Pointing to international and regional conflict trends in the vicinity, former ambassador to the U.S. Sherry Rehman predicted a perfect storm in the context of the coalition forces leaving Afghanistan and the elections there, even as Pakistan has to brace for fresh challenges this brings.
Speaking on Transition 2014 — Conflict and Regional Futures organized by the Jinnah Institute on Thursday, Ms. Rehman said a consensus on key policy issues was crucial and shifting the regional game with India in terms of peace and trade instead of conflict and crisis management was one of them. The other was moving away from seeking strategic depth or avoiding power brokering in Afghanistan by seeking no favourites.
The Bilateral Security Agreement could be signed post elections and the foggy timeline had added fresh uncertainty, she said. There was much to worry for Pakistan as there would be multiple transitions and most of it up in the air. The west was looking to cut its losses and it was less and less interested in preserving the fragile gains in Afghanistan, she said. Afghan stability remains a crucial stake and as it stand the news looks bad, and the USA's own intelligence predicts a sub optimal future for Pakistan.
She said Pakistan asked been asked to brace for a fresh influx of refugees. In addition the flow of drugs and guns could add to the disruption. Pakistan has hard choices to make, existential choices, and it was vital to curb terrorism. By offering talks to the Taliban this has already been compromised and the security policy is still a work in progress. There has to be clarity across the political horizon, she said.
Senior journalist Zahid Hussain said there was complete indecisiveness in the government over handling terrorism and the peace talks have not gone anywhere. The problem he said is that extremism had created huge problems for the state and while the government can still talk it cannot evade its responsibility. The government has shown weakness by agreeing to talk and the Taliban took advantage of that. The kind of action the government is taking now in the form of air strikes could be harmful if it's not part of a clear strategy, he said, adding that there was no clear counter terrorism policy. The counter terror narrative was given to clerics and religious parties, he said.
Ms. Khawar Mumtaz, chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women said women could end by being marginalized in conflict if they did not have a voice or adequate support structures. In Swat women who were displaced faced sexual violence and had no systems to address their needs and problems. The issue has to be looked in terms of a rights perspective, she pointed out.