Despite signs of souring relations with Tehran and strained relations with Washington, Pakistan has asserted that it will not allow its territory to be used by the U.S. for anti-Iran operations. Islamabad is besotted with a host of issues that has alienated it from its neighbors, western governments that fund its economy and large military budgets, and even its own people. There are several recent developments that point to this trend.
First, Iran announced plans to erect a 10-foot high concrete wall reinforced with steel rods on their shared border in Baloachistan seen as a reaction to a bomb blast in the Iranian border town of Zahidan. While Tehran is not publicly accusing Islamabad for it, it has summoned the Pakistani Ambassador to its foreign ministry. While some news reports suggest a dressing down, Pakistani officials say that the "meeting" with the envoy was not to blame Islamabad as the incident was "inside Iran."
Second, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf dismissed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry in a highly controversial manner over questionable and unspecified charges of "corruption." Chaudhry, who has a reputation for cracking down on government misdeeds and human rights abuses, was popular among many in a nation weary of military dictators posing as messiahs. Opposition parties have called the dismissal a "judicial coup" and accuse Musharraf of trying to avoid inconvenient but loaded elections that is to happen soon. Meanwhile, lawyers have been clashing with riot police and charge "ill-intention and political motives" behind the dismissal. Analysts say that the dismissal is to send a strong message of warning to the rest of the judiciary to dismiss complaints of ballot rigging that the opposition parties are wont.
Third, apart from signing the ill-advised agreement in South Waziristan that essentially hands over administration to so-called tribal elders, Pakistan has also seemed to have abandoned its policing responsibilities. The police there have abandoned four out of five major police posts, have closed down police stations, and have asked some nine bank branches in the town of Tank to arrange for their own security. Even the Chief Secretary of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) admits that the government simply lacks the capacity to counter an increasingly aggressive Taliban force both on the border with Afghanistan, and in the provincially-administered Frontier Regions (FRs), those areas that separate the border tribal regions from NWFP. The commandant of the Frontier Constabulary Malik Naveed also admitted that Two-thirds of this force is deployed outside of the FR areas, leaving very little force to secure these areas." The refusal to bolster or redeploy its operations by Pakistan is increasingly alienating the western governments who are already (rightfully) paranoid about the resurgent Taliban.
Four, to address the alienation of the west issue, especially after the much leaked visit of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, Pakistan arrested top Taliban strategist Mullah Obaidullah Akhund. Many say that this coincidental arrest is to keep the West at bay and in play and to keep secure the large financial aid that the U.S. hands out. Moreover, the Pakistani leadership has convinced the U.S. that any forceful action will have massive repercussions politically, militarily, and strategically. While this is somewhat true, it is also a bit stretched. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that "The Pakistani leadership knows that Al Qaeda would like nothing better than to destabilize Pakistan and to use Pakistan as the base rather than Afghanistan for its operations." Opposition leaders in Pakistan say that this alarmist position that Musharraf is the last defense against an extremist overrun of nuclear armed Pakistan is disingenuous because the extremists at best have only 12 per cent of the votes in elections. Both sides have merit and it is hard to predict who is right. But what is clear is the increasing U.S. realization that Musharraf does not have control of his military, intelligence, or his territories. This is a significantly different position than in September 22, 2006 statement by U.S. President George Bush that "When the president [Musharraf] looks me in the eye and says the tribal deal is intended to reject the Talibanization of the people, and that there won't be a Taliban and won't be al-Qaeda, I believe him [Musharraf]."
The first joint terrorism mechanism between India and Pakistan took place with this back-drop in place where Pakistan accused India of supporting rebels in Baloachistan using photographs from a magazine published from New Delhi. The photos essentially showed some Indian looking people (not identifiable) talking to other South Asians. New Delhi has rightfully rejected these suggestions asserting that it has nothing to do with the civil war in Baloachistan.
At the same time, it is also becoming very clear that New Delhi policy makers and bureaucrats have agreed to the Army's assessment on Siachen that verifiable and an externally guaranteed agreement is required to effect a withdrawal from the heights and de-militarization of the highest battle-field.