Page edited by Andy Ross
Pakistan at Sixty
By Tariq Ali
London Review of Books, October 4, 2007
In August sixty years ago, Pakistan was separated from the subcontinent. On
the country’s 60th birthday (as on its 20th and 30th anniversaries), an
embattled military regime is fighting for its survival. There is a war on
its western frontier, while at home it is being tormented by jihadis and
The European and North American papers give the impression
that the main problem confronting Pakistan is the power of the bearded
fanatics skulking in the Hindu Kush. In this account, all that stops a
jihadi finger finding the nuclear trigger is Musharraf.
In fact, the
threat of a jihadi takeover of Pakistan is remote. There is no possibility
of a takeover by religious extremists unless the army wants one. The lack of
a basic social infrastructure encourages hopelessness and despair, but only
a tiny minority turns to jihad.
During periods of military rule in
Pakistan three groups get together: military leaders, a corrupt claque of
fixer-politicians, and businessmen eyeing juicy contracts or state-owned
land. The country’s ruling elite has spent the last sixty years defending
its ill-gotten wealth and privilege. Corruption envelops Pakistan.
One of the main threats to Musharraf’s authority is the country’s judiciary.
On 9 March, Musharraf suspended the chief justice of the Supreme Court,
pending an investigation. The chief justice was beginning to embarrass the
regime. He had found against the government on a number of key issues, and
there were worries in Islamabad that he might even declare the military
presidency unconstitutional. The general and his cabinet decided to suspend
It soon became obvious that they had made a gigantic blunder.
But instead of acknowledging this and moving to correct it, the perpetrators
decided on a show of strength. The judge was due to visit Karachi on 12 May
but he was not allowed to leave the airport. His supporters were assaulted
and almost fifty people were killed. After footage of the violence was
screened on Aaj TV, the station was attacked by armed volunteers.
chief justice’s appeal against his suspension was finally admitted and heard
by the Supreme Court. On 20 July a unanimous decision was made to reinstate
him, and shamefaced government lawyers were seen leaving the precinct in a
hurry. A reinvigorated court got down to business.
As the judicial
crisis temporarily ended, a more sombre one loomed. Most of today’s jihadi
groups were born in the 1980s, when state patronage of Islamist groups
began. One cleric who benefited was Maulana Abdullah, who built a madrassa
complex in Islamabad, including an enlarged Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque.
During the 1980s and 1990s this complex became a transit camp for young
jihadis on their way to fight in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Abdullah made no
secret of his sympathy for the Saudi-Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. His
patronage of anti-Shia terror groups led to his assassination in 1998.
His sons, Abdul Rashid Ghazi and Abdul Aziz, then took control. Aziz led
the Friday congregation. His sermons were often supportive of al-Qaida. The
better-educated and soft-spoken Rashid was wheeled on to charm visiting
foreign or local journalists.
But after November 2004, when the army
launched an offensive in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, relations
between the brothers and the government became tense. Aziz in particular was
livid. He issued a fatwa declaring that the killing of its own people by a
Muslim army is haram (‘forbidden’).
In January this year, the
brothers decided to shift their focus from foreign to domestic policy and
demanded an immediate implementation of Sharia law. There was a public
bonfire of books, CDs and DVDs. Then the women from the madrassa directed
their fire against Islamabad’s up-market brothels, targeting a well-known
shop near the Lal Masjid. The morality brigades raided the brothel and
‘freed’ the women.
Emboldened by their triumph, they decided to take
on Islamabad’s posh massage parlours, some of which were staffed by Chinese
citizens. Six Chinese women were abducted in late June and taken to the
mosque. Beijing made it clear that it wanted its citizens freed without
delay. Government fixers arrived at the mosque and the women were released.
Angered and embarrassed by the kidnapping of the Chinese women,
Musharraf demanded a solution. On 3 July, the paramilitary Rangers began a
siege of the mosque. On 10 July, paratroopers finally stormed the complex.
Abdul Rashid Ghazi and at least a hundred others died in the ensuing
I was in Karachi in the last week of August, when suicide
bombers hit military targets to avenge Rashid’s death. In the country as a
whole the reaction was muted. There was no shrill glorification of the
martyrs. The contrast with the campaign to reinstate the chief justice could
not have been more pronounced.
Jihadis are not popular in most of
Pakistan, but neither is the government. In Pakistan the most difficult and
explosive issue remains social and economic inequality. The outlook is
bleak. There is no serious political alternative to military rule.
Pakistan's Bhutto Vows to Persevere
Washington Post, October 20, 2007
Karachi: Somber but defiant, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto said
Friday that the massive attack that had missed her but killed 140 others on
Thursday would not deter her from seeking public office, even though she
continued to receive credible reports of plots against her.
prepared to risk our lives and we are prepared to risk our liberty, but we
are not prepared to surrender our great nation to the militants," Bhutto
told journalists who packed into her compound in this coastal city. She
vowed to press ahead with her campaign to return to the prime ministership
and restore democratic, civilian rule to Pakistan.
Benazir Bhutto was
born in 1953 in Karachi. She attended the Convent of Jesus and Mary in
Karachi, the Rawalpindi Presentation Convent, the Jesus and Mary Convent at
Murree, and Karachi Grammar School.
She pursued her higher education
in the United States. From 1969 to 1973 she attended Radcliffe College, and
then Harvard University, where she obtained a B.A. in comparative
She then moved to the United Kingdom. Between 1973 and 1977
she studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall,
Oxford. In December 1976 she was elected president of the Oxford Union,
becoming the first Asian woman to head the prestigious debating society.
