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04/21/2011

Pakistan

I was going through some old periodicals and came across the September/October 2010 edition of The National Interest and an essay by Pakistani journalist and writer, Ahmed Rashid, whose opinions mirror mine. While the piece is six months old, the main points are easily just as appropriate for today, if not more so given recent developments in his homeland.

The Anarchic Republic of Pakistan

[Excerpts]

“There is perhaps no other political-military elite in the world whose aspirations for great-power regional status, whose desire to overextend and outmatch itself with meager resources, so outstrips reality as that of Pakistan. If it did not have such dire consequences for 170 million Pakistanis and nearly 2 billion people living in South Asia, this magical thinking would be amusing….

“For a state whose economy is on the skids and dependent on the IMF for massive bailouts, whose elite refuse to pay taxes, whose army drains an estimated 20 percent of the country’s annual budget, Pakistan continues to insist that peace with India is impossible for decades to come. For a country that was founded as a modern democracy for Muslims and non-Muslims alike and claims to be the bastion of moderate Islam, it has the worst discriminatory laws against minorities in the Muslim world and is being ripped apart through sectarian and extremist violence by radical groups who want to establish a new Islamic emirate in South Asia.

“Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment, or ‘deep state’ as it is called, has lost over 2,300 soldiers battling these terrorists – the majority in the last 15 months after much U.S. cajoling to go after at least the Pakistani (if not the Afghan) Taliban. Despite these losses and considerable low morale in the armed forces, it still follows a pick-and-choose policy toward extremists, refusing to fight those who will confront India on its behalf as well as those Taliban who kill Western and Afghan soldiers in the war next-door. An army that has received nearly $12 billion in direct military aid from the United States since 2001, and has favored-nation status from NATO, still keeps the leaders of the Afghan Taliban in safe refuge. Pakistan’s civilians, politicians and intellectuals are helpless; they cannot make the deep state see sense as long as the West continues its duplicitous policies of propping up the military-intelligence establishment in opposition to popular society while demanding that the Pakistani civilian government wrest back control of the country.

“Now there is a serious and deadly overlap – Pakistan’s extremists are determined to topple the political system and the deep state. The army is not oblivious to this reality, but it seems unwilling or unable to tackle the real issues at hand. ‘This is nothing but a creeping coup d’etat by the forces of darkness, a coup that will spare no one,’ wrote analyst Kamran Shafi in the Dawn newspaper this summer. ‘It is them against everyone else – an Islamic Emirate of Pakistan is the goal,’ he added.

“The deep state is failing its own people, who are in turn becoming more traumatized by the incessant violence, the lack of justice or security, and the perennial economic crisis. This only leads the civilian government to be even more inept, inconsequential and incapable of improving governance….

“As Islamic extremist violence spreads, the very fabric of the country is falling apart. Mapping how widespread and varied the violence is gives but a hint of the disaster facing Pakistani society. Growing poverty, inflation and unemployment have led to an unprecedented increase in suicides – sometimes of entire families. One hundred ninety-one people killed themselves in the first six months of this year [2010]; at more than one death a day, it is one of the highest rates in the world. And when 113 of those happen in the country’s richest province (Punjab), it is obvious not a single Pakistani is surviving this unscathed – no matter how seemingly privileged. Violence against women is also on the rise; 8,500 violent incidents took place last year. One thousand four hundred of those were murders. Another 680 were suicides….

“The army’s track record shows that it cannot offer political or economic solutions for Pakistan. Indeed, the history of military regimes here shows that they only deepen economic and political problems, widen the social, ethnic and class divide, and alienate the country from international investment and aid.

“Today there is much greater awareness among the Pakistani people that extremism poses a severe threat to the country and their livelihoods. There is also a much greater acceptance that ultimately civilian rule is better than military or mullah dictatorship. What is still lacking in the war against extremism, however, is a consistent and powerful message from both the government and the army that they will combat all terrorists – not just those who threaten their security. Pakistan’s selective approach to extremism has to end before it can defeat the problem and move on to become what its founders originally intended it to be.”

Hot Spots will return in three weeks. Heading overseas for a bit.

