Follow by Email

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Politics and the Aftermath of the Bounty on Prof. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed

Never a dull moment for Pakistan watchers. This week has already seen two significant developments, first the announcement of the visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to India quickly followed by an unexpected US bounty, a huge one at that of USD 10 Million, on Professor Hafiz Muhammad Saeed saheb, the Chief of Jama't-ud-Dawah (JuD) and the Lashkar-e-Tayba (LeT). I will interchangeably refer to LeT and JuD in this post because they are one and the same even though Pakistan attempts to find non-existent differences between these two. The UNSC (which includes Pakistan's all-weather friend China) does not share the Pakistani obfuscation and therefore we too will not distinguish between these two terrorist tanzeems. Another bounty of USD 3 Million has been announced for the capture of Professor saheb's right-hand man, top jihadi ideologue of LeT, and Professor saheb's brother-in-law Abdul Rehman Makki. One wonders why Lashkar's Head for Transnational Terror Operations, Sajid Mir was not similarly slapped with a bounty. It was Mir who was calmly directing the terrorists, motivating them and diabolically plotting the cold-blooded carnage in Mumbai on 26/11. Then, there are the officers of the Pakistani Army (PA) and the Navy (PN) who were accomplices in terror who need to be sorted out as well.

On the face of it, these bounties appear to show the US committment to fighting terror. The US has been accused by India of not being impartial in its determination to fight terror as it benignly neglected the overpowering and compelling evidence of terrorism practised by the PA and its various proxies, most notably the LeT. Of course, the US is under no obligation to help India as it pursues its own interests. But, many US decisions in the past have hurt India and helped the non-state actors of Pakistan. To that extent, the US owes a debt to India in cleansing the region of its jihadi creation. Well, Brzezinski famously said, "What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?". Some stirred up Moslems, they have turned out to be.

Coming to the present, the US must have made a careful study before announcing these twin bounties. It proposes to achieve several benefits for itself by this announcement. For those Indians doubtful of the US committment, of which there are plenty, the US hopes to send a message that their doubts were misplaced. For a Pakistan which is still grappling with how to re-define its relationship with the US in the context of the massive hatred for the US among the Pakistani masses while continuing to get generous funds and arms from it, the US is sending a stern message too. The message is stark for Pakistan that the US can cause troubles if it so wishes. The UNSC Resolution 1822 has already implicated Professor saheb and the JuD and has put that organization on par with LeT (which has already come under the UNSC resolution). On Dec. 10, 2008, the venerable Professor saheb was notified as a terrorist by the AL-QAIDA AND TALIBAN SANCTIONS COMMITTEE of the UNSC. The UNSC Resolution 1822 (2008) details what steps a Government has to follow in such a case, none of which Pakistan has cared to do. And, the UNSC has kept quiet too. With the anti-America hatred at an all-time high in Pakistan, any submission to US pressure and that too involving a mard-e-momin like Professor saheb would lead to civil war and bloodbath in Pakistan. This bounty is dead even before being born.

