Trouble is brewing at the border where Afghanistan and Pakistan merge into one, ahead of the traditional spring onslaught of militancy. Melting snow brings fresh attacks. The Pakistani Government is creating a large Council or Jirga with village elders to facilitate horse-trading during the election.
The Dawn reports that US military advisers are aiding the Pakistanis to double the numbers in their commando force, focussing on the tribal areas. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has written that the next attack on the US would probably be launched from here, the “under-governed regions of Pakistan.”
Washington claims that there are fewer than 100 American military personnel on the ground. “We have to be careful conducting operations in a sovereign country, particularly one that’s a friend of ours and one that has given us a lot of support,” Dell Dailey, the State Department’s counter-terrorism chief, said last month. “The blowback would be pretty serious.”
Washington isn’t publicly counting the CIA operatives active in this part of South Asia. Journalists and other personnel apparently act for the secret services of different countries. Rumours abound that they include a UK- based reporter who made a video diary in the territory early in his television career. Sources in the region say the CIA pays the best and is the least demanding where results are concerned. That must be the reason for its killer efficacy!
Speaking of journalists, figures just released from Pakistan’s Foreign Office say that 500 hacks together with 500 international observers form the latest tally covering the election.(The numbers coming out from Pakistan tend to change frequently, which keeps us on our toes). Many of the observers, already on the ground, are from the European Union.
In a tit-for-tat, the country says it is not admitting observer members of the Commonwealth, since the Commonwealth was silly enough to “Suspend Pakistan’s membership in haste.”
Dawn reports that movement will be more restricted than previously stated by the authorities. Journalists will travel outside Islamabad and the four provincial capitals only if “arrangements” are made.
The Pakistani Foreign Office says that international observers will not be allowed to conduct exit polls. Every observer will be allowed to visit two constituencies each on Election Day. Will there be discussion and consensus between the internationals to co-ordinate their coverage?