Political uncertainty in Pakistan may hinder peace process

May 28th, 2008 - 1:26 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Pranay Sharma
New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) Officially, India still maintains it will deal with whoever is in power in Islamabad. But the political uncertainties caused by the bickering of the two major partners, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), have begun worrying the establishment in New Delhi about the fate of the peace process. “We are closely watching the developments in Pakistan as it has direct impact on the peace process,” South Block sources said.

A significant outcome of the differences between the two major partners is that it has also raised questions about the future of Pervez Musharraf since the PML-N is demanding his dismissal from the post of the country’s president.

South Block is of the opinion that if the differences between the two leaders persist it will help Musharraf consolidate his position and allow him more room to manoeuvre. Moreover, if the political uncertainties create a situation for political instability and unrest, then sooner or later the army - which has kept a safe distance from the political activities - may also intervene.

India has so far been dealing with Musharraf and the past four rounds of its ‘Composite Dialogue’ - an essential part of the peace process with Pakistan - has been at a time when he was both the president as well as the army chief of the country. But last year he shed his uniform and got elected to the president’s post as a civilian.

The Indian decision to deal with Musharraf has been criticised by PML-N leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. In an interview with the Mint newspaper Tuesday, Sharif said: “The Indian government has been extending a lot of support and patronage to this dictator. I think India should have waited for a while so that true democracy could have returned to Pakistan.”

Sharif was ousted from power by Musharraf and forced into exile in Saudi Arabia.

The ex-premier added: “The man who was responsible for derailing democratic forces in Pakistan, as well as the forces of normalisation of relations between the two countries, was recognised by India! India, with such strong democratic credentials, was not expected to deal with the dictator.”

But South Block’s worry is not so much about the peace process that has been on track for the past four years getting derailed. It is about the inability to make any meaningful progress on any of the key issues - be it cross-border terrorism or infiltration across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The peace process may still be on track. The worry is whether anything meaningful will come out of it,” the sources said.

The high-level delegation from India to Islamabad, led by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, told the new PPP-led coalition government that came to power in the country in March that New Delhi was committed to the peace process and wanted to engage in a meaningful manner with Pakistan.

Though Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani reciprocated similar sentiments and expressed Islambad’s commitment to the peace process, the longevity of the government in Islamabad and the instability the bickering of the two major partners in the ruling coalition can cause has also started bothering the Indian establishment.

“A weak government cannot take strong decisions,” former Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal told IANS.

He pointed out that forces bent on derailing the peace process between the two countries were at work. Infiltration across the LoC has gone up and there have been at least two incidents of firing from across the border violating the ceasefire agreement. In addition, the new government in Islamabad has just concluded a ceasefire agreement with the Taliban along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

“Such developments show the new dispensation has no stomach for tough decisions,” Sibal added.

Though the new government in Pakistan may show some forward movement on issues like people-to-people contact and trade, there will not be much progress on key areas of terrorism and infiltration, he felt.

“The longer the drift continues in Pakistan, the worse it is for India since no decision on issues of concern to New Delhi will be taken by the new government in Islamabad,” Sibal noted.

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