Threat from India relative, that of Taliban absolute: Pakistani paper

Taliban Islamabad, April 28 : The Pakistani Army needs to shed its India-centric outlook because the threat from across the border is only relative while that of the Taliban is absolute, an editorial in a leading English daily said Monday, noting that 80-90 percent of the military was deployed on the eastern frontier.

An opinion piece in the same newspaper said what should be of worry is if the Taliban morphed into a populist political movement as this “could make things really difficult”.

“At this juncture,” the editorial in daily times said, “we know that we have the army strong in numbers and strength to take care of the Taliban, but we first must convince it that the threat from India is only relative while that of the Taliban is absolute”.

Noting that nine corps, or 80-90 percent of the Pakistani Army was positioned along the Indian frontier, the editorial said: “Compared to this, for some reason, the 11 percent Pakistani territory lost to the Taliban or to their influence in the NWFP (North West Frontier Province) appears insignificant.

“This excludes FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), which is either lost or being contested. One fourth of Pakistan, excluding Balochistan, may be lost while India has not taken an inch,” the editorial contended.

Pointing out that Pakistan becomes “furious when Americans and Europeans tell us we are under no threat from India”, the editorial said: “We give them circumstantial proof - proof which have not yet been made public in Pakistan - but that doesn’t convince them of the threat because India does the same about our ‘hand’ in their country.

“The threat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda is more palpable to them because it has an extra-regional dimension. The (peace) deal in Swat on the other hand has made us come alive to the internal threat because the Taliban there have been forced to clearly express their view of the state of Pakistan,” the editorial pointed out.

In this context, it noted that with the virtual collapse of the Swat peace deal, the “foreign countries” that were “unduly” perturbed over Pakistan’s internal affairs, and were therefore unfairly rebuked by sections of “our self-righteous media”, have been proved right in their predictions of failure.

Radical cleric Sufi Muhammad had “failed to deliver on his promise” of disarming the Taliban under his warlord son-in-law, Fazlullah and thus had “practically announced” an end to the peace deal brokered by him with the NWFP, approved by Pakistan’s parliament and ratified by President Asif Ali Zardari.

In an article in Daily Times, commentator Mansoor Hussain said: “What should worry us however is if the Taliban morph into a populist political movement.

“It is an alliance of the poor and the underprivileged with the well-armed, well-trained and now politicised Taliban that could make things really difficult. It could be said with some justification that the modern breed of the Taliban is much more sophisticated than the ragtag warriors that took over in Afghanistan all those years ago.
“As a national consensus develops against the creeping threat of religious extremism, the army as well as other security forces will be in a much better position to oppose the Taliban. What effect US and NATO activity in Afghanistan will have on this developing national consensus remains to be seen.

But one thing is for sure: the recent Taliban activity in Swat and adjoining settled areas has brought this fight squarely and without any doubt to Pakistan.

“Terrorism is still a persistent threat and the problem with fighting religious extremism is that if the extremists are forced to run for cover, they will resort to terrorism as retaliation. This is perhaps the major conundrum facing the policy makers at this time and is the primary reason why the government acquiesced to the implementation of the Nizam-e Adl Regulation in Swat.

“The choice, it would seem, comes down between the rule of law and the need for public order and safety of the people,” Hussain wrote.