Tensions appear to be subsiding between the civilian government and the powerful military as both sides seem to be stepping back from overtures that signalled growing differences in the past few weeks. A statement issued by the interior minister earlier on Friday expressed strong support for the security establishment as the country’s premiere spy agency was lashed with accusations of being involved in an assassination attempt on a prominent journalist.
The apparent tamping down of tensions took place as US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador James Dobbins visited the capital. During his two days visit, which concluded Friday, Dobbins held a series of meetings with civil and military leadership and discussed wide range of bilateral topics and mutual interests concerning the region.
Background discussions and interviews with diplomats and policy experts suggest that James Dobbins’ visit was timely and it helped reduce growing institutional tension in Pakistan. Although the US Embassy in its press statement downplayed this aspect of Ambassador Dobbins’ discussions with Pakistani leadership, many analysts believed it did, in one way or other, help in easing the growing tension.
The statement released by the US embassy stated that Ambassador Dobbins reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to enhancing its relations with Pakistan, discussed opportunities for bilateral coordination to promote regional stability, and explored ways for the US and Pakistan to forge a stronger partnership by working together to achieve common objectives.
“We don’t have anything beyond the press release at this time”, US Embassy spokesperson Meghan Gregonis told The Nation.
On the other hand, senior diplomats from European Union believed that the US special representative would have definitely emphasised the need for a secure and a politically stable Pakistan. This, they believed, is imperative for smooth draw down of the international forces from neighbouring Afghanistan by end of this year.
They were of the view that for such of higher stakes, including an effective counter terrorism strategy, the international community would not like any sort of instability in Pakistan, and therefore, it would be naïve to believe that US ambassador might not had touched sensitive issues of common interest.
“There are bigger challenges confronting the international community relating to Afghanistan, and that cannot be successfully surmounted without Pakistan’s cooperation”, a senior western diplomat said, requesting not to be named.
Some analysts also viewed sequence of meetings of Ambassador Dobbins with Pakistani leadership with interest, saying his meeting civilian leadership first and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif at the end was a calculated move ostensibly in cooling tempters with a view to keep the balance.
“The US wants a secure and politically stable Afghanistan and Pakistan for smooth exit of international forces”, says Najam Rafique, Director Americas in Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Mr Rafique was of the view that US and its Western allies would not like any kind of instability at this point of time and would like deeper cooperation from Pakistan in the post 2014 situation in Afghanistan in which Pakistan will have a very key role to play.
He believed that US would not go for its zero option in Afghanistan and would definitely keep some of its troops in Afghanistan, and for that purpose it will heavily rely on Pakistan’s cooperation. Also, the US and Western countries will desire to strengthen democratic dispensation in Pakistan in the given situation for a meaningful counter-terrorism cooperation aimed at bringing peace and stability in the country.