The security situation in parts of Pakistan has worsened because of policy flip-flops, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Friday.
“The situation is very grave…. It’s getting worse because the tempo of terrorist attacks has risen,” Miliband said, putting down the worsening scenario to a combination of political uncertainty, economic decline and the mounting security challenge.
Miliband criticised Pakistani policy in the North West Frontier Province - home to Al Qaeda and other militants - suggesting a recent move to strike a peace deal with Islamic militants in parts of the NWFP revealed an inconsistency in strategy.
“The way the Pakistan authorities have pursued their counter-insurgency strategy, which has essentially been to move from a series of deals three or four years ago to a very heavy handed military strategy and in some cases to flip back, has not got the right recipe for delivering a significant [outcome].
“In some ways in some parts of the NWFP things have gone worse. That obviously has an impact over on the Afghan side of the border,” Miliband told the BBC.
However, the British minister pointed out that the situation in NWFP, especially the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), was also the result of decades of neglect and a failure to develop an economic or political strategy.
“Female literacy rate is less than three percent - so you can sense the social disintegration - political parties are banned and the law is defined by the Frontier Crimes Regulation which was passed by the British in 1901. So this is not a short term problem.”
However, Miliband denied suggestions that the previous government headed by Pervez Musharraf had been more successful in confronting terrorists, saying: “a military rule cannot hold the line if it loses the confidence of its people and I think that is what had happened, especially in the later years of President Musharraf’s rule.
“He had lost the confidence of his own people and you cannot [devise] a counter-insurgency if you do not have the confidence of the people.”
Miliband said he had repeatedly urged successive Pakistan governments to strike at the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is blamed for last year’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, by pushing state educational and welfare organisations.
“Lashkar-e-Taiba has got deep roots. It’s got welfare organisations and schools that it runs. One of the issues that I have been raising in my four visits to Pakistan is the need for central and local governments in Pakistan to work to replace those Lashkar-e-Taiba… front organisations - welfare and education organisations - with the arms of the Pakistani state,” he said.
Miliband also urged Zardari and his political opponents to sink their differences and “come together to confront the mortal threat that Pakistan faces from its internal enemies, not its traditional external enemies."