The slow disintegration of the peace agreement between the Pakistan government and the Taliban in the Swat valley is worth only half a cheer. President Asif Ali Zardari had dutifully avoided signing the final document. But after the reinstatement of a Chief justice who has indicated his displeasure with the agreement and the outcry over the nature of Taliban justice, Mr Zardari had every incentive to let the agreement become a dead letter. It is unclear whether the Pakistani state will attempt to completely roll back the Taliban’s authority in the valley. In previous ceasefires with militants, it was notable that the military often left the latter’s network in situ.
What the world, and Pakistanis who are coming to accept that the Taliban are a genuine threat to their country, is more concerned about is the lack of any strategy in Islamabad to handle the militants. The present alternating for quarterstaff with olive branch is patently ad hoc. Mr Zardari’s plan is for the US to provide a multi-billion dollar bailout of Pakistan despite much evidence that even AIG’s managers are more efficient in using such money. Islamabad has called for Washington to push for political concessions from India and Afghanistan. The argument being only this will allow Islamabad to lower its guard and give up on the Taliban. The military is asking for huge dollops of military aid. None of these singly or collectively amounts to a credible anti-Taliban strategy.
The best indicator of how shaky the present Pakistani posture is towards the Taliban is the reaction of the rest of the world. Every nation fearful that Pakistan’s militant problem may cross into their borders is hedging its bets regarding Islamabad. Most striking has been the decision of China’s Xinjiang provincial government to sign an agreement for closer relations with its Northwest Frontier Province counterpart. This follows the Chinese ruling party’s unprecedented agreement with Pakistan’s Jamaat-I-Islami. Iran has been trying to resurrect the Northern Alliance though this anti-Taliban outfit is well past its expiry date. If Pakistan genuinely wants India to resume bilateral talks, it needs to understand that no New Delhi regime is going to expend precious political capital on an issue like Kashmir for a ruling class who cannot decide whether to surrender or fight before domestic insurgents.