Friday, January 15, 2016
Daily Times Editorial Jan 16, 2016
Spoilers galore The received wisdom in India (and perhaps the world) in recent years has it that spoilers of the peace process with Pakistan emanate from the latter’s soil. Indeed if the 2001 attack on India’s parliament, the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the Gurdaspur and the recent Pathankot incidents are any guide, it seems an open and shut case. What has been a grey area is the involvement of the state or its security establishment in such adventures. Whatever the past truth, today it seems the security establishment too has been persuaded of the current wisdom of engaging with India for peace and normalisation, no matter how difficult or intractable the roadblocks. However, there are spoilers and spoilers, and there appears no dearth of such Johnnies on either side of the divide. The vandalisation of the PIA office in New Delhi by Hindu Sena hardliners on January 14 points in the direction of the enemies of the peace and normalisation process within India. While the damage was to the office and fittings and mercifully the staff remained unharmed, it was a clear message that the recent attempts at rapprochement after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘drop in’ on our prime minister would not be allowed to go on if the Hindutva brigade has its way. Unfortunately for the obscurantists, both Pakistan and India have swung round to the view of late (after an inauspicious start by the Modi government) that there is no alternative to a dialogue. Despite the fact that the Hindutva brigade is closely aligned to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party government, it appears there is a rift between the newfound pragmatism of Modi and his more extreme supporters. It has long been argued that Pakistan and India need to escape the syndrome of being prisoners of history and realise that as in any peace process, there will be vested interests on both sides that will attempt to sabotage progress. Fortunately, the logic of engagement has sunk in on both sides and the nefarious attempts by non-state actors on one or the other side are being resisted in both Islamabad and New Delhi. This can only be viewed as the triumph (hopefully permanent) of statesmanship and vision over the remnants of a more hostile past. The PIA office vandalisation is being investigated by the Indian authorities, one perpetrator is under arrest, and the others are being sought. Compare this responsible response with the Pakistan government’s serious efforts to clamp down on Jaish-e-Mohammad, blamed by India for the Pathankot attack, and one can discern the new pattern emerging. Hopefully the spoilers have had their day and if they have not yet received the news of the new turn in relations, they would soon be disabused of the notion that they can carry on business as usual as in the past. Neither the Pathankot attack nor the efforts of the Hindu Sena have deterred either government from staying the course. The foreign secretaries’ talks have been rescheduled by mutual consent, not cancelled, and the crackdown on Jaish-e-Mohammad has been extended to southern Punjab (its stronghold) and even Sialkot, where a seminary being run by the group has been sealed and some arrests made. So far, so good. But the uncertainty surrounding the Punjab government’s failure to tackle all manner of jihadi groups in the province, particularly in its southern reaches, is fast acquiring the character of a real concern. Maulana Masood Azhar and his gang of fanatics have obviously not been on the radar of Lahore. On the evidence so far, neither have any of the other terrorist and sectarian groups proliferating in their safe havens in the province. The dichotomy between the federal government’s response to Pathankot on the basis of actionable intelligence provided by India contrasts all the more sharply with Punjab’s seemingly indifferent and irresponsible dereliction of its duty to watch and if found indulging in unlawful activities, wipe out the malcontents damaging Pakistan’s interests and image. It is strange that elder brother is bending his back to keep the peace process intact while the younger brother seems still to live in the illusions of the past, including his infamous appeal at one point to the home grown Taliban to leave Punjab alone and they would be left alone in return. Need we remind everyone that Punjab is part of Pakistan, and a very important part at that. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has a lot of explaining and catching up with Islamabad to do.