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Great expectations

The Congress’s sweep to victory has sparked fresh hope of repairing bridges between India and Pakistan...

Written by Ruchika Talwar |
May 23, 2009 2:14:22 am

The Congress’s sweep to victory has sparked fresh hope of repairing bridges between India and Pakistan,and Pakistan’s papers have prasied Dr Manmohan Singh’s moderate-construed-as-soft approach on Pakistan post 26/11. Daily Times,on May 18,said: “By the yardstick of an enraged Indian media,Mr Singh was ‘soft’ on Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks. But the fact is he has taken a moderate tone while being tough on the question of punishing those who were finally identified as ‘non-state actors’ from Pakistan. While post-election India will be in a better mood to pay heed to the international efforts to normalise relations with Pakistan — to begin with,lessen Indian military presence on the border — Pakistan may find itself challenged by Mr Singh’s insistence that Pakistan punish the Mumbai attack culprits… Pakistan will be under pressure to proceed against the terrorists it has acknowledged as being located on its soil even though its courts feel inclined to let them off. India will probably be willing to sign trade deals,but anything Pakistan wants from India will be put on the back burner till Pakistan delivers on the jihadis in addition to the Taliban.” Dawn,in its May 19 editorial,pointed out that: “Singh’s strengthened mandate frees his hand to better manage ties with Pakistan that have deteriorated since the Mumbai attacks. While there may not be any major peace moves,Singh could make a limited opening to Pakistan,now that he no longer needs to worry about a weakened Hindu nationalist opposition criticising him as being soft on India’s nuclear rival. These include dropping the travel advisory and reviving people-to people contacts that have been severely affected since the attacks. Singh will likely stop short of re-launching peace talks suspended since the raids,first focusing on bringing more international pressure on Islamabad to clamp down on militants.”

Welcome news

In the Pakistani press,every day brings a new piece of information about the Pakistan army’s impending victory over the Taliban. Dawn on May 22 reported: “Taliban in Lower Dir district agreed to wind up their camps and pull out within two days.” Daily Times added: “Yar Syed,a Tehreek-e-Taliban commander in Mohmand Agency,also handed over weapons to the political administration. He conceded ‘I was in the wrong.’”

Preceding the aforementioned news of surrender and realisation was the collective condemnation of Taliban’s variant of Shariah by Sunni scholars on May 19. Daily Times reported: “A convention organised by Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan unanimously rejected Taliban’s version of Sharia,beheading of people and fully backed the ongoing military operation.” Another cleric widened the ambit of this view as reported by The News on May 19. “Haji Hanif Tayyab called for the trial of Sufi Muhammad on charges of mutiny.”

FATA next

After NWFP,FATA seems the next step for the Pakistan army. Daily Times quoted a resolute President Asif Zardari as saying: “We’re going to go into Waziristan with [an army operation.” The News added: “Swat is just the start. It is a larger war to fight.” No sooner had this comment come from Zardari than the Mehsud tribesmen of FATA’s Wana area began distancing themselves from Baitullah Mehsud who,as perceived by some,assassinated Benazir Bhutto. Daily Times reported on May 22: “The tribes are seeking an ‘unambiguous pledge’ from Taliban leader Maulvi Nazir to stay away from Baitullah . Unconfirmed reports say Nazir has told Baitullah: ‘I am ready to give you passage to Afghanistan if you want to fight the occupational forces there. But I cannot join you against the Pakistani forces.”

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