(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
The situation in Pakistan is getting worse, there is no other way in saying it. While the politicians squabble (both in Islamabad and here), the former warlords that ruled neighboring Afghanistan are now assuming more influence. Slowly, but surely, the Taliban will gain a foothold and then their own fiefdom once more if nothing is done. While we are “winning” in Iraq, we are losing in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Call this one of those “I told you so’s” that many have been saying. The situation before us is a direct result of our shifting our attentions from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2003. What should have been a threat long extinguished, now is serving to be a malignant tumor that is metastasizing and spreading.
The Taliban should have been vanquished, had the proper resources been applied. NATO had been practically begging the US and others to send more units into Afghanistan. While the world has contributed immensely to the cause, from France and Germany to Japan, forces deployed by the UK and US in Iraq were more than sufficient to finish the job. Unlike the Saddam Fedayeen or other insurgent forces, the Taliban were not former trained soldiers, just religious fanatics who threw themselves into combat. The firewall was supposed to be Pakistan.
Since 2000, the White House has been investing money and military resources to the former Musharraf regime. It was understood, or at least made plain to us, that General Musharraf would take care of the virtually lawless regions known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the North West Frontier Province. We requested sending troops to find and liquidate any al-Qaeda and Taliban elements, but we were rebuffed. Pakistan, Islamabad proclaimed, had things under control and would take care of these criminals.
Alas, the whole thing, like a Republican economic plan, was a big failure. Islamabad could not accomplish the objectives needed, indeed the fashion of how how they acted has only exacerbated the problem! Pakistan’s indiscriminate application of the technological military aid ,given by us, has turned our “War on Terror” into a “War of Terror.” As mentioned in a Daily Telegraph piece published today, we are now seeing the effects of such recklessness. Islamabad’s authority in FATA and the North West are quickly crumbling and the Taliban are attempting to be the regions new rulers. The firewall, ladies and gentlemen, has been breached!
Should they let their daughters go back to lessons in the rubble of their school, blown up by the Taliban in the middle of the night, or should they keep them safe at home?
Hashim, the caretaker who was held at gunpoint by masked gunmen, was warned that they would be back if the school is rebuilt. He fears that next time they could blow it up with pupils inside.
Yet this is not Kandahar, the Taliban capital of southern Afghanistan, but Peshawar – a city of 1.4 million people in neighboring Pakistan, once celebrated as a cultural haven for artists, musicians and intellectuals.
A year ago schools were considered safe in the city, the capital of North-West Frontier Province. But the Taliban insurgency that has been growing in the wild mountains that rise in the distance is spreading into urban Pakistan.
Clerics and political leaders critical of the Taliban have been kidnapped and shot dead, around 15 suicide bombers have attacked inside the city, and to escape kidnappers businessmen are giving up and moving to the capital Islamabad, two hours drive away, or overseas to Dubai if they can afford to.
Nobody has ever known the city so fearful.
– excerpt from “Pakistani city of Peshawar could fall to Taliban as fear and attacks grow “, Daily Telegraph, 2008.
While the Taliban have a long way to go, the fact that they are hitting Pakistani cities is a troubling development. The Taliban and other sympathetic groups have long taken hold in the FATA and much of the North West. What we are witnessing here is a move of such activities from the countryside and tribal areas to that of the cities. It has been, as the article noted, that the cities were the haven for more progressive minded feelings; education for girls, for instance, was virtually commonplace.
In a country that gave us Benezir Bhutto, we now have a smoldering ash heap that was once a school for young girls. How long until all the women in the area are forced to wear burkhas? Music and poetry have now been coarsely censored via threat of violence. Merchants in the ancient bazaars of Peshawar and other such metropolitan areas and townships cannot due business. What we are seeing here is the constriction of both culture, civil rights, and business in this part of Pakistan.
In the time of the Cold War, there was the Domino Effect theory, in which if one country fell to Communism, supposedly neighboring countries would soon too fall. Well what we have here is the same thing within a country. Lawlessness and conservative fundamentalist zealots, in addition to criminal elements, have taken places like the Waziristans and the areas surrounding Peshawar. At the rate things are going, it will not be long until the surrounding areas of the capital of Islamabad starts to see their activities. And here lies the danger to not only the fragile democracy of that country but also to national security.
Pakistan last came under direct military rule when General Musharraf and his junta believed that anarchy and collapse would engulf the nation. We are seeing such threats emerge once more. What is to stop the military from hitting the rewind button? The populace would not take another coup, and any attempts would probably exacerbate the situation, something that could play into the hands of the fundamentalists.
Secondly, Pakistan is a nuclear-armed nation, whose stockpiles are under the supervision of a military that is growing factious and nervous. Can we truly say that these weapons are under lock and key? If another civilian government falls into disarray leading to national collapse, what then of the oversight? Will the military, assuming there is still one, be able to do it’s job? Or, take it the other way, what if there is another successful coup but resources to maintain order are sapping those which monitor the weapons situation? The Pakistanis may think they have everything under control, that doesn’t mean that they do.
Talking to one of my fellow civics geeks, she brought up an interesting question. What if you have more than one “Musharraf” who thinks they can restore order? You could very well have those who run the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) may think they knew better. The Joint Chiefs could act in unison, or perhaps not. If it is the latter, then we have more than one person claiming to be “the government,” of Pakistan. Meanwhile, the religious fundamentalists will have taken advantage of the vacuum.
Of course, all this is pure speculation, there may be no future military coups. There may be no breakdown of civilian government. But what is happening, is that relies fundamentalists like the Taliban are gaining a larger foothold in a part of Pakistan. That women’s rights, if not everyone’s civil rights, are once again in danger. Once, the Taliban enacted their terror in the countryside, but now they are doing it on the streets of cities like Peshawar. How long until nearby Islamabad starts becoming the staging ground for this evil?