Bhutto returned to Pakistan after completing her studies. Her father,
former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged in 1979, and Benazir
was placed under house arrest. She was allowed in 1984 to return to the
United Kingdom, and became a leader in exile of the Pakistan Peoples Party
(PPP), her father's party. In 1987 she married Asif Ali Zardari in Karachi.
In 1988, in the first open election in more than a decade, Benazir's PPP
won the largest bloc of seats in the National Assembly. Bhutto was sworn in
as Prime Minister of a coalition government, becoming at age 35 the youngest
person and the first woman to head the government of a Muslim-majority state
in modern times.
Two prime ministers: Bhutto with Margaret Thatcher
Bhutto's government was dismissed in 1990 following charges of corruption,
for which she never was tried. Bhutto was re-elected in 1993 but was
dismissed three years later amid various corruption scandals. Her husband
spent eight years in prison on similar corruption charges, and was released
The 2007 power sharing deal brokered between Benazir Bhutto
and President Pervez Musharraf will allow Bhutto access to her Swiss bank
accounts containing $1.5 billion.
AR If letting Benazir back into power is
the only alternative to military rule, I say let her back. When she was a
PPE student at Oxford, I taught some similar female undergraduates. I would
have been quite positively impressed by her articulacy (naturally enough,
since like Tariq Ali she served as President of the Oxford Union). If anyone
can help Musharraf save Pakistan from the radicals, she can.
Pakistan in Peril
The New York Review of Books
Volume 56, Number 2, February
Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of
in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia
By Ahmed Rashid
A catastrophe is rapidly overwhelming Western interests in the al-Qaeda and
Taliban heartlands on either side of the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban have reorganized and are now massing at the
gates of Kabul. Members of the Taliban already control over 70 percent of
the country, where they collect taxes, enforce Sharia law, and dispense
In Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari's new government has
effectively lost control of much of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP)
to the Taliban's Pakistani counterparts. Few had very high expectations of
Zardari, but the speed of the collapse has amazed observers.
much of the NWFP, women have now been forced to wear the burqa, music has
been silenced, barbershops are forbidden to shave beards, and over 140
girls' schools have been blown up or burned down. In the provincial capital
of Peshawar, many of the city's elite have moved out. Tens of thousands of
ordinary people from the surrounding hills have fled from the conflict
The tribal areas have now been radicalized as never before.
The rain of armaments from US drones and Pakistani ground forces daily add a
steady stream of angry footsoldiers to the insurgency. Elsewhere in
Pakistan, anti-Western religious and political extremism continues to
At present, more than 70 percent of supplies for the US
troops in Afghanistan travel through the NWFP to Peshawar and hence up the
Khyber Pass. The US is now trying to work out alternative supply routes for
its troops in Afghanistan via several Central Asian republics.
Rashid's brilliant and passionate book Descent into Chaos emphasizes how the
US-led war on terrorism has left in its wake a far more unstable world than
existed before September 11, 2001.
Eight years of neocon foreign
policies have been a spectacular disaster for American interests in the
Islamic world, leading to the rise of Iran as a major regional power, the
advance of Hamas and Hezbollah, the wreckage of Iraq, with over two million
external refugees and the ethnic cleansing of its Christian population, and
now the implosion of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Ahmed Rashid's book
convincingly shows how the Central and Southern Asian portion of this
tragedy took shape in the years since 2001. Rashid perceptively examines the
causes of terrorism in the region, and the way that the Bush administration
sought to silence real scrutiny of what was causing so many people in South
and Central Asia violently to resist American influence. Terrorism was
presented by the administration as a result of a "sudden worldwide
anti-Americanism rather than a result of past American policy failures."
The intense hostility to Islam emanating from the United States made it
difficult for moderates in the Islamic world to counter the propaganda of
the extremists. By building up public hysteria and presenting a vision of an
Islamic world eaten up with irrational hatred of America, a feeling was
generated among Americans that, as Rashid puts it, "Americans should hate
Muslims back and retaliate not just against the terrorists but against Islam
Rashid is aware of the role of Pakistan's army and its
Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, or ISI. For more than twenty years, the
ISI has funded and incubated a variety of Islamist groups. The Pakistani
army saw the jihadis as a means of both dominating Afghanistan and bogging
down the Indian army in Kashmir.
Many in the army still believe that
the jihadis make up a more practical defense against Indian dominance than
even nuclear weapons. For them, supporting a range of jihadi groups in
Afghanistan and Kashmir is not an ideological or religious whim so much as a
practical and patriotic imperative.
The army's senior military brass
were convinced that they could control the militants whom they had fostered.
As Rashid makes clear, groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which were originally
created by the ISI, have now turned their guns on their creators, as well as
launching teams of jihadis into Indian territory. In doing so, they are
bringing Pakistan to the brink of a war it cannot possibly win.
Rashid's book breaks new ground in showing how far the army and ISI
continued this policy of supporting radical Islamic groups after September
11, 2001, despite President Musharraf's many public promises to the
contrary. Only months after September 11, the ISI was giving refuge to the
entire Taliban leadership after it fled from Afghanistan.
the US had filmed Pakistani army trucks delivering Taliban fighters to the
Afghan border and taking them back a few days later, while wireless
monitoring at the US base at Bagram picked up Taliban commanders arranging
with Pakistani army officers at the border for safe passage as they came in
and out of Afghanistan. By 2005 the Taliban, with covert Pakistani support,
was launching a full-scale assault on NATO troops in Afghanistan.
the last decade Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, has
been allowed to operate from Muridke, near Lahore. Rashid quotes Saeed from
2003: "The powerful Western world is terrorizing Muslims. ... We are being
invaded, humiliated, manipulated and looted. ... We must fight against the
evil trio, America, Israel and India. Suicide missions are in accordance
with Islam. In fact a suicide attack is the best form of jihad."
now, after the mass murder in Bombay, although Saeed is under house arrest
for masterminding the attacks, his organization's madrasas and facilities
remain open and appear to benefit from the patronage of Pakistan's
The ISI and the Pakistani military have to be reformed.
