Biden’s visit

Regardless of the troubled history of the Pak-US relationship, the two countries have some common interests in the South Asian region. The most fundamental of these interests is the struggle against extremism, which is thriving unabated and is threatening not only world peace but the very existence of the Pakistani state. Although Pakistan has been harbouring illusions about some extremists being good and others being bad, it is time it took a look at the trajectory that the phenomenon of jihad has taken since the 1970s, when they were first nurtured and then jihad exported to fight against the Soviets. The very jihadis that Pakistan exported first to Afghanistan and later to Kashmir and other neighbouring countries after the first Afghan war ended have come home to roost. The increasing invasion of the public space by extremist forces carefully cultivated in madrassas across Pakistan is evident in the various shades of extremists out in the streets baying for the blood of anyone that dares disagree with their interpretation of Islam. Bombing of targets ranging from high security zones to school vans was not something envisaged by the creators of the jihad policy for short-term strategic objectives.

However, there are indicators that, instead of being alarmed, Pakistan’s security establishment continues to treat the jihadis as assets for attaining ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan. Perhaps the most telling message that US Vice President Joe Biden delivered during his visit to Pakistan with reference to Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer’s assassination by an extremist was: “Societies that tolerate such actions wind up being consumed by those actions.” This was not a freak incident, but viewed in the context of consistent production of the jihadi mindset through the free rein given to various madrassas and militant networks in the name of serving religion, was almost inevitable. Pakistan is indeed being engulfed by the flames of extremism. And it still turns a blind eye to militant safe havens on its soil that are being used to conduct jihadi activities in Afghanistan.Not surprisingly, on his brief visit to Pakistan, US Vice President Joe Biden has conveyed his government’s impatience with Pakistan’s reluctance to take action in North Waziristan, a militants’ sanctuary. At the same time, he tried to address Pakistan’s concerns raised in a document handed over to President Obama by Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani on the eve of the Strategic Dialogue in Washington.

It might be argued that it was business as usual with the old recipe of carrot and stick. In the prevailing circumstances, when the US is increasingly becoming disillusioned by the futility of the war in Afghanistan, there was little else for Pakistan to expect. During his meeting with the US vice president, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani expressed the hope that there will be no new ‘great game’ concerning Afghanistan. Ironically, while cautioning against other’s great games, Pakistan has not given up its ambition of maintaining control over Kabul by playing its own little games. This has proved to be an elusive dream in the past and might well prove so once more, because the erstwhile protégés of Pakistan are known to act independently of their mentors once they achieve the seat of power. What happened in Afghanistan post-9/11 when the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden to the US and what is happening in Pakistan today where all kinds of jihadis have proliferated like rabbits and are now poised to unravel the state of Pakistan, should be enough to awaken those in authority to the reality that it is in our own interest to fight extremism – Dailytimes