South Asia Re­view 2010

His loss would be a huge prob­lem for Zar­dari con­tin­u­ing as Pres­i­dent.

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Ikram Se­h­gal

Mod­er­at­ing the wellat­tended "South Asia Re­view, 2010" re­cently at the South Asia Cen­tre of the At­lantic Coun­cil in Washington, DC, Shuja Nawaz, di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre, de­scribed 2010 as a tu­mul­tuous year, with In­dia out­pac­ing its neigh­bours. Pak­istan ended the year in dire eco­nomic straits, the Gi­lani govern­ment threat­ened by its own coali­tion mem­bers but shored up by the "loyal" op­po­si­tion led by PMLN's Mian Nawaz Sharif.

Some signs of hope were seen in Afghanistan in terms of what the Coali­tion was try­ing to do. Iran seemed to be get­ting ready for talks again, but one did not know if the process was go­ing to suc­ceed. The good news was that Sri Lanka was no longer in the news, hav­ing con­sol­i­dated the peace the coun­try fought so hard to achieve. Bangladesh too ap­peared to be on track to­wards growth.

In­dia hit the jack­pot, with all five UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil mem­bers mak­ing a pil­grim­age to it, sep­a­rately seek­ing closer eco­nomic ties, ev­ery­one was com­pet­ing for a piece of In­dia's huge mil­i­tary pie. China walked away with the prize by not only vis­it­ing In­dia but bal­anc­ing it, un­like the oth­ers, with a sub­se­quent visit to Pak­istan, sign­ing agree­ments in both the coun­tries worth multi­bil­lion dol­lars. The year ended with the huge loss of Am­bas­sador Hol­brooke. His death leav­ing a huge void with the job not yet com­pleted. It is un­clear whether the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion will try to make do at this crit­i­cal stage on the Pak-Afghan the­atre with­out this truly ir­re­place­able diplo­mat.

Vis­it­ing scholar at the Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peace, Gilles Dor­ronsoro, said it was a very good year for the Tal­iban, na­tion­ally speak­ing. The Tal­iban move­ment mak­ing progress in the north and east, its sanc­tu­ary in Pak­istan was safe. Be­yond that, the huge US-led Coali­tion of­fen­sive in the south was not re­ally pro­duc­ing re­sults. 2011 was go­ing to be an im­por­tant year and would de­fine whether the strate- gy was work­ing or not.

He asked, how do you win in Afghanistan when peo­ple in Pak­istan have sym­pa­thy with the Tal­iban while Pak­istan is of­fi­cially al­lied to the US? On top of that, the United States ' present In­dian pol­icy was sure to make Is­lam­abad its worst en­emy. You can­not have Obama in Delhi one day de­cry­ing Mum­bai-style ter­ror­ism, which car­ried the im­pli­ca­tion that there was a Pak­istan con­nec­tion, and an­other day Gen Pe­traeus ask­ing for US in­ter­ven­tion across Pak­istani bor­ders.

He main­tained that the con­cept of Af-Pak was not a good idea. It had failed to pro­duce re­sults. He did not see the pos­si­bil­ity of win­ning against the Tal­iban who were present in 80 per cent of Afghanistan and would only be­come much stronger. The Afghan army had been un­able to con­tain the Tal­iban and showed no in­cli­na­tion to do so.

There were two ob­jec­tives which were dif­fer­ent: first, to fight Al-Qaeda and its ter­ror­ism; un­for­tu­nately, Al-Qaeda was not in Afghanistan but in Pak­istan. If the Tal­iban won the war, then AlQaeda would come back. On the other hand, ex­perts be­lieve that a deal could be made with the Tal­iban. The win­dow of op­por­tu­nity would be some­time next spring or in late sum­mer; if not it would take place af­ter 2012.

Thank­ing Gilles Dor­ronsoro for giv­ing an ac­cu­rate pic­ture, in con­trast to most Western ob­servers, I lauded the much de­layed coun­terin­sur­gency op­er­a­tions con­ducted bril­liantly in Swat and South Waziris­tan. In the process, the Pak­istani army had made tremen­dous sac­ri­fices, los­ing roughly eight or nine times more ca­su­al­ties that that suf­fered by all the Coali­tion forces put to­gether in Afghanistan in the last 18 months. Many serv­ing and re­tired of­fi­cers have lost their sons in bat­tle, the of­fi­cer-to-men ra­tio in the fight­ing be­ing 1 to 10, or 1 to 11.

Po­lit­i­cally, the ex­is­tence of the coali­tion govern­ment is ex­tremely ten­u­ous for a num­ber of rea­sons, not least be­ing black­mailed reg­u­larly by two of their coali­tion part­ners. Eco­nom­i­cally, we are in a big mess.

I agreed that Am­bas­sador Hol­brooke's ab­sence would be greatly felt in Pak­istan as he has re­ally done a lot for our coun­try. He was also the broad shoul­der prop­ping Zar­dari in the seat of power. His loss would be a huge prob­lem for Zar­dari con­tin­u­ing as Pres­i­dent.

Pres­i­dent Obama had di­rected that the US pri­mary mis­sion was "to de­stroy Al-Qaeda," the sec­ondary one be­ing "to dis­rupt and de­grade the Tal­iban." The coun­tert­er­ror­ism war is not in Afghanistan but in Pak­istan . The sooner the US de­ci­sion-mak­ers re­alise this, the bet­ter it will be. Near the top of the US hi­er­ar­chy, US vice pres­i­dent Joseph Bi­den has been quite clear about this since mid-2009.

Ter­ror­ism is alive and well be­cause of cor­rup­tion, in­jus­tice and or­gan­ised crime, the fight in the heart­land of Pak­istan will have to be a Pak­istani ef­fort. We have dis­man­tled many mil­i­tant bases in the Pak­istani heart­land but the re­sult against ter­ror­ism is al­most zero, be­cause there is no coun­tert­er­ror­ism force in Pak­istan.

The Anti-Nar­cotics Force (ANF) in Pak­istan has done a tremen­dous job over the years in erad­i­cat­ing poppy cul­ti­va­tion and hav­ing Pak­istan de­clared a poppy-free coun­try. Since then, Pak­istan has been sub­jected to both in­sur­gency and ter­ror­ism of the worst kind, mainly fi­nanced by drugs.

(The writer is a de­fence and po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst.)

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