over the past three decades plus? Noted analyst and author Ahmed Rashid sees this as a strategic opportunity to make peace if India and Pakistan understand the Al Qaeda game plan thus, 'If India and Pakistan can understand that they are both victims of a strategic diversion by al-Qaeda and if international mediation can help deepen that understanding, then there is perhaps a greater opportunity for the two countries to address the conflicts that have bedeviled their relationship for 60 years - Kashmir and other lesser issues'.
Pakistan's role in Kashmir given the response of the people of the state to elections is now limited and the coercive brand of separatism fostered by these groups have restricted relevance. At the same time there is willingness of both sides for greater openness to resolve the Kashmir issue with border trade having started thereby indicating that resolution through talks is feasible. Under the circumstances terrorist groups as the LeT can be abandoned by the state. But this would have to be a gradual response for the public opinion in the country at present would not accept the government doing so as these are being wrongly tagged as nationalist forces in the country.
The Pakistani political space is also divided as per Aakar Patel on legitimacy of the war against the TTP. It is said to be fought between one Pakistan and another Pakistan. Zardari, Musharraf, the MQM, Kayani, Asfandyar Wali supported the war against the Taliban, Jaish, Lashkar, Baitullah Mehsud, Lal Masjid. As is common in such situations some of the opposition leaders are neutrals which in this case included Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Hameed Gul, Fazlur Rehman. These fissures certainly affected the response of the government.
But for any fundamental change in policy there has to be a consensus between the political parties and the army. There are three entities which are seen to be influential in Pakistan, the political parties, the army and terrorist groups. While the world has lauded the government of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Mr. Zardari as a democratically elected one, it is the weakest of the three as political parties in Pakistan are for ever riddled with controversies, conspiracies and differences.
Pakistani polity is also in a crisis with second confrontation building against the judiciary. The case pertaining to alleged favor shown to the daughter of the Chief Justice of Pakistan Hamid Dogar by giving her supplementary marks was being investigated by a parliamentary committee. However the Supreme Court ruled that the case was sub judice and the National Assembly Standing Committee on Education investigating the issue was ordered to cease inquiry. The Standing Committee's Chairman, Mr. Abid Sher Ali, member of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz refused to accept the Supreme Court's 'stay' order thus denoting potential of conflict between the legislature and the judiciary in the future as per an editorial in the influential Pakistani newspaper, Daily Times.
The second and some say the most important institution in the country is the Army. With a weak political culture and lack of effective governance, the Army is seen by many as the only instrument of the state which can deliver despite the many wrongs perpetrated by the previous Army Chief Pervez Musharraf during the Emergencies imposed in 2007. The Army retains an iron grip over state instruments and is also seen to direct the strategic space dictating the regional agenda particularly with reference to Afghanistan and Kashmir. The Army also controls the powerful Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) technically working under the Prime Minister.
The ISI is accused of being a state within a state linked inextricably with the third pressure group, the militants. While ISI and the Army have consistently denied such linkages they are frequently accused of using terrorist groups as an instrument of instability in Afghanistan and Kashmir. More over former ISI chiefs such as Hamid Gul and many middle and junior level operatives are alleged to be maintaining links with such organizations raised in the 1980's to fight the Mujahideen war in Afghanistan.
These militant groups can be divided broadly into four categories. The first is the Al Qaeda, with its global militancy perspective, the Tehreek e Taliban (TTP) comprising mainly Pashtun tribal of the Western frontier focusing on the war in Afghanistan but increasingly extending influence even up to Karachi is the second. The Lashkar e Taiyyaba with its mother organization the Jamaat ud Dawa and the Jaish e Mohammad primarily directed towards a terror campaign against India focused on Kashmir is the third group. The fourth and the final cluster comprises of Sunni groups such as the Sipaha e Saheba and Lashkar e Jhangvi which are involved in sectarian violence. Of these the first two, the Al Qaeda and the TTP are fighting as much against the Pakistan state as the United States. The LeT and the JeM are part of the larger Al Qaeda fraternity and the axis known as the International Islamic Front are primarily directed against India.
The attacks in Mumbai have a strong Al Qaeda connection replicating tactics employed by the organization Qaeda. These were well planned and strategically targeted operations with suicide attacks at multiple points, with varied tactics of bombs, grenades, indiscriminate firing and hostage taking. So reframing the Question in the light of our discussion on saving Pakistan from the Al Qaeda last week would be relevant. Will the Al Qaeda permit Pakistan to neutralize it? All one can say for sure is that the rabid fundamentalists will resist it with all resources under their command.