Blackmailers having a ball
For quite a while Pakistanis were a bit embarrassed about what was happening in the country. The prognosis from western experts was not good. An Australian counter-insurgency expert, David Kilcullen, called it the most dangerous place in the world and claimed that it could collapse in the next six months. Barack Obama believed that it was Pakistan that needed to be stabilised rather than Afghanistan. Threat to the world stemmed from madmen populating the terror centres of Pakistan and not from bearded Talibanis. The frontier of Pakistan had always been wild, but it was seen with fresh spectacles by the new US administration.
Quite adroitly, the Pakistani administration was able to convey to Washington that if their country was not financially bailed out they would constitute a major threat to the "civilised" world. After all, they had nuclear weapons and were not really sure when they could fall in the hands of the jehadis. Pakistanis promised to fight the militants that had occupied the Swat Valley - barely 100 kilometres from capital Islamabad - and Waziristan, if their hands were strengthened. US promised them $1.5 billion aid and added a rider that their conduct would be watched under a microscope. The new administration would not allow a repetition of what happened during the Bush years, where Pakistan fought a fake war on its frontier, while cleverly pursuing its own agenda in Afghanistan. Steve Coll's book amply brings to the fore the scam put together by the Pakistani army under President Pervez Mussharraf to bilk the US administration and run their multiple criminal enterprises.
Are things any different in Pakistan? "Pakistan is on the ascendant," claimed my good source who hops between Delhi, Kabul, and Islamabad. "And, this has nothing do with their recent T20 World Cup victory in England." According to him, Islamabad under Asif Ali Zardari has been able to turn its misery, its failings, its poor quality of governance, into an asset. The more Taliban look dangerously ominous for the security of the region, the stronger the Pakistani army and establishment get, the source explained.
"India in a space of few months has lost out in the Af-Pak calculus," he claimed. "Pakistanis have been able to work on US presidential envoy to AF-Pak, Richard Holbrooke, and explain to him the imperatives of supporting the army. They have been able to convince him that they would fight against Islamic fundamentalists harder if their interests are taken care of in Afghanistan."
Pray, what are Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan? Islamabad wants India to be restrained in Afghanistan so it does not feel that it is being surrounded by its enemies. India has been told by US officials visiting Delhi that it should not strut around in the Kandahar region. Pakistan is dictating terms to Americans, too, about the need to rein in Hamid Karzai so that he does not interfere in their domestic affairs. They are accusing Karzai of arming Talibanis and feeding a rumour that most Talibans are "uncircumcised Indians" who are masquerading with glued beards. Jemima Khan's colourful piece on Pakistan mentions the conspiracy theories in Pakistan which talk of how the Taliban, when caught and stripped, were found to be "intact and not Muslims" - (a euphemism for uncircumcised).
Pakistan, my source swears, is playing a clever game and they have foxed the Indian strategic establishment. After the Americans began to support them, no one is talking of trifurcation of the country, in currency some months ago. They pose as being on the right side of the Americans and have managed to fob off Indian attempts to tar them as a 'Terror State' post Mumbai terror attack. Much of their operations against the Islamic jehadis, too, are farcical. Every Pakistani military operation is preceded by announcements asking people to clear out. The result is that even Talibani guerrillas disappear with the local populace.
The reason for the Pakistani army's swagger is a nuclear device tucked away in one of the dark tunnels near the dam close to Islamabad. If the Pakistanis feel that their very existence is under peril then they will pass a dirty bomb to their boys - the jehadis - to blow it up in Manhattan or New Delhi! Pakistan is blackmailing everyone to get what it wants.
Does India have a plan to counter the evil machinations of the jehadi military establishment that can go to any extent to carry out its agenda?