The Indian Foreign Minister, S.M.Krishna has welcomed the bounty and felt that the latest US action vindicated the Indian stand that JuD was a terrorist organization and that Professor saheb was the master planner of the 26/11 crime. How comical is this welcome considering that it was not India which announced this bounty but another nation which comparatively lost much less in the carnage on 26/11 ! The Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram hoped that it would “prod the Pakistan government to take action.” He, however, quickly expressed pessimism about the prospect, saying “Pakistan was in denial and continues to be in denial.” He should know. Let us jog our memory and go three years back to June 2009. That month was significant for Pakistan because it successfully turned around India, for the umpteenth time in sixty two years of its unremitting confrontation. On June 16, 2009, Man Mohan Singh met Zardari on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting at Yekaterinburg in Russia. That was barely seven months after the horrendous 26/11 urban warfare unleashed on India by the Pakistani Army (PA) and its proxy, the LeT. Gen. Kayani, Lt. Gen. Shuja Ahmed Pasha, and a number of PA and ISI officers had planned the details of the 26/11 urban guerilla warfare minutely. But, the Indian PM Man Mohan Singh had decided to overlook the terrible act within seven months and had embarked on the reconciliation strategy. Yet, he played a little drama at Yekaterinburg for Indian mass consumption, by telling Zardari within earshot of the assembled TV crew, "Excellency, I am pleased to meet you. But I have a limited mandate to tell you that the Pakistani territory can't be used for acts of terror against India". Why should we consider this blunt (I, for one do not even consider this as blunt considering the magnitude of 26/11 and the scores of terror acts before, especially the promise made by Gen. Musharraf on Jan 12, 2002 after the December 2001 Indian Parliament attack) talking as hot gas is because it was this meeting that set the agenda for what followed immediately thereafter and continues to this day. After that blunt message in front of journalists, Man Mohan Singh and Zardari had a one-on-one meeting for 45 minutes that sealed India's fate yet again. Asif Ali Zardari, like all Pakistani Presidents, Generals and Prime Ministers before him, promised (a more appropriate description would be, 'lied') to take action against the terrorists and bring the 26/11 culprits to book. Man Mohan Singh believed his words and ordered restoration of 'peace dialogue'. The US was quick to welcome the meeting between Zardari and Man Mohan Singh, as were sections of Indian intelligentsia. That meeting set the stage for the even more shameful Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting in July, 2009 where Man Mohan Singh directed his Foreign Secretary to voluntarily implicate India in the internal affairs of Pakistan and get equated to a terrorism-sponsoring Pakistan in the process. Indian foreign policy was once again being shaped directly and solely by a Prime Minister who was not quite adept in the art. The choice of a docile and laid-back S.M. Krishna as the Foreign Minister in his cabinet appears in hindsight to be a deliberate decision by Man Mohan Singh to carry out his imbecilic Pakistan agenda. Mr. Man Mohan Singh’s approach to Pakistan can only be equated with a similar disastrous approach by another Indian Prime Minister, I.K. Gujral. Just as we have not yet recovered from the Gujral effect, We will take decades to recover from the Man Mohan Doctrine as well.

So, what will Pakistan do now ? Predictable. There are different parties there who will react differently, but all of them would work towards the common goal of protecting the venerable Professor saheb because jihad against the Indians and the Great Satan, the USA, needs people like him. This post in this blog explains as to why Lashkar-e-Tayba is so important for the PA in particular and the Pakistani State in general. . The Government of Pakistan (GoP) would say that neither India nor the USA has given any solid proof that could stand in a court of law to convict professor saheb. The Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani has already said so. The Foreign Office spokesperson has gone one step ahead and said that this bounty vindicates the Pakistani position that so far India has not given worthwhile evidence. I expect the Interior Minister Rehman Malik to also brazenly say on the Indian soil tomorrow, that the judiciary of Pakistan which was well known throughout the world for its fierce independence (he would even cite the examples of its on-going actions against the President, the Prime Minister and even the PA) has already released Professor saheb after a lengthy and due process of trial in the Lahore High Court and then in the Supreme Court and that there is not much that GoP can do now against him unless India shares fresh evidence. He would also say that the evidence given so far by India had been mere conjectures and not solid proof, that have been thrown out by the Lahore High Court as well as the Supreme Court and if India could furnish more evidence, he would be only too willing to prosecute Professor saheb. He would demand that the judiciary of Pakistan must be respected. He would conclude by saying that to the best of his government's knowledge, JuD was merely a charity organization involved in Daw'ah, social work like running educational institutions and hospitals for the poor and was not involved in acts of terrorism.

Nothing more should be expected from GoP, if one looks back at how it has been handling the issue of LeT, JuD and more so Professor saheb. In the second week of December, 2008, Pakistan fooled the world by enacting a farcical drama of cracking down on JuD after the UNSC resolution had included JuD and Professor saheb in its sanctions list. The Muridke headquarters was not even touched and the ostensible explanation given by both the Punjab and the federal GoP was that were JuD’s charity work to be affected, it would adversely impact millions of poor Pakistanis across the country and that these were unrelated to terrorism anyhow. In fact, the Punjab government, which under Nawaz Sharif’s brother, Shahbaaz Sharif, has always showed open alliance with various terrorist organizations, went ahead and allocated USD 1 million to JuD out of its budget for c. 2009. Later, JuD spokesman himself reacted with astonishment over this allocation. On January 6, 2009, the JuD spokesman threatened the government as follows: “Hafiz Saeed has followers all over Pakistan and it is not possible for the government of Pakistan to even think about handing him over to India,”