The top Pakistani army officers must end their obsession with bleeding India
by using an Islamist strategic doctrine entailing support of jihadists, and
realize that such a policy is deeply damaging to Pakistan.
does not discuss the advance of Wahhabi Islam, which is directly linked to
the spread of anti-Western radicalization. In southern Pakistan, Sufi Islam
continues to act as a powerful defense against the puritanical
fundamentalist Islam of the Wahhabi mullahs, which supports intolerance of
all other faiths.
The Saudis have invested intensively in Wahhabi
madrasas in the NWFP and Punjab. The tolerant Sufi culture of Sindh has been
able to defy this imported Wahhabi radicalism. Sufism was recently described
in a RAND Corporation report as an "open, intellectual interpretation of
Islam." It is one of the few sources of hope left in this strategically
AR Gandhi saw from the start that partition
of India and Pakistan was a catastrophe in the making. Everything that has
happened since has only confirmed that. Religious exclusivism is no basis
for defining a political state in the modern world — as the different but
analogous problems over recent decades of Northern Ireland and Israel show
CNN, May 2009
Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state. The Islamic republic is believed to have
between 30 and 40 nuclear warheads, according to the International Atomic
Energy Agency. But the warheads are unassembled and scattered around
Pakistan in areas far from Taliban control.
Earlier this week, U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Pakistan was in danger of
falling into terrorist hands. Pakistan's ambassador to the United States,
Husain Haqqani, replied: "Yes, we have a challenge. But, no, we do not have
a situation in which the government or the country of Pakistan is about to
fall to the Taliban."
Pakistani political consultant Hasan-Askari
Rizvi downplayed the threat of the Taliban insurgency to Pakistan's nuclear
weapons program: "The threat to nuclear weapons is not so imminent because
they are far away from those places and secondly, they are under control of
Commentators and politicians in the West have long
harbored concerns that Pakistan's nuclear weapons could be stolen by Islamic
militants. A month after extremists assassinated former Prime Minister
Benazir Bhutto in December 2007, top Pakistani security officials held a
special briefing to insist that the country's nuclear arsenal is secure from
AR I am relieved to see the Pakistani
authorities asserting themselves at last.
Pakistan Taliban Threat
EarthTimes, May 8, 2009
Pakistani officials are finally realizing that the Taliban is an existential
threat to Pakistan. Taliban forces stunned them all in April by coming
dangerously close to the capital Islamabad in a clear violation of a
February peace deal over Swat valley.
In a televised address on May
7, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani scrapped the Swat peace deal and
formally ordered the military to "eliminate" the extremists and terrorists
in the north-western region. Military chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
promised a "decisive ascendancy over the militants."
assisted the Taliban in the 1990s in its efforts to ensure a pro-Pakistan
government in Afghanistan after the fall of the Soviet Union and subsequent
infighting between the various mujahidin groups. The country also secretly
allowed them to set up sanctuaries on its soil when they launched their
resistance following their ouster from Kabul by the US-led invasion in 2001.
During this period, every leading figure in Pakistan thought the Taliban
were a strategic asset to defend Pakistan's western border in case of war
with traditional rival India to the east. They turned a blind eye to the
Taliban's fundamentalist interpretation of Islam and their brutalities
toward locals, believing all this would remain confined to Afghanistan and
Pakistan's remote tribal areas.
The Taliban were allowed to increase
their numbers, training, and weaponry. A classified document says there are
17 main militant groups operating in Pakistan's tribal region and North-West
Frontier Province. They have 60 to 90 thousand trained and equipped
guerrilla fighters, including dozens of squads of suicide bombers. Hundreds
of rebels from other jihadist groups are based in Punjab, Pakistan's most
Policymakers failed to perceive the scale of this
threat when the Taliban started operating in Pakistan in late 2007. After
dozens of suicide bombings, attacks on security forces, and assassinations
of political leaders, the Taliban revealed their real intentions following
the Swat peace deal, and Pakistani officials finally woke up to the threat.
According to recent reports, dozens of civilians have died in the
anti-Taliban operation, some half a million have been displaced, and many
more are stuck in the crossfire.
Pakistan Strikes Taliban
By Andrea Kannapell
The New York Times, May 9, 2009
The Pakistani military is pressing its multipronged assault on three
Taliban-held districts northwest of the capital, Islamabad. The army claims
significant gains but also blames militants for endangering noncombatants by
firing indiscriminately and basing themselves in civilian homes.
terrified people continued to flee the fighting, the outskirts of the
conflict areas are facing a critical need for more shelter and supplies. The
office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has registered
more than 120,000 residents displaced from the three contested districts and
surrounding areas, and warns that several hundred thousand more are likely
to leave as well.
Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country mired in
political and economic crisis, has been deeply divided over its response to
the militants, who are still seen in some sectors of the government and
military as a secondary threat compared with India and who have received
covert support from factions within the intelligence services in the past.
Though the current government has sought to assure the West that it is
taking the militants' advances seriously, the issue has become a source of
tension with the United States. After the 9/11 attacks, the United States
relied on Pakistan as its most important regional ally and has given
Pakistan's military more than $1 billion a year since 2001.
intensified its military campaign to reclaim Swat and neighboring districts
last week only under intense pressure from Washington.
Taliban Battle Rages
By Sana ul Haq and Declan Walsh
The Observer, May 10, 2009
The Pakistan military's campaign to dislodge the Taliban from the Swat
valley is intensifying. Pakistan's prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani,
yesterday said the army was fighting for "the survival of the country".
