West side story   (17 Apr 2009)


The latest peace deal signed by Pakistani President Asif Zardari with Taliban – ceding control of Swat valley to the latter – is just another nail in the coffin for the country we know as Pakistan. Today, large swathes of Pakistan are already under Talibani control and under strict Sharia law. In a matter of days, these regions have gone back to the stone-age; schools and colleges have gotten pulverized, media is gagged and women’s rights have turned into a fantasy. I have long warned about Taliban’s intent to take over Pakistan and the worst nightmare is slowly coming true.

Having tasted blood, the Taliban are not giving up arms yet, nor going to limit themselves to the Swat valley. With support from Al-Qaida on their side, Taliban’s next takeover target is Peshawar, followed by Attock in Punjab and finally Islamabad. Once these cities fall through, Lahore and Karachi will have no sway and little power to stand as bastions. The bail granted to the radical Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz by Supreme Court – arrested in 2007 – has given another shot in the arm to the anti-establishment forces in Pakistan. It is bewildering that the court paid no heed to the possibility that Aziz would join hands with the Taliban and wage a new war against the state.

Pakistan’s elected government is fast turning irrelevant today. It is totally ineffectual in protecting the nation from an imminent siege by the fundamentalists. This nightmarish proposition holds dangerous repercussions not just for India, but equally for the western nations – particularly the US. Nobody should forget that Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state – Talibani control of Pakistan’s capital does not mean much different from terrorists controlling the nuclear weapons.

Islamabad must be protected from Taliban at all costs and I would like to see a decisive intervention by the US administration in the region. The situation in Pakistan today deserves singular attention from the US and the latter should not hesitate in increasing the frequency of direct attacks against the Taliban.