EMERGING CONTOURS OF POLITICAL AND STRATEGIC SCENARIOS

1997

Al Qaeda may wrap up in Pakistan

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Zahid Malik

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 – While the country is in the grip of intense rumours, conspiracy theories of all sorts are gaining currency and deplorable election-related blasts claiming lives of political workers are occurring on a regular basis and over all political and law and order scenario appears to be quite dismal, in the meantime, one positive and significant development has taken place and the second one, with far-reaching history-making potentials, is in the offing. The leadership of major political parties has come to a dependable understanding with other stakeholders regarding the management of the State affairs after 2013 national elections. Even the PML-N which had developed some streaks of non-compromising obstination has ultimately shown maturity and fuller comprehension of stark security-related ground realities and has accordingly agreed to let the sensitive strategic matters be handled by those who are better placed to handle them. The PML-N Manifesto released by Mian Nawaz Sharif on March 7, 2013 provides a comprehensive strategy for dealing with key issues facing the country and role of different stakeholders which is reflective of his prudence and realization that to govern Pakistan in the backdrop of extremely complex sensitivities of the region input from all is necessary. So far as PPP is concerned, it is miles ahead of the PML-N in ensuring a policy of sharing of power.

Though the PML-N, according to all estimates and public-opinion surveys, is far ahead of other parties in terms of popularity and it may emerge as a single largest party yet ironically the possibility is that smaller groups in the National Assembly might prefer joining hands with PPP once again. I fail to understand how and why PML-N is pushing some political players to the other side as it pushed Sheikh-ul-Islam Allama Tahir-ul-Qadri. Imran Khan is a charismatic as well as enigmatic phenomenon and he has already emerged as a principal player who can stage major upsets. He is gaining ground with the support of many. It is Pakistani culture that political foes of today become friends of tomorrow and this might again be witnessed after the elections. However, one major and crucial factor, which is surprisingly not being taken into account by political pundits, would be a sizeable group of independents, who would park themselves where they would be required to park. Similarly, what the NAB Chairman had stated on April 13 must be disturbing for some. He said, “Scrutiny of candidates will continue even after elections.” It is understood NAB will concentrate more on the winning horses.

Now about some most dramatic strategic developments which actually prompted me to pen down this column. The emerging strategic scenario has the potential to change the world. Behind-the-scene direct and indirect parleys would be having deeper positive impact on the State of Pakistan. Pakistan may be totally terrorism-free State and Al-Qaeda may wrap up from here once for all. As terrorism is an infectious phenomenon, end of terrorism in Pakistan may put an end to terrorism in other parts of the world also. The leadership of some countries, particularly the Egyptian President

Mohammad Morsi, a known and respected Islamist having access here and there and eager for peace and stability in the Ummah is playing a role in brokering a tri-partite agreement among Pakistan, the US and Al-Qaeda. The one-item agenda of his seven-hour short sudden visit to Pakistan on March 18 was how to put an end to Al-Qaeda. He had already impressed upon Dr. Mohammad Zawahiri, (a PhD) brother of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahiri, to please get the Ummah as well as the world out of the present turmoil. The former Zawahiri was one of the leaders of Al-Tahrir Square uprising who ignited revolution, ousted Hosni Mubarak and brought Mohammad Morsi to power.

President Morsi is held in high esteem in Pakistan. A delegation of some jubilant Pakistanis had called on the Ambassador of Egypt in Islamabad, H.E. Mr. Said Mohamed El Said Hindam with the request to convey their greetings to Mr. Morsi on his election as President of Egypt. The esteem which the Pakistanis hold for him can be gauged from the fact that his sudden decision not to attend D-8 summit in Islamabad in November last year due to some sudden personal engagements and some regional developments had a bit of dampening effect on the people of Pakistan. How much President Morsi values friendship with Pakistan can also be judged from the fact that prosecutors in Egypt, on his orders, launched a probe into complaints against popular satirist Bassem Youssef for “insulting Pakistan” and “spreading atheism”. He is keen to help restore peace in this region. I hope if all goes well, his efforts would bear fruit. In the meantime, arrangements are being fine-tuned for the exit of some high-profile Al-Qaeda members from Pakistan and possibly Afghanistan also. Some top Al-Qaeda members in custody of Pakistan at present will leave for some unknown destination. The peace deal being brokered by President Morsi, duly backed by some Muslim/Arab countries and the US as well will also put an end to the dreaded theory of clash of civilizations propounded by Huntington. The deal will also apply brakes to the recent phenomenon in the West of publication of humiliating material against Islam, particularly against the last Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), a major irritant inflaming sentiments of the Muslims.

Al-Qaeda, to begin with, will apply restraint from targeting Western installations in the Muslim world and then also in the rest of the world. As part of the bargain, Al-Qaeda will also release some prisoners including Warren Weinstein, a Jew who was abducted from Gulberg, Lahore in August 2011 and a US army officer captured in Afghanistan. Warren Weinstein was working for CIA for the last 30 years. Without going into further details, if all goes well and according to the plan, it will be a major development and can turn the direction of history.

However, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, at the behest of India, is opposing tooth and nail the likely deal with Al-Qaeda. It is to be seen whether President Obama is influenced by the Afghan President or lends his ear to the developing internal consensus for wrapping up conflicts all around and gives peace a chance.