There have been a number of mass-casualty suicide bombings in Pakistan this year. How concerned are you about Pakistan’s internal stability, and what would you like to see the government doing to tackle this?
Pakistan’s security and stability depends on three factors: future counterinsurgency operations; the stability of President Zardari’s government; and Pakistan’s 2014 Afghanistan plan. The Pakistani military is expected to launch mid-level operations in North Waziristan by April 2011. In addition to better weather, more troops will be available from flood-hit areas in the north, centre and south of the country, and from the Swat valley where local law enforcement is slowly taking over security operations.
For another 12 months, a stable Zardari government will be necessary to sustain conflict and post-conflict efforts. Absent a major political tsunami like a forced resignation of Zardari or the firing of the chief justice, I don’t think we’ll see early elections or a military coup in 2011. Nobody is vying for Zardari’s job amid the rising food prices, unemployment, ethnic discord, and a national insurgency.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Finally, I’d say the shape and intensity of the internationally supported Kabul-led regional solution to the war in Afghanistan will determine Pakistan’s national security calculus for 2014. Pakistan-India rivalry will continue to support and spoil Afghan stability unless we push for a new course, perhaps one in which the international community guarantees peace post-2014. More than any other outsiders, Delhi and Islamabad must negotiate the degree of their influence in Afghanistan, while Pashtuns must reconcile with Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks for domestic stability and economic development.
Probably the biggest story for the international media this year concerning Pakistan was the massive flooding. How would you rate the government’s handling of the crisis?
I wrote a report that details the military and political fallout from the floods, and how al-Qaeda took advantage of the chaos that gives more details on this. But in brief, I outline how the devastating floods literally rocked the country: military operations came to a sudden halt, giving the terrorist a dangerous breather; political instability increased as elected officials stayed away from flood-hit areas, increasing the Army’s approval rating for following the civilian cabinet’s orders; and most importantly, America became the least visible, yet largest flood-relief donor. So another great opportunity to reboot US-Pakistan relations was largely lost.
Is there any issue over the past year in Pakistan that you don’t think has received as much international attention as it deserves?
Washington has yet to come up with a long-term, sustainable strategy for Pakistan that centres on the primary threat of nuclear terrorism and proliferation. It’s high time to begin talks on a US-Pakistan nuclear pact that allows Pakistan to join the responsible club of nuclear weapons states. AQ Khan can’t hang over Pakistan indefinitely. This is the only way we’ll be able to comprehend and influence Pakistani nuclear doctrine.
Haider Mullick is a fellow at the US Joint Special Operations University and a research fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. Mullick is the author of ‘Pakistan’s Security Paradox: Countering and Fomenting Insurgencies.’ He has conducted three research trips to Pakistan this year. More information can be found at www.haidermullick.com