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How Pakistan Ended up a Winner of the Afghan War
PESHAWAR, December 19 (Internews):
Come to Peshawar and one of the first things a tourist will realise
is quite how much of Afghanistan's national soul and spirit has seeped
across the border into the territory of Pakistan's North West Frontier
The refugee camps are full of people; the bazaars are full of Afghan spoil. Virtually every shopkeeper sells Buddhist carvings and sculptures; the genuine ones have been carefully chiselled out of Afghanistan's Buddhist heritage. Between the Pakistani dealers and the Taliban, that heritage has been appallingly eroded. But of course the hard work of destroying Afghanistan has mostly been done by Afghans themselves. It won't be a surprise if a tourist stumbles into a shop to find a book of coloured photographs, dated 1908: Les Palais Les Plus Magnifiques du S.M. Le Roi d'Afghanistan. Every one of these royal palaces has been shelled, pockmarked with high-velocity bullets, mined or otherwise wrecked. Usually it happened between 1992-96, when Afghanistan's neighbours were paying mujahideen leaders to destabilise the government of what is nowadays call the Northern Alliance. And the Alliance was just as bad.
And back to the future, today, Pakistan has been a beneficiary of the current war. With consummate skill, President Musharraf and his ministers and officials have managed to turn the entire affair to their advantage. A billion dollars of aid, an end to sanctions, a discreet American foot on the weighing scales of Pakistan's dispute with India over Kashmir. How brilliantly Pakistan's diplomats played their hand; how effectively Gen Musharraf himself managed to remind the Americans at every twist and turn that his position was a dangerous one, and that unless things were done his way he could not answer for the fundamentalist consequences. It is the Pakistanis rather than the Indians who have inherited the subtlety and smooth diplomatic skills of the British Raj, say diplomats in Peshawar. "Some highly trained and intelligent officials have been pressing just the right flesh and whispering just the right words of assurance and warning in Washington and London and it has worked superbly," one remarks. At the same time, President Musharraf was ridding his country of large amounts of its home-grown problem. Altogether the war's end has been the best of all possible outcomes forPakistan. With hindsight, it scarcely seems like a gamble on Gen Musharraf's part: just common sense and an ability to stay calm
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