Pakistan is “now following America’s script,” said Humayun Gauhar in the Islamabad Nation. In recent days, the Pakistani military has undertaken an offensive against the militants in the Swat Valley. Under a peace accord that gave the Taliban control of the region, the militants were supposed to lay down their arms. Instead, they advanced to within 100 miles of Islamabad, and now the Pakistani military has sent troops to rout them out. Unfortunately, the timing of this offensive, overlapping with President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit with President Obama in Washington, makes it appear that Pakistan is doing the bidding of the United States. “America makes the strategy and we have to dumbly implement it.”
And at a terrible cost, said Mushfiq Murshed, also in The Nation. The Pakistani government claims it will continue fighting until the Taliban is “wiped out.” Yet this massive onslaught is “liable to aggravate the situation,” by creating hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. The traumatized families will end up in refugee camps, notorious hubs for crime and arms dealing. Prolonged stays in such camps “will generate bitterness and provide propaganda mileage to militants, extremists, and terrorists.”
It didn’t have to be this way, said the Peshawar Frontier Post in an editorial. The Taliban’s spread in Pakistan is directly the fault of the U.S. The Americans should have sent far more troops to Afghanistan years ago to prevent Taliban and al Qaida militants from escaping into Pakistan. But they were afraid that ground combat would produce American casualties, so they simply bombed Afghanistan from the air. “For their act of cowardice, it is we who are paying a heavy price.” Our neighbor, Afghanistan, is a “veritable gold mine of poppy cultivation and drug trafficking,” and extremists have taken over our own tribal areas.
Still, while the militants are a problem, they are not an existential threat, said The Regional Times of Sindh. The Western press keeps predicting Pakistan’s collapse, which is preposterous. “Under no circumstances can a few thousand militants destabilize a state, the population of which comprises many millions. The Western analysts should be better learned than that.” Even Obama talks that way, said Talat Farooq in the Islamabad News. His constant harping on “the incompetence and fragility of the Pakistani government” serves only to undermine our democracy. And his insistence that what he calls our “obsession” with India blinds us to the militant threat is flat wrong. Obama should acknowledge that our dispute with India over the province of Kashmir is legitimate and then use his influence to mediate a solution that both India and Pakistan could live with. If he did that, the U.S. “could actually win the hearts and minds of the Pakistanis and, by extension, win the war on terror.”