Pakistan chickens out of talks on flimsy grounds

New Delhi, Aug. 23 : A nervous Pakistan, fearing embarrassment, made desperate efforts to stonewall the fledgling talks, before pulling out on rickety grounds. That the talks would be a non-starter was known the day Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned home after signing the Ufa Agreement with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in Russia.

The howl of protests that greeted him from both within his government and outside made Sharif’s position untenable as Pakistanis were incensed that the disputed Kashmir was kept out of the framework of the talks agenda. Little did Sharif realize that he had committed political hara-kiri in his own country by excluding Kashmir from talks, which were designed to centre on terror and peace along the disputed Line of Control before a structured dialogue could be resumed between the two countries.

Sharif and his security advisor Sartaj Aziz, who was also part of the deliberations in Ufa, cut a sorry figure as Pakistani Army and the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) flagged red lines to them for omitting the “K” word. It was apparent that the agreement was reached without the consent of Pakistani Army and the ISI. The two agencies, which together have built a network of jihadi forces across Kashmir and Afghanistan, stood to be shamed had the two countries zeroed in on “only terror talks”. Armed with a pile of irrefutable evidences of Pakistani agencies’ involvement in syndicate crimes and terrorism, India could have put Aziz on the mat had he dared to come to New Delhi.

And thus started the “Scuttle Talks Operation”. All attempts were made to scupper talks by irritating and instigating India as Pakistani forces launched renewed and heavy firing on the Line of Control targeting civilians, causing a huge outcry. With India deciding to answer back in equal measure on the frontiers and refusing to be cowed down into calling off the talks, Pakistan uncorked its second armoury in the form of fidayeens, who launched audacious attacks on security establishments leading to massive protests. Pressure was mounting on the Modi Government to call off talks. But the government, sensing Pakistan’s evil designs, withstood the domestic pressure and decided to continue with the talks. That was the last straw.

With all its tactics falling apart, the Pakistani establishment, read Pakistan Army, decided to make Aziz the villain who was forced to misinterpret the Ufa statement. It was shocking to see the veteran politician trying to pull out something, which was not part of the Ufa agreement, to force Indian hands. Aware that he was on a sticky wicket, as he himself was at the negotiating table when the Ufa agreement was signed, Aziz prophesized that the proposed talks would not yield desired results. Surprisingly, he knew the future of talks even before the start! Even if one was to believe him that the Hurriyat was one of the main stakeholders, one fails to understand how could the separatists have contributed to talks which were designed to discuss terror?

Pakistan today stands exposed. Its intent was suspicious right from the beginning. Any meaningful talks are anathema to Pakistan as it is least bothered to maintain peace in the subcontinent and wants to keep the issue of Kashmir alive. To expect Pakistan to talk on terror and follow up with credible action is akin to asking for moon. Pakistan is aware of the consequences if it were to take action against the militants pampered and sheltered at its backyard. The rise of Taliban leading to the formation of its own government in Afghanistan in 1996 before it was overthrown by the American-led invasion in 2001 is a case in point. This is precisely the reason why Pakistan dreads taking action against the monsters it created.

In this entire episode, marked by uncertainty to chicanery, one feels sorry for Sharif. He has lost his face again.

The last time Sharif tried to embark on a road to peace was when he invited the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Pakistan and scripted the Lahore Agreement on February 21, 1999. It took less than three months before General Pervez Musharraf stabbed him in his back when his forces in the garb of militants occupied the heights of Kargil, leading to a brief war between the two countries. The Lahore Agreement was thus consigned to dustbin. Sixteen years later, Sharif’s second tryst with peace lies in tatters within days of the signing of the Ufa Agreement as he has been back-forked again.

It is beyond doubt that any democratically-elected government in Pakistan is a mere showpiece used only during hand-shakes. It is the Pakistan Army which calls the real shots.