Some interesting developments have taken place in Pakistan. The positive development is the endorsement of stand taken by Demoract Presidential candidate Barack Obama against terrorism. Now the people think that serious steps should be taken for rooting out terrorism. The most influential newspaper of Pakistan The News International has welcomed the stand of Obama that he would go after Osama bin Laden if he is given the information about his whereabout.
It now seems increasingly likely that in the years ahead, Pakistan will be doing business with a US administration led by the Democrats under Barack Obama. The latest polls put him a confident 14 points ahead of his Republican rival. Snap surveys after the final presidential debate on Thursday suggest John McCain, who angrily lashed out repeatedly at Obama, may have slipped still further after the televised encounter, coming across as desperate compared to the more measured Obama. His vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, who obviously knows nothing about foreign policy and like McCain holds dangerously anti-liberal views on most issues, has also been faring poorly in the polls.
So far, we have repeatedly been told Obama will be bad for Pakistan. Analysis in this regard looks chiefly at Obama's take on policy against militancy, an issue that has cropped up again and again in a presidential campaign dominated by the state of the US economy. The Democratic hopeful has spoken of being willing to conduct attacks within Pakistan territory, and on focusing on Afghanistan rather than Iraq. In contrast, McCain's approach has been more conciliatory, focusing on the need to engage with Pakistan. This has been interpreted to mean that Obama will be bad for Pakistan, McCain potentially better. But there is much more to the issue than this. While Obama has taken a tougher line on Pakistan, it is quite possible this approach may stand us in good stead. It must be noted Obama has consistently said strikes against terrorist targets would be carried out if Pakistan failed to take action against militants itself. The message then to Islamabad is to make sure it pulls up its socks, takes off its gloves and ensure its forces make a full-fledged effort to defeat militants. Rather ominously, witnesses in Swat continue to maintain the military is still not going all out against the terrorists. The game-playing with the Taliban that we have seen now for too many years needs to end. The impending taking over of control in Washington by Obama and his team should act as a reminder of this.
The effects of the 'conciliatory' approach taken since 2001 by the Bush administration, which stood staunchly by its ally, former president Musharraf, even as militant armies seized larger and larger chunks of our north, are visible everywhere. In Islamabad, the damaged façade of the building that housed the Marriot Hotel stares out at us, in parts of Peshawar people who have fled Waziristan crowd into congested rooms attempting to build new lives, in Swat vast tracts of forest stand destroyed. The cost of terrorism paid by Pakistan has been huge too in economic terms. Investors have been driven away, panicked citizens have withdrawn money from banks and confidence in the stability has slumped. In this situation, by taking a firmer line and striving for a definite goal, Obama may serve us well. Certainly we need tougher action against militants rather than more years of timid tactics that allow them to re-group and to expand. Of course Pakistan needs to defend its sovereignty, but it can do so effectively only if the internal security threat we face is dealt with. In this regard, the fact that Barack Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, has one of the more solid understandings of Pakistan available in Washington circles is a good omen. Biden's proposal of developmental aid rather than military assistance, as a means to tackle terror is also sound "" even if the economic package he has proposed seems difficult to implement given Washington's own financial turmoil. The Democrat government will bring challenges for Pakistan. Steps to be taken in the future may well need to be decisive and definite. But perhaps taking them may bring about benefits. We must face the fact that neither of the two candidates contesting for the most powerful political office in the world, offer Pakistan much. For both, the country is a hot-bed of militancy. The interests of Pakistan's people are of little concern to them. But perhaps Obama's straight-talking message can act as a reminder to our leaders to get their own act together before we are thrown into still greater crisis.