The country's leaders, encouraged by the United States, launched the
full-scale offensive in Swat last week to halt the spread of Taliban
control, which had reached districts within 60 miles of the capital,
Islamabad. The battle has now been taken to the heart of the north-west
region of the country, to the beleaguered town of Mingora.
bustling riverside community has become a hub of the dispossessed and the
desperate. Since fighting erupted last Tuesday, following the collapse of a
fragile peace deal, tens of thousands of frantic residents have fled,
scrambling on to buses, cars and even rickshaws. They left behind a ghost
city controlled by the Taliban, under siege from army mortar fire and
helicopter gunship assaults.
If the army launches a major ground
offensive to dislodge the Taliban, casualties are expected to rise on all
sides. On the plains to the south of the Swat valley, a humanitarian
nightmare is brewing that affects up to one million people.
Taliban Helping Al Qaeda
By Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt
The New York Times, May 10, 2009
As Taliban militants push deeper into Pakistan's settled areas, foreign
operatives of Al Qaeda who had focused on plotting attacks against the West
are seizing on the turmoil to sow chaos in Pakistan.
officials say the Taliban advances in Swat and Buner have already helped Al
Qaeda in its recruiting efforts. "They smell blood, and they are intoxicated
by the idea of a jihadist takeover in Pakistan," said Bruce O. Riedel, a
former analyst for the CIA who recently led the Obama administration’s
policy review of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
It remains unlikely that
Islamic militants could seize power in Pakistan, given the strength of
Pakistan’s military. And the CIA's intensifying airstrikes have reduced Al
Qaeda's ability to hit targets in the West. The United States has conducted
17 drone attacks so far this year, compared with 36 strikes in all of 2008.
For now, Obama administration officials say they believe that the covert
airstrikes are the best tool at their disposal to strike at Al Qaeda inside
Pakistan. In meetings this past week in Washington, American and Pakistani
officials discussed the possibility of limited joint operations with
American Predator and Reaper drones.
Chaos in Pakistan
By Fareed Zakaria
CNN, May 16, 2009
Pakistan's push against the militants in the Swat valley will produce
massive chaos and instability. Proper counterinsurgency involves less
collateral damage and also holding the territory that you win.
Pakistani military still see their main enemy as India. They have never
fully embraced the view that their existential threat lies not in the east
but in the west.
The army has never launched serious campaigns
against the main Taliban-allied groups in Pakistan. The group responsible
for the Mumbai attacks, Lashkar-e-Taiba, still operates in plain sight.
The Pakistani military has deployed only a few thousand troops to
confront the Taliban, leaving most of its men in the east.
Pakistan on the Brink
The New York Review of Books, June 11, 2009
President Asif Ali Zardari is bunkered inside his presidential palace in
Islamabad: "We are not a failed state yet but we may become one in ten years
if we don't receive international support to combat the Taliban threat." In
contrast to the more than $11 billion former president Pervez Musharraf
received from the United States in the years after 9/11, he says his own
administration has received only between "$10 and $15 million."
northern Pakistan, the situation is critical. State institutions are
paralyzed and over one million people have fled their homes. The provincial
government of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) has gone into hiding, and
law and order have collapsed. The overall economy is crashing, with drastic
power cuts across the country as industry shuts down.
of Pakistan's territory is controlled or contested by the Taliban. Ten
percent of Balochistan province, in the southwest of the country, is cut off
by a separatist insurgency. Karachi, the port city of 17 million people, is
an ethnic and sectarian tinderbox waiting to explode. The Taliban are now
penetrating into Punjab, Pakistan's political and economic heartland, with
60 percent of the country's 170 million people.
are in a state of panic. Pakistan has between sixty and one hundred nuclear
weapons, and they are mostly housed in western Punjab where the Taliban have
made some inroads. The Obama administration has promised Pakistan $1.5
billion a year for the next five years, but the bill is stuck in Congress.
The present scare was set off in February when the NWFP government
signed a deal with the Taliban in the Swat valley. On April 14, Zardari and
the national parliament approved the deal without even a debate. Within days
the Taliban moved further. Radical leader Sufi Mohammed said that democracy,
the legal system of the country, and civil society should be disbanded since
they were all "systems of infidels." The Taliban moved to within sixty miles
Finally, on April 24, the army began to attack Taliban
positions. The world witnessed the government's lack of commitment to oppose
the Taliban and the army's lack of a counterinsurgency strategy. Al Qaeda
and Afghan Taliban leaders had settled in the tribal badlands of the Federal
Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that form a buffer zone between Afghanistan
and Pakistan. The Pakistani military under former President Pervez Musharraf
saw the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban as potentially useful counters against
In summer 2004, Washington forced Musharraf to send troops
into FATA. But the Pakistani army was defeated and signed peace agreements
with the Pakistani Taliban. In 2007, the separate tribal militias coalesced
into the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or Movement of the Pakistani Taliban.
Other jihadi movements sprang up.
None of these groups could have
survived if the military had a serious counterterror strategy. The army has
two strategic interests. First, it seeks to ensure that a balance of terror
and power is maintained with respect to India, and the jihadis are seen as
part of this strategy. Second, the army supports the Afghan Taliban as a
hedge against US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Army strategy has not included
containing the domestic jihadi threat.
Many in Pakistan hoped that
the general elections in February 2008 would bring in a civilian government
that would control the army, support the economy and education, and improve
relations with Pakistan's neighbors. Pakistanis voted for two moderate
parties — the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), now led by Benazir Bhutto's
husband Zardari, on the national level, and the Awami National Party (ANP)
as the provincial government in the NWFP. It was a defeat for the Islamic
The world looked for leadership from the PPP. Instead
Zardari and the main opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, who heads the Pakistan
Muslim League, spent the last year battling each other, as the economy sank
and Talibanization spread. In the NWFP, the ANP leaders retreated into
bunkers and capitulated to the Taliban. The ANP initiated the Swat deal in
the naive belief that the Taliban could be contained within Swat.
