On November 10, Pakistan's GHQ Shura of Corps Commanders met at Rawalpindi with the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif setting the tone for their deliberations. "The Government needs to match army's efforts in the on-going fight against terror", Raheel remarked in a matter of fact manner. He also placed on record that the nation was extending "full support for our ongoing operations to eliminate terrorism and extremism".
The operation he was referring to was "Zarb-e-Azb" in the North Waziristan to either neutralise or eliminate the Pakistan Taliban, which has been indulging in daring attacks on army and civilian targets. Whether the Raheel-speak was an indictment of Nawaz Sharif's government or whether it was an attempt to distance the military establishment from the political executive is a relevant question, no doubt but it was primarily a signal on the eve of his uninvited visit to Washington that the GHQ Shura was more than willing to accommodate the American interests on the Afghan theatre for a price.
The Americans are familiar with such bargaining, having dealt with a succession of generals starting with Field Marshal Ayub Khan during the Cold War period. In essence, what this means is that in return for Pakistan doing the U.S., bidding, Pentagon must beef up the muscle of his army with weapons that would range from missiles to F-16s.
Pakistan Army Chief received royal welcome when he visited Washington in November. The visiting General and his hosts were in a made --for-each --other company with just one difference. While Raheel was preparing for long term, the Americans were in their traditional "don't look beyond the nose" mode. For them what was, is, and will be of concern is peace in Kabul. This is what the General was offering to their great relief.
What about possibility of Pakistan's perfidy once again? What about the safe hole that Osama bin Laden had enjoyed till the US Navy Seals smoked him out? Well, for President Obama and his brains' trust what matters is present, and not yesterday, more since the sun is about to set on the Obama White House. This mood set the stage for the two-day Heart of Asia conference held in the Pakistani capital from Dec 9 to 10.
The Islamabad meet was a part of the Istanbul Process initiative, which was launched in 2011 to promote Afghan peace efforts. It put its imprimatur on the decision to "resume" Kabul-Taliban talks "immediately''. The United States and China, which have a vested interest in Afghan peace, though for divergent reasons, have expressed their willingness to work with Pakistan to "explore and encourage" dialogue between Afghanistan and Taliban groups.
On its part the Ghani government will welcome "all those opposition elements who renounce violence, who accept Afghanistan's constitution and who disarm and join the government-led peace and reconciliation process", according to Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani. He gave credence to the oft-held view that politics and diplomacy are an art of make believe when he told reporters in the Pakistani capital that he hoped to see "positive moves in the coming week".
What was the basis of his optimism, which, for a change, was not laced with caution? He did not elaborate. He and other functionaries of the Ghani government, notably, the intelligence chief, Rahmatullah Nabil, are known to routinely accuse the Pak Army of supporting the Taliban and turning a blind eye to the presence of Taliban leaders in and around North Waziristan.
Salahuddin Rabbani himself has long accused Pak Army of not targeting the Taliban that has been active in Afghanistan. This Taliban, known as Afghan Taliban is primarily Haqqani Network, which works closely with the Quetta based Taliban Shura, and is controlled by ISI, the Pakistan army's instrument in achieving geo-strategic objectives of the Land of the Pure. (to be continued)
A blogger since July 2008 James Duglous Crickton is a London based consultant working with a consultancy firm focusing on Asia, particularly South Asia and East Asia. Political Research is his functional focus area. While his interests are (more...