Brian Trumbore


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-04/21/2011-      
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Hot Spots

04/21/2011

Pakistan

I was going through some old periodicals and came across the September/October 2010 edition of The National Interest and an essay by Pakistani journalist and writer, Ahmed Rashid, whose opinions mirror mine. While the piece is six months old, the main points are easily just as appropriate for today, if not more so given recent developments in his homeland.

The Anarchic Republic of Pakistan

[Excerpts]

“There is perhaps no other political-military elite in the world whose aspirations for great-power regional status, whose desire to overextend and outmatch itself with meager resources, so outstrips reality as that of Pakistan. If it did not have such dire consequences for 170 million Pakistanis and nearly 2 billion people living in South Asia, this magical thinking would be amusing….

“For a state whose economy is on the skids and dependent on the IMF for massive bailouts, whose elite refuse to pay taxes, whose army drains an estimated 20 percent of the country’s annual budget, Pakistan continues to insist that peace with India is impossible for decades to come. For a country that was founded as a modern democracy for Muslims and non-Muslims alike and claims to be the bastion of moderate Islam, it has the worst discriminatory laws against minorities in the Muslim world and is being ripped apart through sectarian and extremist violence by radical groups who want to establish a new Islamic emirate in South Asia.

“Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment, or ‘deep state’ as it is called, has lost over 2,300 soldiers battling these terrorists – the majority in the last 15 months after much U.S. cajoling to go after at least the Pakistani (if not the Afghan) Taliban. Despite these losses and considerable low morale in the armed forces, it still follows a pick-and-choose policy toward extremists, refusing to fight those who will confront India on its behalf as well as those Taliban who kill Western and Afghan soldiers in the war next-door. An army that has received nearly $12 billion in direct military aid from the United States since 2001, and has favored-nation status from NATO, still keeps the leaders of the Afghan Taliban in safe refuge. Pakistan’s civilians, politicians and intellectuals are helpless; they cannot make the deep state see sense as long as the West continues its duplicitous policies of propping up the military-intelligence establishment in opposition to popular society while demanding that the Pakistani civilian government wrest back control of the country.

“Now there is a serious and deadly overlap – Pakistan’s extremists are determined to topple the political system and the deep state. The army is not oblivious to this reality, but it seems unwilling or unable to tackle the real issues at hand. ‘This is nothing but a creeping coup d’etat by the forces of darkness, a coup that will spare no one,’ wrote analyst Kamran Shafi in the Dawn newspaper this summer. ‘It is them against everyone else – an Islamic Emirate of Pakistan is the goal,’ he added.

“The deep state is failing its own people, who are in turn becoming more traumatized by the incessant violence, the lack of justice or security, and the perennial economic crisis. This only leads the civilian government to be even more inept, inconsequential and incapable of improving governance….

“As Islamic extremist violence spreads, the very fabric of the country is falling apart. Mapping how widespread and varied the violence is gives but a hint of the disaster facing Pakistani society. Growing poverty, inflation and unemployment have led to an unprecedented increase in suicides – sometimes of entire families. One hundred ninety-one people killed themselves in the first six months of this year [2010]; at more than one death a day, it is one of the highest rates in the world. And when 113 of those happen in the country’s richest province (Punjab), it is obvious not a single Pakistani is surviving this unscathed – no matter how seemingly privileged. Violence against women is also on the rise; 8,500 violent incidents took place last year. One thousand four hundred of those were murders. Another 680 were suicides….

“The army’s track record shows that it cannot offer political or economic solutions for Pakistan. Indeed, the history of military regimes here shows that they only deepen economic and political problems, widen the social, ethnic and class divide, and alienate the country from international investment and aid.

“Today there is much greater awareness among the Pakistani people that extremism poses a severe threat to the country and their livelihoods. There is also a much greater acceptance that ultimately civilian rule is better than military or mullah dictatorship. What is still lacking in the war against extremism, however, is a consistent and powerful message from both the government and the army that they will combat all terrorists – not just those who threaten their security. Pakistan’s selective approach to extremism has to end before it can defeat the problem and move on to become what its founders originally intended it to be.”

Hot Spots will return in three weeks. Heading overseas for a bit.

Brian Trumbore