Professor saheb, for his part, has already said that US had no means of knowing anything about him and its action is based on unreliable second-hand information from enemy India which has a vested interest in prosecuting him. He would also blast the unholy alliance between Hindu India and Christian USA, both kafir, that now stood exposed. He would challenge and tease the Americans to catch him if they could a la Muhammad Ali. He would not hide in a deep underground bunker or become incommunicado. He is not like a Ramzi Yousef, the nephew of Khaled Sheikh Muhammed (KSM), who was a fugitive after having been involved in the 1993 WTC bombing , the Bojinka Plot to bomb mid-air American planes over the Atlantic etc. and for whom a USD 2 Million was announced under the US Rewards for Justice (RFJ) programme. The bounty led to his tip-off. Same was the case with another Pakistani, Mir Aimal Kansi, who killed CIA employees at Langley, Virginia and escaped to Dera Ghazi Khan in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Agencies) in AfPak region. A USD 2 Million dollar bounty did him in eventually a few years later. On the contrary, Professor saheb would use every opportunity now to interact more with the public and the journalists, spewing out more venom against the Hanud-Yahud-Nasara (Hindus-Jews-Christians) conspiracy against the Muslims. He knows pretty well that his own LeT which is a large and armed-to-the-teeth terrorist organization, as well as the other dozens of Sunni terrorist organizations in Pakistan and even those who may not see eye-to-eye with him like some factions of the Punjabi Taliban, his patron the PA, dozens of Islamist organizations, political leaders from all parties who are hand-in-glove with him, the judiciary, and more importantly the masses of Pakistan would stand solidly behind him. Nobody, would therefore be able to catch him and hand him over to the Americans, a ridiculous proposition to start with anyway.

The Pakistani political parties which are debating the recommendations of the Pakistan Committee for National Security (PCNS) would find it even more difficult to take a pragmatic and practical view anymore and perforce have to harden their stand, lest they be accused of being American agents. There was some evidence of cracks among the political leaders on the tough stand against the US and that would evaporate now. The Zardari government would try to shake off the American pressure to open the NATO supply routes, to be more cooperative in the talks with the Taliban, to allow the drone operations etc. by citing the unanimous decision of the Parliament. Anything else could see the immediate demise of the PPP government, a blow from which they might just not be able to recover because the unthinkable act of handing over a true momin Professor saheb to kafir America would be simply blasphemous and the munafiqin (hypocrites untruthful to Islam) Zardari, Gilani, Rehman Malik& Co will be branded murtad (apostate) and deservingly stoned to death.

The US knows that this bounty announcement would not pressurize Pakistan into taking any action against terrorism, much less against a national jihad hero like Professor sahib. India knows that too. So, why did the US announce this bounty and why has India welcomed it ? The reasons are starkly different for the two.

There are three reasons why the US has done what it has done now. One, it fears that the incorrigible extremist elements in Pakistan could derail the Afghan peace dialogue and therefore a successful conclusion to US/NATO presence by c. 2014. Secondly, it needs India's support in various issues and therefore has a need to appear, in Indian eyes, of being tough with Pakistan. Thirdly, the USA may have a genuine fear of Pakistan sliding into another roguish North Korea.

There are several conflicting situations that one has to face when one begins to wield more and more power in career or in life. This is the same for nations as well. The sole super power runs into similar predicaments regularly every other day in different corners of the world, especially as it practises realpolitik furiously. The situation was vastly different when the comity of nations was generally divided into black and white between the West and the Soviets with a tiny shade of gray in the form of inconsequential non-aligned countries. The situation has been fraught with more danger for the US since the demise of the Soviet Union. The US finds itself in the same tight-corner, fine-balance situation with respect to AfPak and the Indian subcontinent. The US needs Indian support in various issues such as those involving Iran, China, South East Asia, Asia-Pacific, global economy, etc. It has to constantly bait India but it also knows that India can be baited easily because it is normally quickly satisfied with symbolic gestures from the US by attributing deep friendly motives of a strategic nature for the far away future. The need for Pakistan in the short and medium terms is enormous for the US. The US is very reluctant to use its leverage against Pakistan. The widening trust deficit since c. 1962 between these two countries is almost at rock bottom today. The US has nothing to lose in Pakistan. Its image among the frothing-at-the-mouth-corner Pakistani Abduls (which is practically the entire country) is simply not going to improve even if it gifts each Pakistani a million dollars. The only way it can redeem itself is if it sides diplomatically and militarily with a Pakistan that attacks India and humiliates it. Anything short of this, would simply not work. This is something that the US will not be able to do for various reasons.

