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Many in Pakistan’s military also shared Musharraf’s view regarding India as their country’s main enemy – and still do. They have always envisioned using the jihadists in Pakistan’s tribal territories directly against the Hindu foe in the next war as well as in Afghanistan to expand their influence there. Pakistan had used Islamic fighters from its tribal regions in its 1947 war against India when, led by Pakistani army officers, they almost conquered Kashmir. For this reason, Pakistani authorities are only battling those jihadists, like the Pakistani Taliban, who are threatening the Pakistani state and leaving those who fight against NATO in Afghanstan, like the Haqqani organization in North Waziristan, in peace.
But to confront India’s military superiority, Pakistan requires more than just irregular tribal fighters; it needs China’s help. China, which has also fought one war in 1961 against India, has responded, seeing in India its biggest and most dangerous rival in Asia. The Chinese are currently Pakistan’s biggest weapons supplier and have invested tens of millions of dollars in its ally. One of those investments was the Karakoram highway, the highest paved road in the world, which connects the two countries. A large free trade deal also came into effect between China and Pakistan in 2007. China currently also has “several hundred” military engineers working in Pakistani Kashmir.
So it is no surprise that China was the first country the Pakistani leaders ran to after they were discovered harbouring bin Laden. In mid-May, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Gilani went to Beijing “to show it has another major power to turn to,” since relations were souring with the United States. While there, Gilani was promised “an urgent delivery” of 50 advanced Chinese fighters.
But this week is not the first time Pakistan has responded with unaccustomed speed to a terrorist incident involving China. The government attack in 2007 on the extremist Red Mosque in Islamabad, located only 400 meters from Musharraf’s offices, which resulted in the deaths of 80 people, was most likely also owed to Chinese influence.
While the world media praised Musharraf for cracking down on the extremist mosque, he had done nothing for years to shut down this “ideological heartland” of the Taliban until mosque Islamists kidnapped several Chinese women. The mosque’s sharia court intended to put them on trial as prostitutes. The Chinese government, apparently, was not amused and conveyed its unhappiness to Musharraf. Interestingly, three Chinese nationals, and no other foreigners, were murdered in Pakistan’s tribal territories in response to the Red Mosque attack.
The recent terrorist attacks in China may also be an attempt by the jihadists battling the Pakistani state to undermine its alliance with China. Since Pakistan cannot afford to harbour a too-strong extremist movement, as that would alienate its main ally, it will definitely move to eliminate the training camps of the Uighur Islamists.
But that is all. No Pakistani military steamroller will cross North Waziristan, ending the terrorist threat to the world once and for all. America has turned the money supply to Pakistan back on, and nothing has yet come of President Obama’s promise to investigate whether anyone in Pakistan had anything to do with protecting bin Laden. And no one is questioning whether America should withdraw financial support, or at least arms transfers, to Pakistan, since it is getting closer to China.
So with things back to normal, why would the Pakistani military destroy completely the jihadists who are bringing in so much American money? Such exertions, after all, are only made for Pakistan’s true ally.
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