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General Kayani: The Party Pooper


Dan Qayyum | PKKH Editorial

The stage had been set for another round of the cordial, cosmetic but utterly pointless exercise at the behest of Washington as the US and NATO try and control the India-Pakistan proxy war on Afghan soil and convince Pakistan to shift its focus to the Western border. A lot of groundwork had been done to project the gradual normalization of relations between India and Pakistan in the run-up to the foreign minister-level talks.

However, India’s Home Minister GK Pillai’s direct allegation on the eve of the talks that Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) was ‘literally controlling and coordinating it (the Mumbai attacks) from the beginning till the end’ – had doomed the latest round of talks even before they commenced.

Pillai Unleashed

The latest outburst by Pillai – who had also recently blamed the unrest in occupied Kashmir on the ISI while absolving the trigger-happy Indian security forces of any blame – was part of a calculated attempt to undermine and pressure the ISI as the rift between it and the CIA continues to grow over Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s ‘democratically elected’ leaders, implanted at Washington and London’s behest, had been all set to play their part in this malarkey as they have done in the past, most noticeably when they attempted (and failed) to clip the ISI’s wings by pushing it under Rehman Malik’s interior ministry in the early days of Zardari’s government.

SM Krishna and Shah Mehmood Qureshi appeared quite relaxed and happy when they broke for lunch around 1300 hrs (Pakistan Standard Time) after the first round of talks. After having painstakingly worked out numerous CBM agreements and cosmetic gestures during Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao’s visit to Islamabad last month, both Foreign Ministers were set to announce these agreements. A draft joint-statement was also ready in which the Pakistani side had appeared to give more concessions than they got in return – namely more promises to reign in JuD and Hafiz Saeed yet no word of protest on the Indian attempts to implicate the ISI in terrorism or to include Kashmir in talks.

This is when Kayani was forced to step into the picture and hold separate meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, making it absolutely clear on the two that Pakistan will not let itself be bullied, and there will be no further talks unless the following issues were included in discussion:

1) India’s human rights abuses in Kashmir
2) India’s covert support to TTP terrorists and Baloch separatists
3) India’s continued attempts to point the finger at Pakistan’s military establishment, as evident by Pillai’s statement

Krishna’s schedule was to leave at 3.20 pm and reach Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s office to meet him at 3.30 pm. The call on President Asif Ali Zardari was to follow at 5.30 pm at the Presidential palace.

Just 15 minutes prior to his departure, Krishna was informed that the order has been reversed and the call on Zardari will precede.

In the time slot Krishna was to meet Gilani, Kayani met the Prime Minister after having met with Zardari earlier.

According to the official release issued after Kayani’s meetings with Pakistan’s political leadership, the army chief discussed the security situation in the country and operational matters of the army.

However, when the talks resumed after Krishna’s two call-ons, the atmosphere totally changed.

Qureshi’s Switch

The tone and tenor of Qureshi changed at the third and final rounds of the marathon talks. He is said to have demanded on the time frame for settlement of various issues, as well as a resumption of the composite dialogue on Kashmir. He also raised the issue of India’s covert support to terrorists in Pakistan and the role its consulates in Afghanistan are playing in arming and training terrorists from the TTP and various Baloch separatist groups. Finally, Pakistan responded to India’s requests of blocking Hafiz Saeed’s right to speak publicly by telling the Indian contingent to put a leash on India’s official state actors such as Pillai and stop them from making statements that can only further strain the relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.

India Caught with its Pants Down

To say that the sudden shift caught the Indian contingent as well as the country’s media and analyst’s off-guard would be an understatement. Heads were scratched and editorials were hurriedly scribbled trying to decipher what prompted the sudden change in Pakistan’s stance, from being apologetic in recent months to the new ‘take it or leave it’ posture which sent alarm bells ringing not just in Delhi but as far as Washington and Langley.

In Qureshi’s defense, he went far and above the call of duty and warned India not to expect him to come over to India for the next round of talks unless India was prepared to actually discuss all unresolved issues including Kashmir, and not use Mumbai as a stalling tactic which it has done successfully for the last couple of years.

With the endgame for US being spelt out in the mountains of Afghanistan, this is the latest signal in the gradual shift of power in the region – one where Pakistan can and will dictate terms as per its own national interest – even if it takes an Army chief to hold the US-backed puppet government to task to protect the national interest, just as when Kayani forced the reversal of the order that would have put the ISI under Rehman Malik’s control almost exactly 2 years ago.

Dan Qayyum is an Afghanistan and India analyst for PakistanKaKhudaHafiz.com, Pakistan’s leading online alternative news website, as well as for the defense and security publication Fortress Magazine, published out of Karachi, Pakistan.

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