Now the army is battling the Taliban. On May 7, following an announcement by
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani that the government was going to
"eliminate" the Taliban militants, the army launched a major air and ground
offensive. In FATA and Swat, villages were flattened by the army's artillery
and aerial bombing. The total number of refugees rose to 1.3 million. But by
mid-May, the Pakistani government had no adequate plans to take care of
Since 2004, practically everything that could go wrong in this
war has gone wrong. The army and the government never protected
pro-government Pashtun tribal chiefs and leaders, and some 300 have had
their throats slit by the Taliban. Despite local resistance to the Taliban,
tribal councils begged the army to cease its operations because they have
been so destructive for civilians.
The insurgency in Pakistan may be
more deadly than the one in Afghanistan. In Pakistan the ethnic identities
of people in various provinces are a force for disunity. The gap between the
rich and poor has never been greater, and members of the Pakistani elite
have rarely acted responsibly toward the less fortunate masses. Pakistan is
reaching a tipping point.
AR The Pakistani obsession with India is
the immediate reason for the Talibanization problem. If the Pakistani army
had seen that its real interests were best served by prioritizing economic
development and cultivating smooth relations with the rich West, the whole
dalliance with fundamentalist warlords could have been moderated. As it
turned out, the intelligence services played with fire and got burned.
Putting any trust in feudal warlords is foolish.
The partition that
cleaved off Pakistan from India was foolish from the start. Creating a state
on the basis of religion, particularly when only about half the relevant
believers would go to the new state, is a recipe for problems later. Since
Pakistan's identity against India is defined only by Islam, fundamentalist
Islam evidently seemed to be the lesser problem. But Islamism is a problem
on a different and wider scale, analogous to that of communism a century
India has a strong interest in supporting Pakistan as a buffer
state against the global plague of militant Islam. Pakistanis should see
this and cooperate accordingly. The Pakistani nuclear weapons should be put
under Indian command and deployed to defend the subcontinent as a whole.
Civilized Pakistanis should understand that fundamentalist Islam is a danger
not only to Pakistani development but to civilization itself. It is a
hideous new form of insanity.
London Review of Books, July 23, 2009
Pakistan is a country whose fate is no longer in its own hands. US President
Obama campaigned to send more troops into Afghanistan and to extend the war,
if necessary, into Pakistan. These pledges are now being fulfilled. More
than two million refugees have been driven out of the areas bordering
Afghanistan and from the Swat Valley by the brutalities of Tehrik-i-Taliban
Pakistan (TTP) and the military response to them.
In May this year,
Graham Fuller, a former CIA station chief in Kabul, published an assessment
of the crisis. Fuller said that Obama was "pressing down the same path of
failure in Pakistan marked out by George Bush" and that military force would
not win the day. He also explained that the Taliban are all ethnic Pashtuns,
who "are among the most fiercely nationalist, tribalized and xenophobic
peoples of the world, united only against the foreign invader."
Earlier this year, the US ambassador, Anne Patterson, told a visiting
intelligence chief that Pakistani President Zardari "does everything we
ask." Zardari may be a willing creature of Washington, but the intense
hatred for him in Pakistan is not confined to his political opponents. There
is a widespread feeling that the methods used to maneuver him into the
presidency after Benazir's assassination were immoral.
The head of
the Bhutto clan, Mumtaz Ali Bhutto, demanded an inquiry into Benazir's
assassination and pooh-poohed attempts by Washington and its local satraps
to blame the crime on the TTP leader, Baitullah Mahsud. Mahsud and his
followers are specialists in sawing off heads, flogging women, and
kidnapping people. Grisly videos of informers having their throats cut are
circulated by the TTP as a deterrent. Yet, only a few months ago, Mahsud
could be seen at wedding receptions and press conferences.
refugees from the Swat Valley, where the TTP have committed serial
atrocities, say they were abandoned for years by the government and left to
the mercy of armed fanatics. The Pakistani state tolerated armed groups that
openly challenged it as auxiliaries in the coming battle for Afghanistan.
The decision to crush the leadership of the TTP was taken under heavy US
pressure, which is why Mahsud and his deputy in Swat, Maulana Fazlollah,
regard the assault on their positions as treachery.
of terror antagonized most Pakistanis, including those hostile to the US
presence in the region. The public flogging of a Swati woman, captured on
video and then shown on TV, generated real anger. For once the TTP was put
on the defensive and publicly dissociated itself from the flogging. Making
use of this display of weakness, the government wheeled one of the country's
top religious scholars, Dr Sarfraz Naeemi Al-Azhari, in front of the cameras
to declare the TTP an "anti-Islamic" organization.
The TTP is a
product of the recent Afghan wars. Its thinking a poisonous combination of
traditional tribal patriarchy and Wahhabi prescriptions. It has been
severely criticized by the Afghan groups fighting NATO for not participating
in that struggle. Capturing and killing its leaders may make people feel
better, but it will solve very little. The bulk of TTP supporters will
simply melt away and regroup to fight another day.
AR I still think Pakistan was a mistake
from the start.
British colonial rulers just wimped out.
Did Pakistan Aid OBL?
The Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2011
U.S. and European intelligence officials increasingly believe active or
retired Pakistani military or intelligence officials provided some measure
of aid to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, allowing him to stay hidden in a
large compound just a mile from an elite military academy.
