By Konstantin Garibov
The political situation in Pakistan and its relations with the neighboring countries have worsened considerably in the past weeks. On Sunday, Taliban militants from Afghanistan beheaded seven Pakistani soldiers. Islamabad retaliated for the massacre by attacking a Taliban camp on the Afghan border.
North Waziristan, a mountainous province in northwest Pakistan, is the main stronghold of the Taliban, especially the Al Qaeda-related Taliban. Two militants were killed there in a drone attack on Tuesday as Islamabad, infuriated, sought revenge for the slain soldiers.
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who took office last week, replacing his predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani, has promised to make Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai aware of Pakistan’s concern.
Gilani was forced to resign amid corruption allegations. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has stripped Interior Minister Rehman Malik of his parliamentary mandate on the grounds that he had duel citizenship, being a citizen of both Pakistan and the United Kingdom. The Pakistani Constitution forbids anyone with dual citizenship to take government posts. The row has cast a shadow on President Zardari for it is no secret that Malik is his close friend and long-standing ally in the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
Political scandals in Pakistan have coincided with the arrest in India of a key suspect in the Mumbai attacks. In 2008, a group of armed terrorists seized several hotels and attacked other sites in India’s second largest city and financial capital, killing more than 160 people and injuring about 500 others. India claims that the Pakistani Islamist group Lakshar-e-Taiba is behind the attacks. The suspect, a member of Lakshar-e-Taiba, who was arrested at the international airport in New Delhi on June 21, had been instructing the assailants over the phone from the Pakistani city of Karachi.
To make things worse for Islamabad, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the United States would not offer official apologies for 24 Pakistani servicemen killed in a NATO helicopter raid on a suspected Taliban base last November. His statement may be a serious blow to U.S.-Pakistani relations, says Natalya Zamarayeva of the Institute for Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
“Islamabad has insisted on official apologies for the November 2011 incident. It also demands that the United States stop using drones on Pakistani territory. Finally, it demands compensation from NATO for using Pakistani territory to bring supplies to its coalition forces in Afghanistan. Those are the main points of discord between Washington and Islamabad.”
The United States has called for a “reset” of relations with Pakistan but has given no indication that it will meet Islamabad’s demands. It has proceeded, instead, to strengthen military ties with India, causing anxiety among the Pakistani political and military elite.