Protecting Pakistan

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For my opening post in this fine blog I will take an uncharacteristically serious tone. The situation in Pakistan is worrying, and whilst it has been pushed off the front pages by the economic Armageddon, mistakes made now will cost the world dearly for generations. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto was clearly a signal of just how turbulent the situation had become in that beautiful country. In terms of the impact on the political system, the attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore are arguably more devastating.

We cannot underestimate the importance of cricket for bringing communities together in Pakistan. Teams will be unable to tour there for very many years and this will be a bigger blow for ordinary Pakistanis than we in the West can appreciate. This could well be the biggest victory for the puritans responsible for uprooting Pakistan’s stability.

Our colonial past gives us added responsibilities with this troubled country. It is also a clear example for the use of smart power. The US and the Pakistan government have entirely concurrent aims in respect of the militants. Pakistan is wedded to the belief that the Taleban is essential to protecting its interests in Kashmir and other disputes with India. This view will not be broken overnight. Consistently violating Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty with raids in the ‘Tribal Regions’ will place further pressure on the Pakistani Government. It will also add to any insecurity among the hardliners about the integrity of the borders.

Tragically George Bush’s famous ‘with us or without us’ version of diplomacy has proved devastating for Pakistan. We cannot simply threaten and demand that the Pakistani Government deals with its militants. A secure and lasting peace with India can be forged and this must be a priority for the US. Only then can a concerted campaign against the Taleban ever be supported by the people of Pakistan.

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