The news, discussed in a previous post that India and Pakistan were involved in very secret negotiations solves two minor mysteries.
First, it clarifies why the Bush administration hung on to Musharraf, even as his political standing collapsed. Unlike other countries, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where the Bush administration gave only lip-service to reform, in Pakistan there were viable civilians alternatives in Bhutto’s PPP and Sharif’s PML. The conventional wisdom was that the administration needed Musharraf to chase al-Qaeda in Pakistan – but really any non-Islamist Pakistani government would have offered this support. The current government has permitted US drone strikes from a base within Pakistan. But if the Pakistan-India peace talks were in an advanced stage, it makes sense that the administration would have wanted to give them the fullest opportunity to complete the talks, which would have had enormous strategic benefits for the region and the United States.
The second mystery is how little effort LeT put into plausible deniability for the Mumbai attack. Surely they must have had some inkling about the vulnerability of cel-phones and other mobile communications devices to eavesdropping – to say nothing of the extensive physical evidence. But, if the attack’s primary purpose was to drive a stake through the heart of any Pakistani-Indian peace process, then allowing the attacks to be linked clearly to Pakistan was part of the strategy. The fact that the LeT assessed (accurately, as it turns out) that the Pakistani government would not undertake a harsh crackdown when their role in the attacks became clear is extremely frightening in its own right.
The fighting sparked by the storming of the Lal Masjid Mosque in Islamabad triggered the insurrection in the tribal areas. A crackdown on LeT (and its parent Jamaat ul-Dawa) would undoubtedly spark open rebellion in parts of the Punjab – in the very heart of the country.