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Wages of Pakistan's suicidal policies

Wages of Pakistan's suicidal policies

Author: Editorial
Publication: Free Press Journal
Date: April 27, 2009

Pakistan is crumbling. The federal and provincial governments are cowering before the growing threat of the very jehadis they had most foolishly allowed to grow on their soil. Now, they do not know how to tame them. The Asif Zardari Government is totally clueless as to how to handle the grave crisis. The Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalist groups have challenged the State, forcing it to abdicate in the Swat Valley.

Now, they seek to extend their writ outside the Swat Valley. In the last couple of days, the Taliban warriors took over the neighbouring Buner district, set up check-points and barricades, and made it plain that they were in control, and not the civilian administration owing allegiance to Islamabad. Armed with assault rifles, rocket launchers and grenades, Taliban jehadis with their faces covered with black cloth, terrorized ordinary residents. A weak and ineffectual Zardari Government initially took the path of least resistance, even as the Taliban knocked on Islamabad's door. A measure of the Government's cowardice was that it cleared the appointment of a senior district officer in the Malakand division with the Taliban. The jehadis were quick to enforce their version of Islam, ordering the closure of barber shops and prohibiting anyone from playing music of any kind. The harbingers of dark ages were on the doorstep of Zardari, but he had neither the authority nor the will to take
urgent steps to halt the descent into complete anarchy.

However, it took the American arm-twisting to make him realize the gravity of the crisis. From Hillary Clinton to Robert Gates and Richard Holbrooke, the Obama Administration saw its Af-Pak policy go up in flames unless it stopped the Taliban madness. President Obama himself chaired emergency meetings to try and stop the slide of Pakistan into a failed State. The resulting US threat to stop the flow of billions of dollars in aid and assistance seemed to have had the desired effect at least for now. On Friday, the Pak Army had been made to lend its support to the message from the Zardari Government that the Taliban must withdraw from Buner.

Clinton minced no words in saying that the advance of the Taliban posed a `mortal threat to the entire international community. It is not easy to forget that the Pakistani nuclear arsenal of some 80-odd warheads lies somewhere near Islamabad. One cannot fully contemplate the horrendous consequences should it fall into the hands of these barbarians from the dark ages who in the name of Islam are hell-bent to wipe out all traces of modernity. For now, the Taliban have retreated to the Swat Valley. But there is no guarantee that they will not come again to threaten the continuance of Pakistan as a weak and failing State.

The Americans owe it to themselves to keep Islamabad on a tight leash, in view of their high stakes in Afghanistan.

Of course, India cannot be unconcerned to the existential troubles of its western neighour. The Army and the civilian leadership might be tempted to divert attention from their mounting domestic troubles by provoking a confrontation with this country in the belief that anti-Indianism is the only glue to hold all centrifugal forces in Pakistan together. Besides, the safety of the Pak nuclear arsenal is a major concern for New Delhi as well.

Therefore, India will do well to engage with the US on the latter's efforts to restore a semblance of internal order in Pakistan. The break-up of Pakistan does not suit anyone neither the US, nor India, nor, for that matter, the entire international community.

The international community has a stake in Pakistan extinguishing the challenge of the Taliban and other jehadis.

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