U.S. officials and a high-level European military-intelligence official who
have direct working knowledge of Pakistan's military intelligence agency,
the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, say similar elements linked to
the ISI have aided other Pakistan-based terror groups, the Haqqani militant
network and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The officials say they believe these ISI
elements include some current and former intelligence and military
operatives with long-standing ties to al Qaeda and other militant groups.
They offer no specific evidence, but point to the town's proximity to the
capital and its high concentration of current and former military and
intelligence officers. They say aid likely included intelligence tips to
help keep bin Laden ahead of his American pursuers.
congressional briefings this week on the U.S. operation that killed bin
Laden, senior national-security officials have told lawmakers they suspected
Pakistan wasn't as forthcoming as it could have been about its intelligence
on bin Laden. They also told lawmakers they were looking for evidence that
elements within the ISI and the army played a direct or indirect role in
protecting the al Qaeda leader.
The aftermath of the raid that killed
bin Laden could have sweeping implications for the quickly deteriorating
U.S. relationship with Pakistan. Militants use havens in Pakistan to stage
attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. U.S. officials say they have
evidence that the Haqqani network, a militant group based in North
Waziristan region, receives material support from the ISI in executing
attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Pakistan's Double Game
By Camilla Cavendish
The Times, May 5, 2011
Pakistan's double game has been exposed. The U.S. decision to go after bin
Laden alone without telling the ISI is only the latest manifestation of the
loss of patience that began when A.Q. Khan sold nuclear secrets to rogue
states (the ISI claimed that he acted alone) and has deepened since two
jihadists testified that the ISI trained some of the perpetrators of the
2008 attacks in Mumbai.
President Zardari wrote that his late wife,
Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated by terrorists, but he is so weak that he
has not even dared to visit Abbottabad since the U.S. raid. He is the
nominal ruler of a country that has been run for 40 years by the military
and intelligence agencies, with some civil servants, irrespective of who is
officially in power. Pakistan's military-industrial complex has jailed
judges, stifled the press, prevented Parliament from scrutinising the
defence budget and whipped up Islamist fervour.
The Pakistani army
hit the jackpot after 9/11 and George Bush's ultimatum to General Pervez
Musharraf to join the GWOT. Between 2002 and 2010, out of $20 billion in
American aid to Pakistan, $14 billion went to the military. A better way to
combat extremism might be to build infrastructure and secular schools. The
Pakistani establishment should push for jobs and education.
AR The Pakistani population is set to add a
further 100 million mostly impoverished and ill-educated citizens in the
next four decades. Does anyone believe that such a situation is sustainable?
Female empowerment is the only known remedy for the population bomb.
Disempowerment of Islam in Pakistan is the precondition for that. Pakistan
should become a secular state, like India. In fact, Pakistan should be
folded into India. It should never have been created in the first place.
Must we witness a failed state imploding in apocalyptic violence or
should we not rather intervene in force and take out the Islamists before
they kill everyone around them?
A Forced Marriage
By Susanne Koelbl
Spiegel Online, May 7, 2011
General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is the head of Pakistan's military and head
between 2004 and 2007 of the country's notorious Inter-Services Intelligence
(ISI) agency. Now he is facing some hard questions. It is hard to imagine
that the world's most wanted terrorist could have spent years living
unnoticed just a stone's throw away from Pakistan's elite military academy.
Even before bin Laden was killed, relations between Washington and
Islamabad had reached a new low. In January, CIA contractor Raymond Davis
killed two Pakistani men in the eastern city of Lahore. Despite vehement
American protests, Davis spent 47 days in jail before being released in
exchange for $2.3 million for the victims' families. Pakistan then used the
case to fan long-smoldering anger over the U.S. presence in the country.
In the wake of the debacle, General Kayani called for two things: a
drastic reduction in the agreed number of American special forces soldiers
operating in the country and a reduction in the number of drone attacks on
suspected terrorists in tribal areas. The United States has agreed to
transfer the launch bases for the drones from Pakistan to Afghanistan.
For months, the United States has provided Pakistan with only vague
snippets of information on its operations and offered next to no information
on its targets. It did so because it feared that leaks in Pakistan's
intelligence network could tip off targeted individuals beforehand. The
unannounced attack on bin Laden is only the latest sign of this mistrust.
In 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she found it "hard
to believe" that no one in the Pakistani government knew anything about the
al-Qaida leader's location. A few months later, she even accused "elements
in the government" of protecting bin Laden.
The ISI maintains ties
with the Afghan Taliban and with the Haqqani network. The latter is an
Afghan insurgent group that operates from Pakistan, repeatedly attacking the
Western alliance in Afghanistan while maintaining close ties to al-Qaida.
Pakistan's strategy for the period after the United States completes its
intended withdrawal from Afghanistan is to maintain good relations with the
militants because it has always viewed them as a kind of fifth column for
securing the country's interests in Afghanistan.
In April, during a
visit to Kabul, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani first spoke of
U.S. "imperial designs" before openly calling on Afghan President Hamid
Karzai to not provide the United States with permanent military bases and to
work more closely with China. Pakistan regards China as a friend.
the fall of 2001, when Coalition forces toppled the Taliban regime in
Afghanistan, Pakistan's defensive strategy against its archenemy, India,
collapsed. Pakistan had previously helped to install the Taliban as an ally
against India. Since then, Islamabad has worried that the United States
could hand over Pakistani intelligence to India or even try to gain access
to its nuclear program.
Even after the raid in Abbottabad, the two
countries need good relations: Pakistan needs U.S. economic aid and
Washington needs Islamabad to continue the fight against terrorism and to
provide supply routes for the war in Afghanistan.
