As a country we have a lot going for us, but stable and friendly neighbours most certainly isn’t on that list.
In a desperate move, the Pakistan government has signed a very controversial peace deal with militants in the valley of Swat. In return for ceasefire, the government has agreed to enforce Sharia law in the region.
The Swat valley is a mountainous region just 100 miles away from Islamabad and over the past year much of the region has witnessed a battle between the Pakistan military and the local militants. The Swat valley was traditionally an independent kingdom (much like those in India) until it came under the Pakistani government in 1969. The ceasefire and the move towards Sharia law might result in peace in the short term, but this might have big consequences in the longer term.
The big problem is that these militants are loyal to the Taliban just across the border in Afghanistan and this deal is definitely going to embolden them to try and expand their influence over the rest of Pakistan. That could just mean – no education for girl children over the age of five, and a return to truly fanatic atmosphere similar to what we saw in Afghanistan. And the fact that these men are just 100 miles away from the capital is going to give the international world a massive headache.
What this deal also shows is just how little power the civilian government in Pakistan truly has. India cannot continue to expect the Pakistan government to do what it expects them to do with respect to across the border terrorism- cause quite frankly – they don’t seem to have any authority. Also, it seems to me that the new U.S special envoy to the Afghanistan/Pakistan region Richard Holbrooke now has the second hardest job on the planet (no prizes for guessing who has the hardest job!)
On a very interesting side note, the Swat valley voted for the secular governments and not the Islamists in the recent Pakistan elections.