THREAT from the anger in India, following the Mumbai terror attacks, has added to other pressures that were, and are, far more persistent. Indian pressure is a familiar reality. The two states have run a cold war, interspersed with hot wars, for long.
From day one, the two countries had the Kashmir dispute and have done everything possible to discredit each other. An element of terror came into Indo-Pakistan relations in the 1990s, which has persisted. All things considered, the two countries are unlikely to go to war, though the threat of it has been persistent for sometime.
The second major pressure is from Islamic zealotry, in the promotion of which the entire West is implicated, and Pakistan's enthusiastic participation in creating the first Mujahideen and their later version, Taliban, for Afghanistan is notable.
Taliban and other militants are now at war with Pakistan, where the latter has not been winning. The threat of Taliban sweeping the Frontier Province and making inroads in Punjab is real. It is an important war and the future of 170 million people depends on it.
The Pakistan state can break up; the area can remain embroiled in multiple civil wars and endemic conflict. That can have repercussions both in India and elsewhere in South Asia.
The third pressure is from Nato and US. They demand that Pakistan should fight the Taliban in FATA and other areas of NWFP to protect the supply line of Western troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan disagrees with what the West is doing, but is forced to wage a war in FATA and fight Islamic zealotry whenever it threatens the Western troops' supply line.
But neither side, Pakistan or Nato, is happy with the situation. The threat to Western troops comes from two sources: Taliban and other Islamic militants. Taliban, using Pakistan territory, goes into Afghanistan to battle the Nato and US troops. Hence the West demand Pakistan keep the Taliban constantly engaged, so that they do not cross over into Afghanistan.
Pakistan perceives this prescription as one that will ultimately destroy all of Pakistan, through areas of the country becoming Talibanised. And yet Pakistan does what the West demands. That fails to satisfy the West, which continues to demand more. The Islamic parties in the country are openly sympathetic to the Taliban, forgetting that this can mean much grief. This is the greatest threat.
When the West began scheming against the Soviet influence in Kabul. Pakistan was required to play a hard game. Pakistan's closer involvement in the East-West cold war did not suit a small and weak country. But the Americans had promised much to Pakistan if it played the game. The un-avowed promise was for Pakistan to acquire a dominating influence in Kabul. This was an imperial role that scarcely suited a country that subsisted on military and economic aid from Western countries. It should have kept a low profile.
In the 1970s, Peshawar had become a cockpit of Western intelligence. Pakistan was victorious, because the Soviets threw in the towel and left shortly after the peace they made at Geneva. Pakistan then played a hard role. It ensured the final elimination of the pro-Soviet government and installed a Mujahideen government in Kabul, which formed a government in Peshawar and was carried in an American C-130 to Kabul. The then Pakistan prime minister escorted them.
Pakistan's lordship over Afghanistan lasted from 1992 to 2001. The first government faced many civil wars and other conflicts, though surviving in the northern region that houses ethnic minorities of Afghanistan. But the largest ethnic group the Pushtoons, were dissatisfied, because they were totally out of power.
Pakistan introduced in 1994 the Taliban, who conquered some 80% of Afghan territory and established themselves in Kabul by 1996. This government, too, was pro-West and pro-Pakistan. But, thanks to oil politics, the rigidity of Taliban, and its international strategic interests, the US decided to attack Afghanistan and occupy it.
The war continues where Pakistan is made to play the ancillary role of helping the West win over Afghanistan again -- which seems unlikely.
All these pressures are now building up on Islamabad knowing not where to turn. It is not winning against the Taliban and other Islamic militants. Relations with India have remained tense, with occasional hope that they might someday become friends. But the latest terror attacks on Mumbai have again put the clock back. Pakistanis have reasons to fear that a war might break out.
But it is unlikely, thanks to the West's exigencies of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan's role in it. In substance, this is a question of Pakistan's own survival. No one can welcome the disintegration and attendant troubles in Pakistan. It is far too important in itself and in its location that no one can agree on what will or should follow it.