Friday, November 02, 2007

Militants Draw New Front Line Inside Pakistan

I read the above headline and the attached article in today’s NYTimes with some trepidation and concern.

November 2, 2007
Militants Draw New Front Line Inside Pakistan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan,
Nov. 1 — For much of the last century, the mountainous region of Swat was ruled
as a princely kingdom where a benign autocrat, the wali, bestowed schools for
girls, health care for everyone and the chance to get a degree abroad for the talented.
Now the region is the newest front line in the battle between Islamic militants, who are sympathetic to the
Taliban and Al Qaeda, and Pakistan’s nervous security forces. For the first time, heavy fighting has moved beyond Pakistan’s tribal fringe and into more settled areas of the country.
The battles are part of what has become an expanding insurgency within Pakistan, aimed directly at the government of Gen.
Pervez Musharraf, the president, rather than at the NATO and American forces across the Afghan border who have been the target for several years.
Many here say the militancy is fueled by anger over the government alliance with the Bush administration and what is seen as a pro-American agenda that has grown in prominence with the return of the opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. She has accused the militants of trying to take over the country.
The conflict in Swat reflects many of the reasons Pakistan has become such a
dangerous place in recent years: the aggressiveness of the militants, the passivity of the government and its security forces, and the starved civilian apparatus, including schools and hospitals, which has failed to provide the backbone for a counterinsurgency strategy.

With the Iraq war costing upwards of 200 million a day (not to mention the cost in lives and the indirect costs like interest on borrowing and care of the wounded) and the saber rattling with Iran, and an overstretched military, I am afraid we again continue to ignore the peril of what is going on in Pakistan.
I could go on but I am just frustrated at the state of affairs and the fact that things may not change soon.


Lotus Reads said...

hi Sanjay!

You are so right to highlight this...the Newsweek (I think it was last week's issue) did a cover story on this problem in Pakistan and their header "The Most Dangerous Nation in the World Isn't Iraq. It's Pakistan" ,says it all, doesn't it?

With the country's nuclear arsenal, political instability, huge population of radical Islamists etc. Al Qaeda seems to have everything it wants in that one country, scary isn't it?

What do you think the solution is? Isn't the problem far greater than what any government there can solve? I don't know, Pakistan seems to me like an pressure cooker about to burst!

Id it is said...

I read it too, and like you , with some concern!
Last year Dr. Zia Mian a Prof at Princeton invited us to view a documentary on Kashmir made by him, an Indian filmmaker from Mumbai (don't remember his name) and another Prof from Lahore. It was a a well made documentary no doubt, gave a balanced and objective representation of the Kashmir problem. According to the film a serious and age old conflict like this one can have no immediate and sure solution, and if anything at all is worth considering a solution it'll have to be economic; not political, or UN negotiated. I'll see if I can go into the archives and find you the name of the documentary.

Sanjay said...

Hi Lotus, how are you? :)

Oh wow, Newsweek had an issue with Pakistan as the cover story? I have to see if I can get to read that. Thank you for the heads up!
And you know they are so right about that header. Pakistan is trouble spot.

And you are spot on with your observation that AQ does seem to have what it wants in that one nation. It is scary.

I am not sure if what I am proposing is a solution. There are several things that may help..
The ISI has to be reigned in.
Musharraf or whoever becomes the head of the country has to stop encouraging the militants and stop ISI from functioning as a state within a state in some matters.
Economy.. They have to do a better job of providing better opportunities for their folks.
Stop meddling in Afghanistan, reign in the Taliban within their borders.
Religious schools the need for these will go away of the government does not fail at providing schools.
Nothing new here this has been talked about.
I think the best that can be hoped for from a more cynical perspective is that things don't go any more bad.
I think I read someplace that the US is helping Pakistan make sure the nukes are secure and they may have a contingency plan to go grab some if something really bad happens. Who knows?

I do agree with what you are saying that the problem seems far greater than what the government can solve. The genie may already be out of the bottle so to say.

Thank you so much my friend for your wonderful comment, I loved reading what you had to say.

moegirl said...

Its scary, with the instability and in Pakistan, and with Turkey's excursions into Iraq it makes me afraid of a horrific region wide conflict.

Sanjay said...

@Id. Thank you so very much for your comment. I agree that this situation is worrisome, and also agree that a problem like KAshmir cannot be reolved quickly. As you said the solution may have to be with a significant economic and political content with no room for violence.
But I am not holding my breath on that one. Thank you for trying to find out the name of the documentary. I would love to see it if I can.

@Moegirl. I share you worries about a region wide conflict, although the chances of one happening are a bit low but very real. Thank you for your comment