At the same time, the USA also needs a lot of Pakistani assistance in concluding its campaign in Afghanistan and effecting an orderly and less bloody withdrawal with its pride somewhat in tact. The US may also not want a nuclear Pakistan to become another North Korea and destabilize the region and world order even more than what it already is. Pakistan is increasingly coming under the Dragon's influence just like North Korea. {See 'A Perspective of the American and the Chinese Presence in Pakistan'}These compelling reasons to balance India against Pakistan and vice-versa drives the US to take different decisions at different times. The de-hyphenation between India and Pakistan in US calculations that President George Bush Jr spoke about does not go so deep after all. The bounty on Professor saheb has seemingly earned the gratitude of a senile and impotent Indian leadership that is satisfied with mere symbolism without substance while the US might have assured the Pakistanis, behind the Indian backs, that the threat against Professor saheb would never materialize and remain only on paper. While Ms. Wendy Sherman came to India and announced the US decision on Professor saheb, Washington simultaneously dispatched Tome Nides, Deputy Secretary of State to Islamabad as a balancing act. Pakistan's Interior Minister, Rehman Malik claimed that the US has not conveyed to it any information about the bounty. That might have been said to preserve the honour & dignity (H&D), but one heard no counter from the US administration. Pakistan escapes every time by pretending not to have received any tough message from its friends or adversaries and the friends and adversaries do not shame Pakistan by countering such false claims by GoP hoping that by not publicly shaming Pakistan, it would mend its ways. Nothing of that sort has ever happened. It is time that such falsehood by GoP is not allowed to go unchallenged. Even if it may not change Pakistan's behaviour, this tactic will at least be different from the policy of appeasement that has been tried for decades now and found to be an utter failure.

The reason why India has welcomed the US move is very different. India has no other option. We have eschewed any option other than showing our other cheek to persistent and increasingly hard slaps from Pakistan. Our Government is labouring under false assumptions. It thinks that improving Indian economy is the prime target (which is a sensible thing that any normal nation-state tries to achieve) and buying peace with Pakistan is important for that. The false beliefs here are that the ever widening gap will eventually make Pakistan see the futility of it all and drop its 'enduring hostility' with us or that the economic strength will translate into a military, political and diplomatic clout at some time in the future that we can then use to put a stop permanently to Pakistani transgressions if Pakistan was still about and around two decades hence. Both are inherently flawed, but now is not the time to discuss that. Therefore, India has abdicated the responsibility of being a 'bad cop' to the USA and wants to be recognized by Pakistan as a 'good cop'. India and the US might have come to some understanding on this or simply India is riding piggyback on the US predicament with Pakistan here. At the same time, the Indian leadership has to be seen as pursuing the Mumbai 26/11 case (and other such issues) vigorously and hence this welcome to the US offer of bounty.

So, overall, the US and India are pursuing different routes with only a partial overlap of the goals vis-à-vis Pakistan. In the 1980s, the US Administration made noises but discreetly allowed Pakistan to acquire nuclear weapons and their delivery platforms clandestinely. Since c. 2002, it has generously supplied the Pakistanis with offensive weapons and platforms that would be useless in counter-terrorism operations and would be useful only against India. It allowed an evil David Coleman Headley escape Indian investigators and legal process. Who knows, even the RFJ bounty against Professor sahib may be to stake a US first claim on him in case he is somehow caught in the unlikeliest case, thus preventing him from falling into the hands of Indian investigators and legal system. I realize that it is a very cynical view but one never knows what the USA is up to and we need to be cautious. That is their reputation.

For an Indian administration that is clueless, docile and even senile, there is no worthwhile option left than to welcome such useless US announcements.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Significance of the Zardari Visit

Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, has suddenly decided to visit the Sufi shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti at Ajmer Sharif in India, a place of important pilgrimage for Berelvi and Sufi Muslims of the subcontinent. He has also accepted an offer to lunch with the Indian Prime Minister, Man Mohan Singh, on April 8. Though it is being claimed by the advisor of Mr. Zardari, Farhatullah Babar, that the visit had been in the offing for the past one year and had not materialized suddenly, this excuse is not entirely convincing. Let me state why.

