Who wants peace in Pak­istan?

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Mu­nir Akram

IN his fi­nal State of the Union ad­dress, US Pres­i­dent Obama pre­dicted a decade of in­sta­bil­ity in Afghanistan and Pak­istan. AfPak was al­ways a bad con­struct for pol­icy for­mu­la­tion. There are ob­vi­ous se­cu­rity link­ages be­tween Afghanistan and Pak­istan. But the cir­cum­stances and prospects of the two coun­tries are sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent.

Pre­dict­ing con­tin­ued in­sta­bil­ity in Afghanistan is an easy call. The Kabul govern­ment is be­set by in­ter­nal divi­sion and an in­sur­gency that has mo­men­tum. Given the pre­con­di­tions posed by Kabul, the re­cently cre­ated quadri­lat­eral fo­rum will find it dif­fi­cult to get the Afghan Tal­iban to the ta­ble let alone se­cure an agree­ment for peace. A tur­bu­lent and frac­tured Afghanistan is the most likely prospect for the fore­see­able fu­ture.

Pak­istan is a dif­fer­ent story. It has un­der­taken a mas­sive and com­pre­hen­sive coun­tert­er­ror­ism cam­paign tar­get­ing the TTP, sec­tar­ian groups and political gangs. Ac­tion has now been taken also against a rogue pro-Kash­miri or­gan­i­sa­tion. Ter­ror­ist and crim­i­nal vi­o­lence has been dra­mat­i­cally re­duced.

Un­for­tu­nately, as il­lus­trated by the as­sault on the Charsadda univer­sity, it is pre­ma­ture to cel­e­brate. To break the back of ter­ror­ism in Pak­istan, the ki­netic cam­paign will need to be con­tin­ued for a con­sid­er­able pe­riod and the so­cial, eco­nomic and other com­po­nents of the Na­tional Ac­tion Plan fully im­ple­mented.

How­ever, na­tional ac­tions will not be suf­fi­cient to de­feat ter­ror­ism. There are sev­eral ex­ter­nal driv­ers of vi­o­lence that need to be neu­tralised.

The TTP is the self-con­fessed cul­prit in the Charsadda ter­ror­ist at­tack. With 180,000 troops de­ployed on its western bor­ders, Pak­istan has crushed or chased out most of the TTP mil­i­tants from most of its ter­ri­tory. Small groups hide ' in the open', in in­ac­ces­si­ble val­leys or in Afghan refugee camps. How­ever, the ma­jor threat arises from the in­fil­tra­tion of TTP ter­ror­ists from their safe havens in Afghanistan.

While Pak­istan has of­fered to help in pro­mot­ing rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween Kabul and the Afghan Tal­iban, there is lit­tle ev­i­dence of re­cip­ro­cal ac­tion by Kabul to elim­i­nate the TTP safe havens or to con­trol cross-bor­der in­fil­tra­tion. Kabul has re­fused to even re­vive the co­or­di­na­tion mech­a­nisms for bor­der mon­i­tor­ing that were cre­ated with the US-Nato com­mand.

Cer­tain cir­cles in Kabul, such as the Na­tional Di­rec­torate of In­tel­li­gence, are known to have col­lab­o­rated with the TTP and spon­sored Baloch in­sur­gents to desta­bilise Pak­istan. They were also re­spon­si­ble for scut­tling the Mur­ree talks and then blam­ing Pak­istan for es­ca­lated in­sur­gent at­tacks from Kabul to Kun­duz. Now, they are ask­ing Pak­istan to at­tack the Afghan Tal­iban un­less they agree to come to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble. This would bring Afghanistan's war to Pak­istan. Is­lam­abad must re­assert its de­mand for ac­tion against the TTP by Kabul and its in­ter­na­tional pa­trons. If such co­op­er­a­tion is not forth­com­ing, Pak­istan will need to con­sider uni­lat­eral ac­tions to elim­i­nate the TTP safe havens in Afghanistan. Peace and se­cu­rity within Pak­istan is also in­flu­enced by the poli­cies and ac­tions of sev­eral other ex­ter­nal pow­ers.

His­tor­i­cally, the US has con­trib­uted, wit­tingly or un­wit­tingly, to Pak­istan's desta­bil­i­sa­tion since the anti-Soviet Afghan war. The rump USNato force in Afghanistan is es­sen­tial to prop up the tot­ter­ing Kabul govern­ment. Obama is wisely averse to re­sum­ing a larger mil­i­tary role in Afghanistan. A Repub­li­can pres­i­dent, how­ever, may be more ad­ven­tur­ist, es­pe­cially if driven by the mis­placed de­sire to counter China's grow­ing in­flu­ence and in­ter­ests in the re­gion. In this con­text, it is rel­e­vant to eval­u­ate whether the US shares China's vi­sion that peace and pros­per­ity can be pro­moted in Pak­istan and the re­gion through the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor.

In­dia's poli­cies are more pre­dictable. It has openly op­posed the CPEC en­ter­prise and is chary of China's grow­ing role in the re­gion. Not­with­stand­ing the La­hore em­brace and the likely re­sump­tion of the Com­pre­hen­sive Di­a­logue, In­dia re­mains the god­fa­ther of anti-Pak­istan el­e­ments in Afghanistan and can be ex­pected to con­tinue to en­cour­age and sup­port them in their use of the TTP and Baloch dis­si­dents to spread mis­chief and tur­moil in Pak­istan. Since Pak­istan is now con­strained from play­ing the 'Kash­mir card', it can­not hope to neu­tralise In­dia's sub­ver­sive ac­tiv­i­ties on the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble; they will have to be de­feated through di­rect ac­tion against the mil­i­tants and mus­cu­lar diplo­macy with Kabul and its pa­trons.

Given Pak­istan's de­nom­i­na­tional com­po­si­tion, Iran's poli­cies will have an im­pact on Pak­istan's in­ter­nal sta­bil­ity. Fol­low­ing its nu­clear agree­ment with the ma­jor pow­ers and the re­moval of in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions, Iran can be ex­pected to re­main on good be­hav­iour on is­sues which do not af­fect its core in­ter­ests. Tehran's pri­or­i­ties are to re­tain its dom­i­nant in­flu­ence in Syria, Iraq and the Le­vant; neu­tralise Saudiled Sunni strate­gies, and max­imise the eco­nomic ben­e­fits flow­ing from the lift­ing of sanc­tions. Iran can ben­e­fit from CPEC con­nec­tiv­ity and closer link­ages with China. How­ever, Iran has a strate­gic re­la­tion­ship with In­dia. A US-In­dia-Iran axis is im­prob­a­ble, but not in­con­ceiv­able. Pak­istan needs to en­gage Iran and en­sure that it does not try to play the sec­tar­ian card in Pak­istan or at­tempt to fore­stall Pak­istan's emer­gence as China's strate­gic link to the Ara­bian Sea and the Per­sian Gulf. The GCC states have been Pak­istan's clos­est friends and bene­fac­tors. Re­la­tions were un­for­tu­nately frayed by the clumsy man­ner in which Pak­istan spurned the Arab coali­tion that has in­ter­vened in Ye­men.

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