Pakistan, Part Deux
Last week I ended with a remark from a former Pakistani
President, Ayub Khan, that "it was dangerous to be a friend of the
U.S." Last week, Prime Minister Sharif learned this lesson when
he was toppled by his former army chief of staff, General
Last summer, after more than 2 months of clashes between Indian
and Pakistani forces, Sharif bowed to U.S. pressure during a visit
to Washington. One official said later that the prime minister
"had brought disgrace to the Pakistani army by bowing down
before the U.S. administration for an abrupt pullout." The army
was in a state of turmoil afterwards. The government had
Of course it was Musharraf who first authorized the incursion
into the disputed region of Kashmir. Musharraf was humiliated.
And later, when India shot down a Pakistani navy training flight,
killing 16, Sharif had rejected Musharraf''s demand for a tit-for-tat
response against India.
On top of the dissension that was developing, Pakistan''s military
leadership didn''t want the country to sign the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty until India agreed to sign it. Sharif, under
pressure from Washington, wanted to sign.
[Those who blasted the Republicans for voting down the treaty
last week should know that there is little chance India and
Pakistan will sign, regardless of whether or not the U.S. does].
Was Prime Minister Sharif a good man? No. He was a corrupt,
ugly figure, rivaling the worst in Pakistan''s history. And once
under house arrest, no one took up Sharif''s cause which speaks
volumes in itself. So now the question becomes what kind of man
Musharraf, 56, has a brother who is a resident of the U.S., as
well as a son living in Cambridge, MA. He speaks fluent English.
He is known to be a courageous military man yet not very bright.
And, most importantly as it concerns world peace, he is a hawk
Back in the 1980s, half of the Pakistani generals had been through
U.S. training schools. Now the figure is 10% or less. We have
lost touch with our ally''s military leadership and that isn''t a good
Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, herself a totally corrupt
figure who ruled from 1988 to 1990 and 1993 to 1996, had the
following to say when asked by a Newsweek reporter to
comment on the awful situation in her country. "Many Pakistanis
have been talking about this - that we need to wake up and save
our own nation because the rest of the world can''t save us."
But Pakistan has been a basket case since it was granted
independence in 1947. The military has ruled 25 of those 52
years. The question remains, "If Pakistanis are not competent to
govern themselves, why would Pakistanis wearing uniforms be
any different?" Let''s explore this in more detail.
Pakistan is one of those places I just don''t need to visit anytime
soon. When the Indian empire was split in 1947, it was split
between Hindus and Muslims. Hindus in India, Muslims in
Pakistan (though there is a large Muslim population in India as
well). A.M. Rosenthal has written that "Both India and Pakistan
have a powerful sliver of their population who are plain villains -
politicians who deliberately splinter their society instead of
knitting it, men of immense wealth who zealously evade taxes and
the public good, (and) religious bottom-feeders who spread
violence between Hindu and Muslim in India and Muslim and
Muslim in Pakistan."
Robert Kaplan, author of the book "Balkan Ghosts" that I have
often referred to in the past, writes of the high population growth
in Pakistan, as well as other countries in similar situations like
India, Indonesia, and China. "Pakistan is just one of many
countries in which high population growth has fueled
urbanization, unemployment and depletion of resources, which
have made the state increasingly hard to govern except through
Take the city of Karachi, for example. Teeming with 10 million
people (the total population in Pakistan is around 140 million),
and growing by 500,000 each year, many of the inhabitants live in
abject poverty. Huge numbers of young people reach working
age without any education or prospects of employment. It is a
breeding ground for extremist religious movements which are
often the product of urbanization because family links weaken in
impersonal cities and religion replaces the social cohesion of
village life. Karachi has witnessed an urban civil war among
Sunnis, Shiites and other groups.
Over time, the people have no other choice, it seems, but to turn
to the military for solutions. Steven Weisman writes, "The
original building blocks of Pakistani society - the clergy, military
and the wealthy feudal lords who owned most of the land - have
fractured. Today the military is split into secular and Islamic
camps. The landlord''s power has flowed to a newly wealthy
business class represented by former prime minister Sharif. The
clergy is split into factions, some of which are allied with Saudi
Arabia, Iran, the terrorist Osama bin Laden, the Taliban in
Afghanistan and others." Weisman adds:
"The Pakistani army generals are trying to convince themselves
that defeat in Kashmir was snathched from the jaws of victory by
Sharif and his stupid diplomats. This theory recurs in Pakistani
history, and it is very dangerous."
Pakistan spends about 30% of its government budget on its army
of 500,000 soldiers. By contrast, India spends 15% on the
military, a force which now numbers some 1.1 million. Pakistan
and India have fought countless wars and Pakistan has been
defeated each time. So to make up for its deficiencies, Pakistan
has felt it necessary to proceed with a nuclear missile program.
Of course, the fact that India is also proceeding with its own, only
And who controls the nukes? Benazir Bhutto says that while she
was prime minister she had no control of the program. It was all
handled by the military. And when you look at the situation
today, with a new military dictatorship in the offing (don''t believe
all of these peace overtures Musharraf seems to be making), and a
leadership which has links to the Taliban of Afghanistan as well as
other Islamic terrorists, it''s easy to be worried.
As for the U.S. and their influence, it is virtually nonexistent. We
hitched our wagon during the Cold War to Pakistan over India.
That may have been a big mistake. And, after years of sanctions
levied on Pakistan to protest their nuclear program, we are now
at the mercy of a total stranger in Musharraf.
Pakistan has been a nation in desperate search for its identity. The
military seems to be defining Pakistan''s purpose as an endless
jihad against India. And as the country implodes, those nuclear
weapons that they possess, primitive as they may be, pose a real
threat to the world. A conflict here can escalate quickly.
[You don''t expect me to write anything positive, do you?]