The epitome of dysfunctionalism by Pakistan could not have been more preceding and during the much anticipated visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Pakistan. It ended with the familiar notes of elimination of militant havens in Pakistan, continuation of drone strikes and resumption of a strategic dialogue. Pakistani officials retorted with the apologist’s rant of taking action against militants on own terms, cessation of drone strikes and the need to open US markets for bilateral trade. With a US exit from the region round the corner, and a lapse of 11 years of military cooperation in a US led war; a ‘yet to negotiate’ strategic dialogue is a baffling preposition. What were they doing all these years?
John Kerry gave a positive spin to an otherwise divergent relationship by saying that “The Pakistan-US relationship is not defined by the threats we face and is not just about counter-terrorism,” adding that the US was concerned with Pakistan’s economic revival. How the economy was manipulated to melt has been an old theme in these columns.
Earlier, a US official summarised the bleak prospects of the visit by stating that “They (Pakistan) are working on their own counter-terrorism strategy. We just need to wait and see what they come up with internally and how we can coordinate both in our bilateral relationship and with joint cooperation.” This means that with no counter terrorism policy, the outcome of Pak-US diplomacy was doomed to hang in balance. But if General Kayani’s speech is to be taken as a serious intention, his plans to fight the militancy with political support are in jeopardy. It appears he is yet to sell his Counter Terrorism Strategy to the Parliament, a wedge that has allowed the militants to seize initiative and operate freely.
Ideally, Kerry’s visit to Pakistan should have been preceded by a presentation to the leaders of the major groups in the Parliament followed by an All Parties Conference and an outline agreement of a Counter Terrorism Policy. Perhaps this was not possible because none of the actors involved in the process are willing to divulge the level and extent of their cooperation with USA. This includes the touchy subject of drone operations and linkages of both sides with militant groups. Just before and during Kerry’s visit, the US concerns of militants groups were rocked by Sukkur to Nanga Parbat and Parachinar to D I Khan. Faced with successive embarrassments, Pakistani negotiators must have put up a brave face to argue their logic.
The jail break in D I Khan is a serious breach. From the point of view of National Security, it was as embarrassing as Abbottabad, the former by USA and latter, by non-state actors. In both cases, the local authorities were surprised, yet inside complicity cannot be ruled out. This was another dimension of the battle of frontiers tantamount to an act of war, neither militancy nor terrorism. Despite 48 hours advance notice, why preventive reconnaissance, deployments and operations were not conducted are questions the KPK government has to answer. The IGFC also has responsibility to explain why he could not carry out a coordinated operation with the provincial government to flush out the hideouts of these militants inside the city. Most alarmingly, once faced by advance warning, what actions were taken to neutralise the jail staff majority of who had been shifted from Bannu after the first jail break. How the militants infiltrated security points and barriers, exfiltrated, were not challenged by elite force and LEAs and why they were not knocked out by gunships with night vision capabilities are questions that need to be answered.
Perhaps the biggest disconnect remains between the federal and provincial governments and army reflected in Imran Khan’s frustration in not being given a top secret briefing prior to an all parties conference. As long as various organs of the state continue to work secretively in their own compartments, dysfunctionalism would prevail. This is the same wedge that allows militants to operate freely and delays substantive diplomacy with USA.
Within the treacherous game of this pathetic circus, neither the military, nor the ruling government nor the USA approves the stance taken by Imran Khan on the War on Terror. Yet, none amongst those who matter are prepared to take him into confidence over issues that may modify his views. The government of KPK cannot perform its role of counter terrorism operations till such time it is not convinced that ground realities substantially differ from its simplification of a so called WOT. This cognitive construct inhibits exhibition of a leadership equal to the task.
Finally, the propensity of the judiciary to define new boundaries of jurisdiction in every matter of the state creates its own uncertainties. All political parties are hoarse over the massive rigging conducted by the polling staff. Judiciary has shown no urgency in taking up writ petitions over the right of information and verifications. Election tribunals are ineffective. Advancing dates of presidential elections was controversial and boycotted. Asghar Khan Case that could have decided the fate of some politicians is back to the dust bins. TUQ who started the awareness campaign is humiliated. Fakhru Bhai the Chief Election Commissioner after having done the damage has resigned. The contempt of court case against Imran Khan elevates him as the collective reaction of the entire opposition and millions of people who will not allow another ZAB to happen. This in turn, hangs in limbo the performance of the KPK government. The situation fits neatly into the battle of frontiers and the ever widening wedge of instability.
Hence, by the time Secretary Kerry landed back in London and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Saudi Arabia, another dimension had been added to Pakistan’s uncertain politics at a juncture when USA is keen to work out the final modalities of its withdrawal from Afghanistan. The much anticipated high diplomacy was overshadowed by local actors bent on defining new frontiers.