Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pak-US Joint Attacks on Tribal Areas

Strained Relationships

Due to the growing concerns in the Pakistani establishment about the Afghan government's allegedly surreptitious meddling in the area, The Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, asked US visiting under secretary for South Asia, Richard Boucher, to help stop militants infiltration from Afghanistan.

Zardari did not directly blame the US troops stationed in the Afghan border province, Kunar, of having hands in the facilitation of militants penetration into Pakistan, but it is commonly believed that all these are done under the knowledge of the US agencies.

Zardari implicitly said that drug traffickers in Afghanistan were funding the infiltration of militants into the tribal areas.

Previously, during the reign of Musharaf's government, Awais Ghani, then governor of Baluchistan and currently governor of North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) had accused the Afghan government of arming and sending the Baluch militants.

The Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA)is believed to be involved in many attacks on the Pakistani army. It is noticed that during the battles among the tribes in Parachinar, a border Pakistani town, many soldiers of the Afghan National Army in civil uniforms were fighting on the side of the Tori tribes.

Similarly, hundred of Tori tribesmen have taken refuge in Jaji district, and Khust province of Afghanistan, close to the border of Parachinar.

Kabul is earnestly seeking to maintain good relations with disgruntled Pakistani tribes to spread its influence over these areas.

In the light of the new circumstances, it is suspected that the old players are again in the field trying to utilize the backlash of the operations in tribal areas.

By giving them shelter in Afghanistan, they want to consequently prepare refugees for agitation in the tribal areas. New Delhi may have a lion share in this adventure in order to put pressure on Pakistan either to hands off Kashmir or to agree to Indian conditions on the issue. It can be used to dilute Pakistan’s attention and stand on strategic issues like Siachen Glaciers and water distribution between the two countries.

Strategically, it is in the interest of Pakistan to accommodate the Pakistani Taliban rather than push them into the hug of hostile forces.

Pakistan should learn the lesson from American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Despite seven years of iron-fist strategy in the country, Afghanistan now is acknowledging that it has to talk to the Taliban for a permanent solution of the conflict.

Should the main outsiders once ensconce themselves in the tribal areas, then the solution will slip from Islamabad’s hands, and this will consequently result into unpredictable outcomes, which will not augur well for the integration of this nuclear Islamic power.

Suhail Shaheen is a former Chief Editor of the Kabul Times and a freelance Journalist.

He can be reached through

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