Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Business Recorder editorial May 25, 2016

Chaudhry Nisar's presser Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar held another of his by now 'famous' press conferences on May 24 in the aftermath of the drone strike that killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour. While the attending journalists and viewing public watching on television could be forgiven for thinking that Chaudhry Nisar would throw some light on the issue, the redoubtable minister left everyone scratching his head in perplexity, given the contradictions, obfuscations and confusions on show. Chaudhry Nisar's lengthy statement could be boiled down to three or four propositions. One, he refrained from confirming that the person killed in the drone strike was indeed Mullah Mansour, pending DNA tests. This in spite of the fact that the Afghan Taliban had not only accepted the death of their leader, but have now moved ahead on May 25 to elect, not unexpectedly, Mulla Haibatullah Akhundzada as his replacement. Two, Chaudhry Nisar tried to argue that Mullah Mansour was not opposed to peace talks, citing the first round of the Quadrilateral Group's meeting with the Afghan Taliban in June last year. The second round was stymied by the announcement of the death of Mulla Omar two years previous. Since then, Mullah Mansour seemed more interested in battlefield advances than the talks. Three, the minister condemned the drone strike as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. It would do to remind ourselves that Musharraf had quietly allowed drone strikes in the tribal areas, even providing a base for the purpose in Balochistan. Subsequently, the succeeding PPP government seemed to have arrived at an 'arrangement' whereby Pakistan would condemn drone strikes publicly, even if collusion existed. In the case of Mullah Mansour too, according to a New York Times report, the US Joint Command that had been given the go ahead by President Obama weeks ago, received, apart from other sources, intelligence regarding the movements of Mullah Mansour from Pakistani sources. This revelation, if true, would render the mildly apoplectic protests by Pakistan a joke. Fourth, and not insignificantly (this may even have been the main purpose of the press conference), Chaudhry Nisar shifted the blame for the issuance of Mullah Mansour's Pakistani CNIC and passport in the name of Wali Mohammad on the Musharraf and PPP governments, claiming the CNIC was cancelled last year by his government but NADRA, for reasons unknown, failed to have the passport cancelled too. Chaudhry Nisar announced action to be taken against all officers who had verified/attested Mullah Mansour's false documents. He boasted that a purge of false CNICs etc issued over the years to Afghan refugees and the corrupt officers who facilitated them was being carried out. Chaudhry Nisar's press conference left more questions unanswered. There is of course no further need for the DNA tests, except as final proof. If, as the minister asserted, Mullah Mansour was seeking peace, why has the ground situation in the war in Afghanistan worsened since he took over? Clearly, the failure of Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table with Mansour in charge finally convinced the US that he was not a partner for peace. This has been confirmed by a US State Department spokesman. Whether, however, the same spokesman's logic that killing Mansour sends a message that safe havens (including in Pakistan) no longer exist, and the drone strike points the way to the peace road will play out in that manner in practice is a moot point. Last but not least, to equate the issuance of false documents to a high profile Afghan Taliban leader like Mullah Mansour with the rampant mismanagement and corruption in government departments issuing such documents is to insult the intelligence of the public. The killing of Mullah Mansour in Pakistan has caught the government with its pants down. Fulminating and railing at the US about the implications for our mutual relations is just so much sound and fury, signifying an impotent nothing.

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