The Terrifying Truth
By Bruce Riedel
The Daily Beast, May 8, 2011
Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world. The Pakistani army
manipulates the jihadis and the jihadis manipulate the army.
bin Laden started his career as a fund raiser for the Pakistani army against
the USSR in Afghanistan. He worked beside the Pakistani intelligence agency,
the ISI. He helped create the army's jihadist Lashkar-e-Taibba — "the army
of the pure." The army is riddled with jihadist sympathizers.
syndicate of terror in Pakistan is deep in the Pakistani military. The
Pakistani army is the fifth largest in the world. Pakistan is building more
nuclear weapons faster than any other country in the world today.
AR To quote the Daleks: Annihilate! Annihilate! Annihilate!
By Kapil Komireddi
Foreign Policy, May 24, 2011
Pakistan's nuclear program was a response to the loss of East Pakistan in
1971, when Pakistan perpetrated the single biggest genocide of Muslims since
the birth of Islam, slaughtering 3 million Bengalis, displacing 30 million,
and turning half a million women into sex slaves.
At the time,
Pakistan's leaders described India's acceptance of 10 million refugees and
its subsequent intervention as an "Indo-Zionist plot against Islamic
Pakistan." One influential newspaper in Pakistan assured its readers that
Pakistan would re-emerge with "renewed determination to unfurl the banner of
Islam over the Kafir land of India." At the United Nations in New York,
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto pledged to "fight for 1,000 years as we have fought for
1,000 years in the past."
Nuclear weapons have earned Pakistan the
illusion of prestige. Pakistan's ruling elite believes that America will
always pay the price for its survival. But take away its nuclear weapons and
Pakistan is a basket case. It has no manufacturing base, and in the first
four months of 2011 it managed to attract all of $50 million in equity
The best way to rid Pakistan of its nuclear arsenal is
for Washington to offer to buy it. If incentives fail, Washington must be
prepared to threaten Pakistan. Pakistan must be made to understand the cost
of nuclear war. If a single nuclear warhead falls into the wrong hands,
there will be no Pakistan. Only denuclearization can save Pakistan.
Mutiny in Pakistan
Financial Times, June 13, 2011
In the days that followed the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces,
General Ashfaq Kayani, head of the Pakistan military, had to address restive
garrisons in Rawalpindi, Sialkot, and Kharian. Many officers were outraged
at the audacity of the U.S. in trampling Pakistan's sovereignty.
United States has long worried that Pakistan's army has become radicalized
and is unable to shake off allegiances with extremist militant groups. The
misgivings are shared by some Pakistani officials, who view the militant
attacks against military installations across Pakistan as a sign of mutiny,
where assaults are assisted by insiders.
A former official close to
General Pervez Musharraf says some in the officer corps are still unable to
accept that the jihadists they supported during the 1980s and 1990s against
the Soviet Union and India are now terrorists to be hunted down. He says
many army officers are furious about Pakistan's decision to join the United
States in the Global War On Terror.
A former parliamentarian says the
army's traditions have become so entwined with religious dogma and obeisance
over the last 30 years that they are almost indistinguishable from those of
the militants: "Today it is not enough to die for one's country. Rather a
soldier has to achieve martyrdom for Islam."
Shame on Pakistan
Vanity Fair, July 2011
Salman Rushdie's 1983 novel
emphasized the crucial part played by sexual repression in the Islamic
republic. Here is a society where rape is not a crime. It is a punishment.
Women can be sentenced to be raped, by tribal and religious kangaroo courts,
if even a rumor of their immodesty brings shame on their menfolk. In such an
obscenely distorted context, the noble word "honor" becomes most commonly
associated with the word "killing". Moral courage consists of the
willingness to butcher your own daughter.
President Asif Ali Zardari
cringes daily in front of the forces who openly murdered his wife, Benazir
Bhutto. He promises to resist the United States, and to defend Pakistan's
holy sovereignty, as if he and his fellows were not ingesting $3 billion
worth of American subsidies every year. Pakistan depends on us. The two main
symbols of its pride — its army and its nuclear program — are wholly
parasitic on American indulgence and patronage.
The Taliban was
originally an instrument for Pakistani colonization of Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda
forces were sheltered in the Pakistani frontier town of Quetta. Khalid
Sheikh Muhammed was found hiding in Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the
Pakistani Army. For a long time, every Pakistani capture of a wanted
jihadist occurred in the week preceding a vote in Congress on subventions to
the government in Islamabad. Osama bin Laden was given a villa in
Has any state ever been, in the strict sense of the term,
more shameless? Our blatant manipulation by Pakistan is the most diseased
and rotten thing in which the United States has ever involved itself.
Pakistan routinely injures the sovereignty of India as well as Afghanistan.
Pakistan invites young Americans to one of the vilest and most dangerous
regions on earth, there to fight and die as its allies, all the while
sharpening a blade for their backs.
The United States was shamed when
it became the Cold War armorer of the Ayub Khan dictatorship in the 1950s
and 1960s. It was shamed even more when it supported General Yahya Khan's
mass murder in Bangladesh in 1971. General Zia-ul-Haq leveraged
anti-Communism in Afghanistan into a free pass for the acquisition of
nuclear weapons and the open mockery of the nonproliferation treaty. By the
start of the millennium, Pakistan had become home to a Walmart of fissile
material. Among the scientists working on the project were three named
sympathizers of the Taliban.
In the beginning, all that the Muslim
League demanded from the British was a state for Muslims. Pakistan's founder
and first president, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was a relatively secular man whose
younger sister went around unveiled and whose second wife did not practice
Islam at all. But under the rule of General Zia there began to be imposition
of Sharia and increased persecution of non-Muslims as well as of Muslim
minorities such as the Shiites, Ismailis, and Ahmadis. In recent years these
theocratic tendencies have intensified. Five days after Abbottabad, General
Ashfaq Kayani, head of the Pakistani Army, made the arrogant demand that the
number of American forces in the country be reduced "to the minimum
The United States has enabled every stage of Pakistan's
counter-evolution, to the point where it is a serious regional menace and an
undisguised ally of our worst enemy, as well as the sworn enemy of some of
our best allies.