It is a common practice amongst the religiously inclined, to promise to visit a particular shrine if Divine intervention helps them in being cured of an illness, or delivered from a particularly difficult situation etc. This is especially so in the Indian subcontinent and from that angle, Zardari has every reason to visit Ajmer Sharif. He seems to have recovered from a purported stroke that led to a mild facial paralysis in December 2011, for treating which he was flown to Dubai and where he remained for two weeks before returning to Pakistan. But, not many, except the hardcore jiyalas of the Peoples Party of Pakistan (PPP), were convinced that the President had indeed suffered a stroke and had gone to Dubai to recover and recuperate under more able medical hands there than were available in Islamabad. I don't blame the nay-sayers because Pakistan's history of deceit, deception, double-crossing and lying is such that nobody believes anything being said in Pakistan, least of all by the politicians. To be fair to the Pakistanis, they do not only practice these fine arts particularly well against the Indians and the Americans (and to varying degrees against the rest of the world including the sweeter-than-the-sweetest-honey friend China) but also against each other amongst themselves. Instances are aplenty and I will reserve them for another post. At that time when Zardari fled to Dubai, he was under immense pressure from the Pakistani Army (PA) with the recently exploded 'Memogate' scandal consuming all of Pakistan. One has to remember that there is absolutely no love lost between the Bhutto clan and the PA. Unfortunately for the PA, the long-standing Master, the United States of America, facilitated the return of Ms. Benazir Bhutto from her partly self-imposed and partly Musharraf-imposed exile, and her participation in the elections. Her return came as a big blow to the ambitions of the ruling coterie, Gen. Musharraf and the PML-Q Chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. They rightly feared their continuing retention of power. With the huge support for her everywhere she went, with the dislike for Gen. Musharraf's rule, with the pre-poll alliance between the two largest parties of PPP and PML-N, with the dire economic situation, and with the country-wide lawyers' agitation against Gen. Musharraf's high-handedness in dismissing the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) and declaring an Emergency, Ms. Bhutto's victory was a foregone conclusion. The only way out for Gen. Musharraf and the King's party that was supporting him, was to physically eliminate Ms. Benazir Bhutto, after having successfully tackled Nawaz Sharif by re-exiling him in an unexpected minor side-drama. They proceeded to implement their diabolical plot. However, they did not expect the turn of events that followed the assassination of Ms. Bhutto, leading to the PPP seizing power due to overwhelming public sympathy and through deft manoeuvres along with PML-N. To add insult to injury, Gen. Musharraf had to vacate the Presidency in favour of PA's most despised man (and to be fair to the PA, by a large section of the people of Pakistan too), Asif Ali Zardari. Indeed, fatefully, Gen. Musharraf had to himself leave the country in an un-announced exile. Since that time, the PA has tried many tricks to oust Zardari. Nothing succeeded though Zardari came close to being sent packing a couple of times. Credit partly goes to Zardari for managing the situation successfully so far and partly to other circumstances.

However, the situation was very critical when Zardari decided to fly to Dubai on a dubious medical emergency. There was pressure on him from the PA to resign or face the very real possibility of an army coup if he resisted. Mr. Zardari knew that no world power or leader would come to his help if he ended up in prison, other than issuing some inane statements. His father-in-law. Zulfikar Ali Butto, was executed with impunity by Gen. Zia-ul-Haq. Except for customary noises, nobody intervened. His wife was brutally murdered and the murderer freely lives and lectures in Western countries. Though he endured solitary confinement and physical abuses during his previous incarceration, Zardari was much older now and was unwilling to undergo once again that cruelty. So, he escaped to Dubai with the triple intention of cooling down the unbearably rising political temperature, escaping the possible coup and the consequent stint in the Attock prison overlooking the Indus near Peshawar, and planning with his friends his next moves. The PA had played a neat game, using the widespread public hatred against the USA after especially the Salala incident, to its advantage by depicting Zardari as an ally of the US conspiring against the nationalist and Islamist PA. The matter was deadly serious because Zardari would get no sympathy even from the jiyalas. The judiciary of the Pakistani Supreme Court which also has a score to settle with Zardari interposed itself in the matter leading to further troubles for him. The troubles are continuing what with his confidante and incumbent Prime Minister Gilani about to be sentenced for contempt of court and removed from power. Zardari's political troubles are about to snowball in the coming weeks. Like Pakistan since its inception, Zardari is also moving from one trouble to a bigger next trouble.

