Earlier this week, the media was once again abuzz over the “leaked” North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) report claiming Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is directly supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. The report as the BBC mentions is actually a compilation of statements from based on material from 27,000 interrogations with more than 4,000 captured Taliban, al-Qaeda and other foreign fighters and civilians.
While the Washington Post, New York Times, BBC and The Guardian tried to make meaning of the contents of the report, journalist and author Ahmed Rashid spoke about the implications of the leaked report on the future of the region and Pakistan’s already deteriorating relationship with the United States. In an interview to Radio Free Europe, Rashid claimed that, “what you see now happening is that Pakistan is going to go its own way. It’s not going to cooperate with the Americans or with NATO. And this kind of leak that has happened is going to make things much more difficult for Pakistan to accept an American negotiated end to the war.”
Last month, in an article for Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, Rashid commented on the Pakistani military’s domestic offensive in retaliation of the US operation that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and the US airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldier on a checkpost near the Afghan border. He claims that Pakistan’s military has been “allowing and encouraging a wave of anti-Americanism to sweep the country and by depicting itself as a victim of U.S. machinations. Pakistan’s military manipulated the local media, allowed banned Islamic extremist parties to hold rallies in the streets, and persuaded parliament to defend the army’s position.”
The growing wave of extremism in Pakistan that Rashid points towards is not just anti-American, it is quite sectarian as well. According to Pakistan’s Dawn news, 203 people were killed in 30 incidents of sectarian violence in 2011, and many of the sectarian militants were linked to global jihadist networks like Al-Qaeda or extremist groups such as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. In addition, there is a strong separatist movement in Baluchistan province engaged in brutal combat with the Pakistani military.
Pakistan’s weak civilian government cannot possibly solve all these domestic issues especially when rifts between the civilan government and the military are prominent. Last October, President Asif Ali Zardari became a part of the scandal that involved the country’s previous ambassador to the United States, Hussain Haqqani. Haqqani allegedly wrote an unsigned memo to Washington asking for assistance in avoiding a military coup immediately following the assassination of Osama bin Laden. While the “memogate” controversy itself went around in circles and shows signs of dying out without any judgement by the judicial commission, it was responsible for making the civilian-military divide more apparent than ever.
People around the world generally agree that Pakistan is a vital player in the political reconciliation process in Afghanistan. However, the growing anti-Americanism, intolerance, sectarianism and the chasm between the civilian government and the military make it even harder for Pakistan to play any meaningful role in the Afghan peace process.