A call to leadership

UPA's political leadership must take back charge of the India-Pak story that has spun out of its control

With the armies of India and Pakistan locked in a shooting match, the fire on the Line of Control in Kashmir, one would have assumed, is the top story in both countries. But the headlines in the Indian and Pakistani media during the last couple of days provide a surprising contrast.

On the Indian side, the media, especially television news channels, are in a frenzy. Delhi's talking heads, so easily enraged, are beating the drums of war.

On the Pakistan side, renewed military tension with India is by no means the headline. Consider the front-page stories in the Sunday editions of the Pakistani papers.

Right on top is last Thursday's tragedy in Quetta, Balochistan, where Sunni extremist suicide bombers killed nearly 100 people, mostly Hazara Shias. The bombing, claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, is the latest and most brazen campaign against the Shia minority in Pakistan. The Shia community in Quetta has refused to bury the dead and has blocked the streets with the coffins, demanding greater security and the imposition of army rule in Quetta.

A second headline is about the Pakistan army's attempts at pacifying the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that has mounted a series of bold attacks in recent years on the nation's military establishments. The reports refer to an alleged new decision by the TTP to avoid attacking Pakistani forces and concentrate instead on the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and step up the jihad in Kashmir.

A third story is on the planned "million-man march" led by Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, a Canadian cleric of Pakistani origin, that began on Sunday and will culminate in Islamabad on Monday.

Qadri is widely suspected of acting on behalf of the "deep state" or Pakistan's military establishment. He has come from nowhere to question civilian rule at a moment when the government led by Asif Ali Zardari is about to complete a full five-year term — a rare achievement in Pakistan.

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