For its part, the PA certainly wants to get rid of Zardari and his PPP as quickly as possible. The PA, apart from its hatred for the Bhuttos and their political party for historical reasons, are also feeling threatened by Zardari and Gilani's words and actions against its interests since coming to power in c. 2008. Since then, the Zardari and Gilani combine has astonishingly tried to tame the PA and the notorious Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). First, they decided to bring the ISI under civilian control which indeed misfired within a few hours and the orders had to be withdrawn hurriedly. But, the effort was well worth recognizing since nobody before had attempted this. Then, Zardari bravely attempted to redefine the nuclear doctrine to 'No First Use' (NFU) all by himself, which again fell through. Again, the attempt needs recognition. The Pakistani Supreme Commander described India as not the threat facing the country, puncturing the PA's raison d'etre. After 26/11, Gilani agreed to send the ISI Chief to India, which he had to retract immediately under PA/ISI pressure. Normally, I would have called it a coordinated drama between the civilians and the khakhis, but this appeared genuine to me. Then, the political setup agreed to the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, which imposed restrictions on the PA and directly named the LeT, but the bill had to be eventually diluted as the PA put its foot down and the Americans dithered and surrendered to the Pakistani khakhis. Even the extension of the terms of COAS Gen. Kayani and DG, ISI Lt. Gen. Pasha in c. 2010, was not automatic and they were kept on tenterhooks for quite a while before the announcements were made. This was so even when the US had indicated its desire for the continuation of these two. When the episode of the CIA Agent Raymond Davis erupted, Gilani eased out the PA's most trenchant supporter in the cabinet Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Gilani's recent taking on of Kayani, through the interview to Xinhua, or in the National Assembly, and his sarcastic remarks about the type of visa given to OBL for staying in Abbottabad, were unprecedented. He then sacked the Lt. Gen. who was the choice of Gen. Kayani for Defence Secretary's post and for the first time, since the 70s, appointed a civilian as the Defence Secretary. The Defence Secretary had earlier stated in an affidavit in the Supreme Court in connection with the Memogate that the PA and the ISI were not under the operational control of the Ministry of Defence(MoD). An angry Gilani used the opportunity to get rid of a PA-appointee by blaming him for causing a rift between the govt and the PA, a nice excuse which put the PA on the mat. He added insult to PA's injury by replacing the mard-e-momin Lt. Gen. with a woman. Gen. Kayani immediately changed the Commander of the 111 Brigade, a brigade which is always used to stage the military coup in Islamabad. But, the threat, if it was one, did not cause a ripple. I have not seen such concerted efforts to tame the PA and the ISI anytime before, except when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto toyed with his Service Chiefs after becoming the Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) in the wake of the massive 1971 defeat. The 'Memogate' issue has been fizzling out. The ISI Chief, Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha who orchestrated many a campaign against Zardari including the latest Memogate, has been shown the exit without being offered an extension. It is no wonder therefore that the PA and the ISI are gunning for the head of Zardari, figuratively, I hope. They are propping up Imran Khan and the powerful Lashkar-e-Tayba (LeT) as well as sundry other Islamist and jihadi outfits under the banner of Diffa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) to fight both Zardari and Nawaz Sharif in the imminent elections. While Zardari might have weathered the storm so far, the future is increasingly bleak for him and his party politically.

Be that as it may, Zardari is hemmed in from other directions as well. The economy is doing pretty badly. Of course, it was never shining in the last 65 years on its own steam, though die-hard Pakistanis want everyone to believe that in the 60s, Pakistan was a Tiger economy and the rest of Asia was simply dying to copy its economic miracle. The various Human Development indices place Pakistan in the category of a Least Developed Country (LDC). Increasingly, Pakistan is being mentioned in the same breath as Sudan, Somalia and similar nations. Pakistan has attracted not more than USD 400 million as investment this current year. The Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) are hesitatnt to help. The electric power situation is so horrible even before the summer has set in. The non-availability of natural gas, as well as electricity, has hit hard the only worthwhile industry of Pakistan, the textile industry, which alone brings in 70% of the foreign exchange earnings. The quantitative easing by the European Union, through GSP+, cannot therefore be taken advantage of by Pakistan. Non-availability of petroleum products and their steep price are affecting the Pakistani transportation system, especially the Railways which is already reeling under the non-functioning of the defective Chinese railway engines. The world economic situation is itself such that Pakistan should not expect its usual succour from others anytime soon. Even the Chinese are unable to help Pakistani economy much. In December, 2011, the leading Chinese bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China had withdrawn from plans to head a consortium meant to finance the $1.6-billion Pakistani portion of the IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline. A couple of months earlier, a Chinese coal-mining company had abruptly cancelled a huge contract to develop the Tharparkar coal seams in the Sind citing worsening security situation especially for the Chinese workers. As they say, another door opens whenever one is shut. The Chinese company's pull-out must leave the field wide open for the erstwhile nuclear and missile scientist and the new coal expert, Dr. Samar Mubarakmund, to speedily implement his coal gassification plant there. Thus, Pakistan's smart idea of playing China against the US has come a cropper. Realizing this, Pakistan has started making concilliatory moves vis-a-vis the USA. This time, even the acclaimed Pakistani tactical brilliance failed miserably. The usual floods are around the corner too. Pakistan is stretched on all fronts. Overall, therefore, the situation is very bleak for Pakistan.

