There can be little doubt that four years in power have been a learning experience for the Pakistani president. Unlike in 2008, when Asif Ali Zardari shocked his establishment by declaring that Kashmir’s ‘freedom fighters’ were actually terrorists, the president’s recent speech at the United Nations was shorn of all such naïvete. Mr Zardari not only upheld his country’s tradition of raising the Kashmir issue at every international forum by calling for a UN resolution of the dispute, but he also reiterated Pakistan’s well-honed tactic of playing the victim in all debates concerning terrorism. The president made it plain that the world could not force Pakistan to “do more on terror” for the simple reason that it had suffered enough. The logic is anomalous. The war has undoubtedly been costly for Pakistan but that is because it has not done enough. As always, this is an inconvenient truth for the West’s chosen vanguard against terror. It is more so now when it is under tremendous pressure to go against the Haqqani group that is believed to be holding up the exit of the Nato troops from Afghanistan. The United States of America has gone down on its knees begging Pakistan’s forgiveness, reinstated the flow of aid to it, done its bidding by trying to flush out the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan from Afghanistan’s borders, and yet Pakistan will not turn its guns on the Haqqanis. That is the message Mr Zardari sought to deliver to the US from the UN podium.
By delivering this message, Mr Zardari was not merely doing a service to the Pakistan army, which is unwilling to gain the wrath of the Haqqanis and other assorted terror groupings. But as the leader of Pakistan’s most popular party, Mr Zardari was also playing the role of a consummate politician. Unaware of their State’s duplicitous policy of selectively targeting militants so as to retain proxy control over both Afghanistan and Kashmir, the people of the country have grown risk-averse. In any case, the army, with the aid of the civilian establishment, has managed to weave together for them a seamless tale of suffering and betrayal in which the West is the invariable villain. By highlighting this tale of victimhood before the world, Mr Zardari was doing his august duty as president and also the leader of a party which, thanks to his sensitivity, has a fair chance of reclaiming power in the next elections.