New Delhi: Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf is under pressure from within his country and without. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said the peace process with Pakistan could not go forward unless Islamabad sternly dealt with cross-border terrorism.
"This cannot go forward if Pakistan does not deal with terrorism firmly. What has Pakistan done to control terrorism?" the Prime Minister told a press conference in Bhubaneswar.
There is speculation that the two might meet on the sidelines of the NAM summit.
And at home, the General may have praised the Pakistan army for killing popular Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, but he now has a violent protest on his hands that is fast spreading.
A nationwide strike has been called on Friday. Baloch capital Quetta, the centre of the protests is now under indefinite curfew.
No shrill rhetoric, no direct condemnation of use of excessive force. A sensitive India stuck to paying rich tributes to Akbar Khan Bugti and offered some gentle advice to Pakistan.
MEA spokesperson Navtej Sarna says, “The heavy casualties in the continuing military operations in Balochistan underlines the need for a peaceful dialogue to address the grievances and aspirations of the people of Balochistan.”
But former Indian diplomats had less reason to be diplomatic – especially those who knew Bugti as a secular leader, of not just Pakistani tribals but also Hindus.
Ex-High Commissioner to Pakistan Satish Chandra says, “He was a wise man, learned man. They could have utilised him to reach out to the Balochis, but they didn’t.”
Pakistanis were even more blunt. A day-long strike giving way to sweeping violence through Quetta and other cities in the province.
Protests spilled over to Karachi and Islamabad with mainstream political parties, including those belonging to the ruling alliance, all condemning the killing.
Quetta’s Opposition leader Zain Ansari says, “The first time former prime minister Zulfizar Ali Bhuto was hanged by the army. Now for the second time the army has killed a national leader. This cannot continue.”
Some Opposition leaders even warn that Pakistan could see a repeat of 1971 when east Bengal broke away to form Bangladesh but for that a fractious Opposition will need to overcome the power of the gun.
Musharraf may ride through the backlash – no matter how violent, how widespread. After all he has the backing of the Pakistani army.
But the army, which utilises maximum force against the Pakistani people cannot but erode Musharraf's political legitimacy.