Therefore, Zardari has perforce to seek aid from wherever he can get. Even 'mortal kafir enemy' India, for that matter. The Indian Prime Minister, who is willing to even travel the whole distance to meet his Pakistani counterpart at the slightest hint, sees a great opportunity for bringing peace to the troubled India-Pakistan relationship. He is now resigned to his analysis that Pakistan will never change and the only option left for him is to help them see Indian generosity hoping that somehow their mindset will change a wee bit after that. The Indian side might have also been alarmed by the possibility of Imran Khan and his jihadi, PA and Islamist supporters coming to power in c. 2013, not far away from the D-Day in Afghanistan by mid-2014. Indian assessment might be that Zardari (or Nawaz Sharif) might be a better prospect for India than a rampaging Imran Khan and his friends. India badly needs energy security and the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline would be important now that the much hyped KG-D6 gas fields have serious issues. Mr. Singh has therefore decided to export 5000 MW of electricity and export a slew of petroleum products and even natural gas through trucks immediately and later through a pipeline. He has decided to relax visa rules, encourage cross-border financial and banking services etc. Zardari wants even more from India if his fortunes are to be turned around. He wants to balance the public hatred for the US that is hurting him with the concessions from India. We know that furious Track-II discussions have been going on for about two years now. The restoration of the Composite Dialogue last year was an indicator of the thaw in the relationship. India is beginning to accept the usual stonewalling tactic of Pakistan in the 26/11 case because it probably feels that such an approach would help in the overall scheme of things. It is my inkling that some big ticket announcement is around the corner. Naturally, that announcement must be of such a nature that the Pakistani masses see concesions being prised out from India. The MFN carrot, being dangled infront of India, and its timeline of end-2012 coincides nicely with various developments. If India reneges on its promise, MFN might not materialize. India, in its eagerness and under pressure from the US, may be quite willing to concede as much as possible. However, it may be demanding some unwritten assurances in return, which of course, Pakistan can be expected to flout at the first instance as it happened after the Simla accord of c. 1972 when Pakistan refuted the secret promises that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had given to Mrs. Indira Gandhi. He had pleaded for not including these in the written document so as to save the honour and dignity (H&D) of Pakistan. It is significant that the Indian Prime Minister, while referring to an invitation from his Pakistani counterpart to visit Islamabad, said, "something solid needs to be done before we can celebrate". Note the reference to the 'joint celebrations'; Mr. Man Mohan Singh did not say that "something solid needs to be done before I can visit Pakistan". The Pakistani side is now trying to tie up all the loose ends at the highest level, perhaps. The Pakistani side is now trying to tie up the loose ends at the highest level, perhaps.

The only way Pakistani economy can improve is if it turns to India. The only way Pakistan can defeat terrorism (if it really wants to) is when it turns to India. The only way that Zardari feels that he can retain power is with help from India. Thus, everything in Pakistan revolves around India. Unfortunately for Pakistan, India is like a quicksand for them. The more they try to extricate themselves from Indian influence, the deeper they are dragged into it. Therefore, Zardari is coming to India to seek help and understanding from a generous Mr. Man Mohan Singh. What a turn of events.


PS: Thank God, there was no one-on-one meeting at Seoul between Man Mohan Singh and Gilani. It could be different in New Delhi when Zardari meets Man Mohan Singh. Of course, language is not an issue between the two but I understand that Zardari can also speak fluent Punjabi. It is the one-on-one meeting that Indians must fear and Pakistanis must rejoice.