The Pakistani Nuclear Threat
Foreign Policy, September 5, 2012
Edited by Andy Ross
Pakistan is now believed to be churning out more plutonium than any other
country on the planet. It has already passed India in total number of
warheads and is on course to take third place behind Russia and the United
States in the nuclear club within a decade. Pakistan's new Hatf IX is a
"shoot and scoot" battlefield nuclear weapon.
Pentagon plans to take
out Pakistani nukes in an emergency are mission impossible. A senior
Pakistani general: "We look at the stories in the U.S. media about taking
away our nuclear weapons and this definitely concerns us, so countermeasures
have been developed accordingly." Steps include building more warheads and
storing them in scattered locations. This also makes them vulnerable to
theft by terrorists.
In August, a group of militants assaulted a
Pakistani base that some believe houses nuclear weapons components. Nine
militants and one soldier were killed in a two-hour firefight. This was the
fourth attack in five years on the base. At least five other sensitive
military installations have also come under attack by militants since 2007.
India, meanwhile, has just tested its first long-range ballistic
missile, the Agni-V. In April, the Indian Navy
added a new Russian-made nuclear-powered submarine to its fleet and is
determined to add submarine-launched ballistic missiles to its arsenal. This
would put India in the elite club of states that can survive a first strike
by an adversary and deliver a retaliatory strike by land, sea, or air.
For the United States, the nightmare scenario is that some of Pakistan's
warheads or its fissile material falls into the hands of the Taliban or al
Qaeda. But it is unlikely that Pakistan would ever fall under the control of
an outfit like the Taliban. Pakistani civilian leaders are incompetent and
corrupt but the military has maintained its professionalism. And nothing
matters more to the Pakistani military than its nuclear arsenal. The sites
where weapons are stored are the most heavily guarded in the country.
During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union built enough
bombs to destroy the planet many times over. India and Pakistan have enough
to destroy it only once. But India and Pakistan have fought three wars
against each other since their breakup in 1947. Pakistan lost all three of
them. Its army is only half the size of India's, and India spends seven
times more on its military than Pakistan can. Pakistan's generals know that
in an all-out conventional confrontation with India, they're toast. This is
why they cling to their nukes.
Here are two countries headed in
opposite directions. India's $1.7 trillion economy is eight times the size
of Pakistan's and has grown at over 8% annually over the last three years,
compared to just 3.3% for Pakistan. India is in the forefront of the digital
revolution, while Pakistan's broken-down infrastructure struggles to provide
just a few hours of electricity each day. India is on the cusp of becoming a
global power, Pakistan is close to becoming a failed state. Pakistan's
capital Islamabad today resembles a city under siege. Checking into the
Marriott there is like checking into a maximum-security prison.
economic and cultural lopsidedness is reflected in the countries' nuclear
competition. India has a command-and-control system that is firmly in the
hands of the civilian political leadership, a clearly stated "no first use"
policy, and a view that nukes are political weapons, not viable war-fighting
tools. In theory, Pakistan's nuclear trigger is also in civilian hands. But
in reality the military controls the process from top to bottom. Pakistan
has never formally stated its nuclear doctrine, but now it appears to be
contemplating the use of tactical nuclear weapons in a confrontation with
Pakistan hides behind its nuclear shield while allowing
terrorist groups to launch proxy attacks against India. The 2001 attack on
India's Parliament building and the 2008 Mumbai attack are the most
egregious examples. In 2004, after failing to retaliate after the 2001
attack, India announced a new war-fighting doctrine dubbed Cold Start, which
called for the capability to conduct cross-border lightning strikes within
72 hours. The idea was not to hold territory but to deliver a punishing blow
that would fall short of provoking a nuclear response.
reaction was to double down on developing its short-range battlefield
nuclear weapon, the Hatf IX. Any incursion from India would be met with a
nuclear response even if it meant Pakistan had to nuke its own territory.
Strategists on both sides agree that it would take more than one missile to
do the job, instantly escalating the crisis beyond anyone's control.
The last nuclear weapon state to seriously consider the use of battlefield
nuclear weapons was the United States during the first decades of the Cold
War, when NATO was faced with the overwhelming superiority of Soviet
conventional forces. But by the early 1970s, U.S. strategists no longer
believed these weapons had any military utility.
Pakistan seems to be
challenging India to a game of nuclear chicken. Its assurances that its
nuclear arsenal is safe and secure rest heavily on the argument that its
warheads and their delivery systems have been uncoupled and stored
separately in heavily guarded facilities. It would be very difficult for a
group of mutinous officers to assemble the necessary protocols for a launch
and well nigh impossible for a band of terrorists to do so. But mobile
battlefield weapons would be far more exposed.
Military analysts say
that a nuclear exchange triggered by miscalculation, miscommunication, or
panic is far more likely than terrorists stealing a weapon. The odds of such
an exchange increase with the deployment of battlefield nukes. If command
and control is delegated to field officers and they have weapons designed to
repel a conventional attack, there is a chance they will use them. The first
launch would create hysteria, and events would rapidly cascade out of
In a South Asian nuclear war, 20 million people could die
instantly. Firestorms would put millions of tons of smoke into the upper
atmosphere. Skies around the world would cloud over and nuclear winter would
set in for a decade. Agriculture would collapse and a billion poor people
could starve. This is the real threat.