Sunday, 16 March 2008

Which War?

In the movie 'A Mighty Heart', based on the abduction and investigation of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Perle (and incidentally, a surprisingly good movie, I thought) there is a scene where Daniel Perle's wife meets with the Pakistan's Interior Minister, Moinuddin Haider (a retired Lt. general appointed to this important position by Musharraf). In this scene, Haider states that he has conclusive evidence that the kidnapping of Daniel Perle has been orchestrated by the Indian Intelligence Agency, RAW for the purpose of making Pakistan look bad in the foreign press. The viewer is struck by the absurdity of the claim, but what makes the episode (based on Marianne Perle's account of the encounter) truly painful is the feeling that the Pakistani state and its most powerful representatives are not only not interested in helping to look for the missing gentleman, but are so completely deluded about what his fate may be that any help that may be forthcoming is bound to be worse than useless.

I recalled this episode while watching Moinuddin Haider on a talk show on TV recently, speaking after the recent suicide attacks in Lahore. As he and various other high-ups in officialdom and semi-officialdom have so often done before, Mr. Haider was dropping veiled hints about the involvement of a 'foreign hand' in the suicide attacks and in Taliban militancy in Pakistan in general. He was more circumspect than he has been in the past, not naming names, and not talking about 'conclusive proof', as others have done, but saying that it only stands to reason that the money, training and material for the bombings/militancy must be provided by someone outside the country. Other military and government officials have not been as circumspect and have explicitly blamed India, Afghanistan, and even Israel.

While India has not been above supporting various nationalist separatist movements in Pakistan in the past, the accusation that it has developed ties to and is funding and fueling the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan is so absurd that one is somewhat at a loss for words. But the accusation continues to make the rounds, with plenty of people who seem to be willing to credit it. No wonder then, that even while we have several suicide bombings a week throughout the country, and there is such a sense of insecurity pervading the country as has never before been the case, and both the army and civilian law enforcement seem all but helpless in making inroads against this so-called Jihad being waged upon Pakistani society, STILL the Pakistani armed forces' priorities seem to be focused on finding newer and more expensive toys whose purpose is to wage war against India.

For some reason these people are convinced that if only the Americans leave Afghanistan, then all will be well in Pakistan once more. Just as all was well in the pre-9/11 years where the militants were free to wage sectarian war upon Shiites and other religious minorities as an extracurricular sideshow while serving the Pakistani army by waging 'Jihad' in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Yup, the good ole days, when all was well with Pakistani foreign and security policy, and there were no pesky Americans stirring up trouble....

The reason I find this so terribly depressing is that it shows, not only that the capability to address "Islamist" terror does not exist in Pakistan, neither does the will. And it is this second fact which is the kicker. The lack of capability can be addressed to a certain extent through exerted effort. But without the will to make that effort, we will keep stumbling along as we are.

The fact of the matter is that even if the United States and all its armies were to suddenly sink beneath the waves tomorrow and disappear from the face of the Earth, Pakistan would still be at war the day after. And, its not going to be one waged from Delhi.

Edit: These two articles, one from the News and one from Dawn, by anti-establishment intellectuals show the kind of confusion that is prevalent amongst potential policy-makers. They are very ready to point fingers but simply aren't able to suggest lines of action.

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