Pakistan: raising hopes

Due to the long march and the ensuing chaos, there were fears expressed by the strategic establishment in India that the probe into Mumbai might lose its way

Sanjay Kapoor Delhi, Hardnews

Indians have been intrigued by the developments in Pakistan. All these months they thought that the western neighbour was rapidly withering away and the Taliban was on the threshold of taking over Islamabad. Reports of a frayed border with Afghanistan and the shameful treaty with Taliban over Swat valley reinforced this view that it was a matter of time when Pakistan lapsed into chaos and disarray.

The long march of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif against President Asif Ali Zardari's government was also seen as a manifestation of this nightmarish stasis. Happenings in the last few days suggest that the forces that represent reason and democracy are not going to give up without a fight.

Most of the hawkish commentators that occupy television studios missed the point that the march led by Sharif had stoked the movement for democracy in a country that had contributed in overthrowing President Pervez Musharraf. Lawyers, who were at the vanguard of the movement to restore Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary, once again saw in this agitation an opportunity to give primacy to courts and rule of law.

Zardari, who had refused to re-appoint Chief Justice Chaudhary after he assumed office some months ago, was forced to back down. Needless to say, the President was forced by the Americans to bend and the chief of army staff, General Kayani. The long march was called off by Sharif, lawyers and civil society activists after Zardari agreed to re-appoint Justice Chaudhary. Sharif displaying sagacity thanked President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani and also resolved to fight terrorism together. It is this resolve that holds considerable promise for democratic forces in India as well as the government in Delhi.

Despite angry noises that flowed from India immediately after the Mumbai terror strike, the government here did not resort to the foolhardy option of surgical strikes at "terror camps". Instead, it chose to act in a civilised manner, put together evidence against perpetrators of the crime and give it to their counterpart in Islamabad. To the credit of Pakistan, as testified by the Interpol boss, they have conducted some probe that vindicates New Delhi's charges.

Due to the long march and the ensuing chaos, there were fears expressed by the strategic establishment in India that the probe into Mumbai might lose its way. But, peaceful resolution of the crisis offers an opportunity for civil society to force the government to conduct a top-class investigation to find out the forces that were behind the Mumbai attack. Indian government sources, Hardnews learnt, believed that this was done by a rogue section within the army that still owes allegiance to General Musharraf. If the probe is taken to its logical conclusion, then the Talibani elements, sustained by forces in the Pakistani society that have been undermining democracy by unleashing violence, would be neutered.

Many Indian strategic experts who pompously occupy television studios feel more comfortable with army generals ruling Islamabad. It is, however, important that democratic forces are strengthened to bring stability to the tragedy-scarred region.

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