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From the desk of Chief Editor

Dear Readers,
April has seen the enforcement of Nizam-i-Adl Shahria Regulation in Swat as per the peace deal. However the militants as well as the TSNM Chief Maulana Sufi Mohammad soon showed their true colors by declaring the superior courts un-Islamic, refusing to lay down their arms and repudiating the Constitution of Pakistan. Mercifully this has happened at the very outset and we are not living in a fool's world anymore as to the real aims of the Talibaan as well as TSNM. The lines are now clearly drawn and we have no ambiguity left as to their ultimate intentions, expressed very clearly, to establish their version of Islam on the rest of Pakistan. The struggle is going to be long and hard but that is in the nature of the mess Pervez Musharraf has got us into for his own survival. The Obama Administration is now finalizing its policy options for the area, while all of it may not be palatable to Pakistan, at least we are being supported in a far more concrete fashion than during the Bush years. There is a lot of money being injected into Pakistan, we must be careful to spend it for judiciously and with methodical purpose, not waste it on "feel good" consumables. Poverty alleviation is the need of the hour, providing of employment being the top priority. For the benefit of readers I am re-publishing my article "BACK FROM THE BRINK".
The Asia Society was pessimistic in asking this rhetorical question in a commendable comprehensive review aimed at "Stabilizing Afghanistan and Pakistan". The Report has a basic flaw, India successfully arm-twisted the Obama Administration in ignoring the major reason for the present instability in the region, Kashmir was repeatedly so stated by candidate Obama during his Presidential campaign. This core question can only be avoided at dire peril to policy initiatives aimed at successfully confronting terrorism.
Constructive engagement with moderate elements among the Talibaan is necessary, political initiatives to isolate Al-Qaeda by bringing moderates back from the cold, giving them political space presently dominated either by the Northern Alliance or non-representative Pashtun of their choice. These include viz (1) the US acting neutral in the emergence of truly credible leadership through holding of representative Jirgas (2) building on President Obama's stance that the US is not against muslims by vigorously exploiting the commonalities between Islam, Christianity and Judaism (3) Making the operations more Afghan, viz (a) by the govt and army hierarchy being directly involved in the military decision-making process and (b) by putting Afghan forces in the frontline, while (c) avoiding of civilian collateral damage (4) eliminating poppy cultivation, the "tax" imposed by the Talibaan fuels the war. The entire poppy crop must be bought out while gradually substituting suitable alternative crops as means of livelihood. Predator strikes must target govt supporters (read "Karzai")-owned refining laboratories. Despite taking major steps in eliminating money-laundering, Dubai remains a safe haven for drug-tainted money, and last but not the least (5) combat endemic corruption afflicting the broad spectrum of Afghan society. The gut Pashtun reaction against corruption and injustice during the first Northern (Tajik and Uzbek) Alliance misrule following the end of Soviet occupation was the reason d'etre for the rise of the Talibaan in the first place.
US military operations within Afghanistan, must viz (1) not give perception of operating as an independent occupation force (2) have better military coordination between (a) all forces within Afghanistan and (b) with Pakistan to monitor the Pakistan-Afghanistan border more effectively and (3) integrate forces of different warlords into the regular Afghan Army.
Contrary to western perception the Talibaan are not popular with the masses in Pakistan, an inherent contradiction exists because of the groundswell of sympathy for what is perceived as gross infringement against ideological and territorial sovereignty of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The pessimistic belief that Talibaan are gaining the upper hand within Pakistan is now shared with apprehension by the educated elite. Barring the first three years of Musharraf's rule, all have focused on self-serving issues rather than a good governance. The local Swati population, mostly Yusufzai Pashtuns, need peace and harmony in their lives. Sharia existed in Swat pre 1969, the Nizam-i-Adl signed into law by the President is acceptance of a demand already conceded by an earlier PPP govt in 1994 but not implemented. One can live with the Swat Deal, not the manner it was arrived at. It is a matter of pride that unlike the great silent majority of legislators who were averse to the idea but were cowed down by the open threats, the MQM showed considerable courage and abstained from post-haste ratifying of the deal in the National Assembly. Whenever militarily cornered the Talibaan have repeatedly use "peace" to regroup and consolidate their position. The long-term Talibaan "creeping" strategy to make inroads within mainline Pakistan now has a precedent in Swat that must be vigorously confronted.
In Pakistan the US requires to viz (1) take feedback from the streets and from objective intelligentsia instead of the cocktail circuit or from motivated lobbyists pushing their own patron's narrow agendas at a cost to the State (2) build on the aspirations of the people by strengthening civil institutions and avoid the public perception of manipulating our internal affairs in supporting any particular individual or political party (3) stop blaming the Army and ISI publicly for not doing enough when our military casualties are three times of the Coalition and Afghan forces combined, would any Army countenance casualties on its own forces that a policy of the ISI giving funds and logistics to the Talibaan (and by extension) Al-Qaeda would result in? The people of Pakistan (and the US) have been ill-served by our own people demonizing leaders like Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan as Taliban-leaning, etc and conducting black propaganda campaign against the Army and the ISI. I never question anyone's patriotism but I do question the motivation and commitment of those "changelings" who have long track record of "dirty tricks" against individuals, institutions and the State (4) Counter-insurgency (CI) must be separated from countering terrorism. The Army needs six Brigade Groups to be trained and equipped for CI, also a fully equipped three Brigades-sized Counter Terrorism Force (CTF) (5) when "actionable intelligence" makes drone attacks imperative, it must include a Pakistani finger on the trigger (6) concerted drive in poverty alleviation in the tribal areas. Economic frustration and lack of credible justice has been cleverly exploited by religious extremists in fomenting a "class war" (7) eliminating Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) the concept of "Reconstruction Opportunity Zones" (ROZs) must be enlarged into a full fledged Free Trade Area (FTA), giving tribals the means (and reason thereof) to protect their livelihood and (8) address negative security implications emanating from several Indian Consulates mischievously active on Pakistan's western borders, the reason for ISI/Talibaan contact rather than active support as is alleged.
The US$ 1.5 bn Kerry-Lugar economic package for Pakistan needs substantial enhancement, benchmarks are a US right as donor but conditionalities compromising national self-respect are non-starters. The US needs to viz (1) target areas of energy, education, health and transportation infra-structure (2) facilitate trade enhancement into US and European markets (3) assist flow of direct foreign investment (FDI) into viable projects in Pakistan and (4) monitor closely the aid to create visible facts about US assistance for public perception, i.e. socio-economic projects like hospitals, education, power, roads and bridges, dams, etc.
Pakistan must make pragmatic compromises on Kashmir, an "agreement" being impossible. An "arrangement" is feasible where both India and Pakistan freeze their respective positions while pulling forces back from the Line of Control (LOC), soft borders facilitating trade and movement of people. Pakistan and India must jointly combat the menace of terrorism gaining ground in both countries, can we ignore the Maoist Naxalites, regional terrorists etc dug deep in substantial numbers across a broad swath in India?
The US started to run all over us after Musharraf instantly rolled over after 9/11, that was neither in Pakistan's interest nor that of the US. That precedent established resulted in constantly castigating and brow-beating of Pakistan, has any other country in the world been subject to such abuse? A constructive relationship between Washington and Islamabad will be the determining factor to what happens in Afghanistan, and in eliminating Al-Qaida.
What about seriously considering Karl Inderfurth's idea of a genuinely neutral Afghanistan, so guaranteed by US, EU, Russia and China, and it's neighbours, Iran and Pakistan?

M. Ikram Sehgal

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