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Sino-US Struggle in Pakistan
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
Pakistan appears to be the victim of silent infighting within its ruling establishment that is now beginning to surface. The curious case of American operative Raymond Davis is bringing things out in the open. The Davis affair is riddled with conflicting versions. It has evoked an unusually tough response from the US. It has led to the ouster of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister on the eve of the Indo-Pak Foreign Ministers’ meeting to be held in Delhi next month. To understand what is happening it is necessary first to recall the facts of the Raymond Davis episode.
Security agent Raymond Davis attached to the US Embassy driving a car in Lahore shot dead two Pakistanis on motorbikes that were allegedly chasing him. The popular version in the Pakistani media was that the victims were murdered, that they were shot in the back, that they were carrying licensed weapons and that they were not threatening Davis. The opposite version also reported by sections of the Pakistan media claimed that the victims held up Davis’ car, he shot them expertly through the windscreen, and the autopsy reports confirmed that they were shot in the front. It has also been alleged that the victims had earlier robbed two passersby of their cell phones and money. There was also a fierce controversy about whether Davis had a diplomatic visa and therefore enjoyed diplomatic immunity or not.
The Americans have demanded the release of Davis. Foreign Minister SM Qureshi refused to interfere with the murder charge against Davis which is pending in court. The Foreign Office refused to grant Davis diplomatic immunity. As a result America threatened to suspend the upcoming US visit of President Zardari as well as to cancel the trilateral US-Pakistan-Afghanistan conference slated to be held shortly. Meanwhile Prime Minister Gilani sacked his unrelenting Foreign Minister Qureshi after the latter refused to accept an alternate portfolio. A junior politician has replaced Qureshi as Foreign Minister. Qureshi stated that he would accept only the post of Foreign Minister or Prime Minister, nothing less!
So what is going on? This is my take.
What could be the motive behind the encounter between Davis and his eventual victims? The strong backing to the armed victims by sections of the Pakistani establishment suggests they could be terrorists given sanctuary. From the tough stand that this section of the Pakistani establishment led by its erstwhile Foreign Minister took against the US it seems clear that there was equally powerful international backing to oppose the Americans. China’s support to terrorists in Pakistan is confirmed. Recall how Beijing had blocked UN sanctions against Hafiz Saeed. The fact that the Gilani government took the extreme measure of sacking its senior Foreign Minister suggests that it was under unrelenting US pressure to comply. Could Davis represent an American team assigned to eliminate terrorists inside Pakistan? Is the US fed up with Pakistan refusing to eliminate terrorists and therefore taking matters in its own hands? For the moment one may only speculate.
The political orientation of Qureshi is not difficult to fathom. While in Beijing during a recent visit he taunted India by stating that China was welcome to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, but sarcastically wondered how India would react to the suggestion! He is reputed to be close to the hard line section of the Pakistan army. So while Qureshi on available evidence draws strength from hard line, pro-China elements in the Pakistani establishment, Gilani and company are under pressure to support the US. This confrontation has all the characteristics of a silent struggle within Pakistan by the proxies respectively of America and China.
It is in this overall context that the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan are expected to shortly resume a composite dialogue. Can talks in such conditions bring worthwhile results? That would depend on the outcome of the proxy inner struggle within the Pakistan establishment. When the situation has come to such a boil it might well deliver a make or break result. A divided Pakistan could derail the peace process. A successful dialogue could demolish opponents of the peace process. The outcome of the inner tussle in Pakistan depends on what stand is taken by Army Chief General Kayani. Undoubtedly there exist hard line pro-Jihad elements within the Pakistan army. Does General Kayani endorse them? If not, does he have the clout to neutralize them? On these questions will rest the future of the Indo-Pakistan dialogue and the outcome of the silent proxy struggle within the Pakistan establishment. The outcome remains uncertain.
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