A New Dawn

by Agha Haider Raza

Over the past few days – out-of-public viewing – Pakistan has witnessed a welcoming shift in policy.  With the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Mullah Abdul Salam, the trust deficit between the United States and Pakistan or rather the ISI and CIA is slowly diminishing.  With a joint effort by these two premier intelligence agencies, a significant blow has been dealt to the top brass of the Taliban.  The capture of these Mullahs seems to have brought upon a new dawn upon the horizon.

The arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Karachi was critical in reducing the influence of the Taliban in Pakistan. The capture of Baradar, notoriously known as the “defense minister of the Taliban cabinet”, has also exposed the vulnerability of Karachi.  A dynamic city, Karachi has recently been plagued with target killings and suicide bombings along with sectarian violence running wild.  There have been numerous reports of the Taliban finding sanctuary in this vibrant city, but Baradar’s capture will surely have the Taliban re-evaluating their presence in Karachi.

The love affair between the Pakistan Army and the Taliban is no secret.  Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime proudly Islamicized Pakistan, which allowed a jihadist ideology to breed amongst the masses.  In order for the greater ‘strategic depth policy’ the establishment blindly supported the mujahedeen, where upon the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan created a vacuum and allowed the Taliban to grab power.  Due to the events of 9/11, the Army ended up in a messy divorce from the Taliban; as Pakistan was threatened by the US to denounce all association with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

However, it was not until many years after the United States had entered Afghanistan, did the Pakistan Army understand the true nature and brutality of those who supported and harbored al-Qaeda.  Fearing the United States would quit Afghanistan the second her goals were accomplished, and the much needed militia for fighting in Indian Kashmir, Pakistan was wary.  Along with feeling a lack in pride and a breach of ego due to the usage of US drone strikes, ties between Pakistan and the US were skeptical.

Events over the past week have painted a different scenario, in terms of governance and policy.  The federal government has consistently decried the drone attacks.  While publicly lambasting the strikes, it is widely believed the Army and Cabinet have approved the usage of drones in the militant-infested regions.  The government (the Army has wisely kept away from discussing drone strikes) is not able to acknowledge their consent to the drone attacks due to the anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, but also because this would be a public admission of the ineffectiveness of the writ of the state.

The most recent installment of the judicial crisis has been smartly resolved by the Prime Minister’s intervention.  His decisiveness in gate-crashing the Chief Justice’s farewell dinner for Justice Ramday averted the looming clash between the President and the Chief Justice from which there would have been no winners.  The President’s legal advisors clearly led him towards a cliff from which he has had to retreat, but such personal and high-profile clashes between with the President also damage the standing of the judiciary.  The Prime Minister’s continued ability to peacefully mediate such disputes will be crucial to this government’s chances of serving its full term.

The change in attitude of the Pakistan Army is definitely a pleasant surprise.  Globally respected, General Kayani seems to have been playing a central role in this respect.  Whether he is flying to Brussels meeting the top command of NATO or accommodating American Generals in his office at General Headquarters (GHQ), Kayani seems to now understand the threat and deadly influence of the Taliban.  The capture of Mullah Baradar will build no doubt favor with the US, but more importantly it shows how our domestic insecurity is linked to the global dangers posed by Al Qaeda.

With the death of Hakimullah Masud by a drone strike and now Mullah Baradar’s capture, the Pakistan Army may as well be on a path of redemption.  It may have taken the establishment decades to realize the toxic effect of sleeping with the Taliban, but the capturing of Baradar in a joint operation with the United States, is proving to be a blessing in disguise for the Pakistan Army.  Although the establishment has a long ways to go in eradicating militants from within Pakistan’s border, we may be seeing a new dawn.

The political and military forces are forging a new alliance which is healthy for the development and revitalization of Pakistan.  It is time for the PML-N league to stop waiting for the removal of a third-term Prime Minister ban and play the role of a vibrant and healthy opposition.  As the leading party of the opposition, it is crucial that the N-league provides positive criticism in order to hold the government accountable.  Gone are the days when we play personal politics and make decisions based on ego.  The retraction of the executive order should be a wakeup call for Nawaz Sharif and Altaf Hussain that ego has no role in politics anymore for if no one else, the Pakistani public is ready to hold all players accountable.

A movement for peace with India has been initiated as the foreign ministers are set to meet on February the 25th.  The judicial crisis seems to have been subdued, with a smart decision made by the Prime Minister in reaching out to the Chief Justice, while the Army looks to have finally woken up and is realizing the urgency in eradicating militants from Pakistan who are hell-bent on killing innocents and creating mayhem; all in the name of Islam.  We are finally looking at a new dawn.

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