Friday, September 08, 2006

The Waziristan Accord: A Deal with the Devil

As you may all know, Pervez Musharraf's government has signed an accord with the "militants" holed up in Waziristan. The accord offers an end to hostilities between the Pakistan Army and the "militants" in exchange for a de-emphasis on the Pakistan Army's participation in the war on terror. While the clauses of the agreement are specific to Waziristan, the accord appears to have a wider impact on Pakistan's participation in the war on terror as a whole.

Syed Saleem Shahzad of the Asia Times suggests that in addition to the clauses mandating the withdrawal of Pakistan Army units from the Waziristan region, the Pakistani Army has also agreed to "leave the militants alone". This is taken to mean that the Pakistan Army will not interfere with groups that have strong ties to the "mehmaan" (foreign) mujahedin. Prima facie this appears to affect Pakistan as a whole and not Waziristan alone, i.e. militants everywhere in Pakistan could be given an easier time in exchange for a Waziri pledge not to produce more posthumus Nishan-e-Haider winners. Apparently Pakistan has also agreed to release a number of "militants" and al Qaida supporters in its custody as a part of the accord. Also the Pakistan Army has agreed to return all the weapons and equipment it has captured from the "militants".

The Pakistani approach to participation in the War on Terror has been to keep its involvement out of the public eye. Pakistani interlocuters often say that Pakistan's Islamic population would not understand or empathize with the needs of the US and they would revolt against the government if they came to know the extent of Pakistani cooperation. As a result of this strategy, people are routinely arrested in Pakistan on orders from the US. These people are then transferred into a system of secret prisons and interrogation centers. Where they are evaluated and classified. The Pakistan Army also ensures that no terrorists vital to the pursuit of its options vis-a-vis India are harmed in this process. In return for this access the US government ensures that the entire process is kept secret at its end, i.e. the warrants are sealed and in many cases the codefendants are not named. As a result, the bulk of the Pakistani Government's cooperation in the war on terror is unaudited.

While the United States looks upon the Jihadis collecting in Waziristan as potential threats to national security. Pakistan sees them as an opportunty, as possible cannon fodder for covert Jihads in Kashmir and elsewhere and as random patsys to hand over to the US everytime Uncle Sam comes looking for a quick fix. The Accord is clearly more subservient to Pakistani needs than to American needs, in that it fosters the environment of opportunity and makes the militants of Waziristan a more exploitable resource for the Pakistanis.

In an environment where no one really know what Pakistan has or has not done for the War on Terror, and one is largely reduced to taking General Musharraf's promises on securing Pakistans continuing coooperation, a move like this is bound to raise suspicion. No one seriously believes that the tribes will honor their end of the bargain and prevent cross border movement.
So is Musharraf really helping the world put an end to the problem or is he creating a permanent reserve of future trouble makers that can be used as bargaining chips with the US? Musharraf's ambition is well documented, what will this drive him to do?

A logical question would be:

Is General Musharraf is appeasing the Islamist groups in his country by agreeing to stop operations in Waziristan?

This is a plausible explantion for these events.

B Raman suggests that quelling the Baloch insurgency requires more troops which are now tied down in Waziristan. The troop movements in POK after Nawab Bugti's death were seen by some others as a possible rearrangement to accomodate increased demand for soldiers in Sui.
Another possibility is that Musharraf needs to canvas for support within the polity after he alienated the RAPE by ordering the murder of Nawab Bugti, and he hopes to find that support among the Islamists.

In either case, a direct consequence of this development is the strengthening of Islamist influence within the Pakistani polity and increased instability in Afghanistan.

Has Musharraf successfully prolonged his stay in power? if so at what cost? What comes out of making a deal with the Devil?

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