At the same time that the shrill tone of charges and counter-charges between Pakistan and the US appears to be easing, new, intensifying accusations, this time from Afghanistan, promise to keep the pot boiling. A statement from Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s palace has quoted investigators as saying that former Afghan president Burhannuddin Rabbani’s assassin was a Pakistani national from Chaman, Balochistan. According to the statement, the evidence shows Rabbani’s death was planned in Quetta. The statement went on to quote the investigators as saying that documents, other evidence, a biography, address and phone numbers of the suspects involved in the plot have been submitted to Pakistan’s government for their arrest and handing over. Meanwhile President Karzai, clearly deeply shocked by the assassination of his chief peacemaker with the Taliban, is said to be reviewing the whole peace strategy. Statements to the effect that it was no use talking to the Taliban, and that it only made sense to talk to Pakistan had been issued by the Afghan president only the other day. Pakistan’s foreign office (FO) of course rejected these accusations out of hand, choosing at the same time to throw the ball back in Afghanistan’s court by stating that perhaps some of Afghanistan’s own ‘agencies’ may be behind the murder. The so-called evidence given to the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, according to the FO, was actually the confessional statement of an Afghan national accused of masterminding the assassination. Needless to say, the FO exonerated the ISI of any involvement in Rabbani’s death. Hundreds of Afghans meanwhile, were in the streets of Kabul protesting against Pakistan because of cross-border shelling and Pakistan’s alleged involvement in Rabbani’s assassination. Relations are at a very low ebb once again, with the Afghan foreign ministry dragging its feet on convening the trilateral meeting of Afghanistan-Pakistan-the US scheduled to be held in Kabul. The National Assembly session that started in Islamabad yesterday was expected to yield more fiery rhetoric along the lines of the All Parties Conference (APC) the other day, espousing patriotism and in the process letting the military establishment off the hook as far as fingers of suspicion being pointed at it are concerned.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, in an interaction with print media in Lahore on Sunday delivered himself of the ‘newfound’ wisdom vis-à-vis the Taliban. Fresh from his APC ‘triumph’, which saw the prime minister skilfully deliver the entire political class, one or two honourable exceptions aside, into the hands of the military establishment and its narrative of strategic depth, the prime minister said the government was committed to peace through dialogue with the Taliban in the tribal areas. He did not specify whether he meant the ‘good’ or the ‘bad’ Taliban. Nor did he indicate whether the Taliban were in turn willing to enter any such dialogue. If history is any guide, the only terms on which the Taliban have been willing to enter any such process is on their exclusive terms, which involved ceding control of territory to them. Such concessions and compromises in the past proved short lived and led to bigger conflict the day after. Mr Gilani was careful in his choice of words when he said any such elements ‘reconciled’ would be asked to ‘decommission’ themselves, since the term ‘surrender’ was humiliating in the tribal code of honour. The prime minister went on to say that his government had not signed a single agreement with the US, and that the APC ‘unanimity’ had persuaded Washington that there would be no US footprint on Pakistani soil. Pakistan, he continued, wanted no fight with anyone and he advised a moderate approach in relations with Afghanistan and the US. Does the prime minister realise the contradiction between his sweet words and the ground reality of the proxy war against Afghanistan, a sovereign neighbour, being waged from safe havens on Pakistani soil?