ISLAMABAD – Since mid-December, Pakistan has experienced political and economic volatility that is extraordinary even by Pakistani standards. The fragile political structure that began to be erected following the resumption of civilian government in 2008 is now shaking.
A key source of this unrest is Tahirul Qadri, a Toronto-based Muslim cleric who arrived in Lahore in early December. Ten days later, he addressed a mammoth public meeting at the city’s Minar-e-Pakistan grounds, where, a year earlier, the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan had launched what he not very appropriately termed a political tsunami.
On December 18, five female aid workers were killed as they were administering polio vaccinations. The following day another polio supervisor was killed along with her driver in north-western town of Peshawar.
The possibility of a nuclear war between Pakistan and India grows every day. If the Pakistanis do not bring under control the terrorist groups in the country and resolve the conflicts with India, it is not a matter of if it will happen, but when.
There have been few achievements to celebrate in the sixty-five year history of Pakistan and that has made the success of the nuclear program central to the national identity. This is especially true for the military that receives a quarter of the budget and is the only strong national institution.
Development of the weapons started in January of 1972 by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, when he was the Minister for Fuel, Power and Natural Resources. The decision to go nuclear came after a disastrous military defeat in 1971 by India. Bangladesh with Indian assistance separated from Pakistan.
By the end of 2014, normal U.S. combat forces are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan. As this departure date approaches, Afghanistan and its U.S.-led allies continue to explore potential peace deals with the Afghan Taliban. At the same time, the Pakistani government is reportedly considering its own peace talks with factions of the Pakistani Taliban—the conglomerate responsible for daily small-arms and suicide bomb attacks in Pakistani territory.
Since the emergence of the Pakistani Taliban, Islamabad has entered into a handful of peace deals with factions belonging to the group—both written and unwritten—in attempts to placate the militants. Most of these peace deals, however, resulted in the further strengthening of the Pakistani Taliban, and only a few of the agreements lasted beyond a few months. Violence flared not long after the agreements became effective, and the Pakistani Taliban then demanded even further concessions from the government. The only exception was the situation in the Swat Valley, where the government launched an aggressive military operation against the Pakistani Taliban after the peace deal failed to render any results. In that case, the Mullah Fazlullah-led Pakistani Taliban faction was forced to flee the Swat Valley, and that region remains in control of the government today.
This article reviews the key peace agreements reached between Islamabad and various Pakistani Taliban factions, and it assesses whether the deals achieved their objectives.
Following one of the worst periods in the history of the relationship between the United States and Pakistan, several encouraging developments have taken place in recent months. Unfortunately, we are passing through the eye of a Pakistani storm that is almost sure to whip up again in 2013, if not sooner.
But first, the good news. In July, following a lengthy parliamentary debate in Islamabad and a frustrating series of diplomatic negotiations with Washington, the Pakistani government agreed to reopen NATO supply lines to Afghanistan that had been closed since late November 2011, when NATO forces mistakenly killed twenty-four Pakistani soldiers in a firefight along the Afghan border. The restoration of these routes opened the spigot to more than $1 billion in U.S. aid. That, in turn, revived senior-level diplomatic, military, and intelligence dialogues.