Hope and fear in NWFP
The News, October 28, 2008
FATA and the NWFP are in the midst of "interesting times." According to the Chinese such periods are unstable and bring a whirlpool of difficulties. Pakistan has entered a sinkhole of problems and will need adroit handling to prevent a further slide.
When Pakistan joined the war on terrorism in 2001 it conceived an impractical game plan of trying to play two contradictions against each other. Gen Musharraf had prevailed on the US to accept a policy of more lenient handling of the Afghan Taliban by military and intelligence operations inside Pakistan, compared to a more coercive treatment of foreigners and al-Qaeda. This policy was implemented by Gen Musharraf to keep intact the goodwill of the Pakhtun political forces in Afghanistan as an asset to balance the increasing influence of India, as well to avert the ethnic backlash of the Pakhtuns in FATA and the NWFP in sympathy for Afghan Pakhtuns.
As the US pressure increased on the Afghan Taliban inside Afghanistan they needed to create a new centre of gravity to prevent their movement from falling apart. Pakistan's duality regarding the Taliban came in handy and they turned the Pakistani strategy on its head and entered the political and military space in FATA, the NWFP and Balochistan from 2002. This was the period when many Taliban who fled the war in Afghanistan found refuge inside Pakistan. Pakistani ambivalence in dealing with this problem within its territory has come in for a lot of criticism from the US; this soft policy has been considered collusive and used as a proof of secret dealings between the militants and Pakistani intelligence services.
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