Last week’s rare intelligence briefing for the Pakistani parliament was meant to unite MPs behind President Asif Ali Zardari’s terror strategy, but seems to have been an utter failure. While members of the opposition were already calling for an end to cooperation with the US and peace talks to end the rising violence in the country, the briefing seems to have polarized even what’s left of the President’s tenuous coalition government.
Though only a small part of the current coalition since most of the party boycotted the 2008 elections over Musharraf’s state of emergency, the Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (JUI) is a highly influential party in Pakistan. They demanded, while the Pakistani Army was presenting information to the parliament, that the Tehreek-e Taliban (TTP) be allowed to address the parliament as well.
The TTP offered unconditional talks to the Pakistani government earlier this week, and offered once again to lay down their arms in return for an end to the military’s offensives against them. There are reports that the government has turned down this latest offer as well, and the military claims to have killed another 60 militants in the latest air strike in Swat Valley.
The opposition has also increased its criticism. Former Musharraf government minister Tariq Azim says “the majority of the people of Pakistan do not see it as our war,” while an MP from Nawaz Sharif’s powerful PML-N complained that “the US are trying to externalize their failure in Afghanistan by dumping it on us.”
Pakistan’s terror policy seems all the more pressing as the global economic crisis leaves the nation teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. This led Pakistani Defense Secretary Kamran Rasool to warn last week that the government could not abandon the terror war without facing sanctions and financial ruin. This may be a less convincing argument since Pakistan secured significant financial help from China this week.