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 judges.

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 him.

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.

The 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 clashes.

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.

"We are 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 government.
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.

Margaret Thatcher and Benazir Bhutto

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 in 2004.

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

By William Dalrymple
The New York Review of Books
Volume 56, Number 2, February 12, 2009

Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of
Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia
By Ahmed Rashid
Viking, 484 pages

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 rough justice.

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.

Across 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 zones.

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 flourish.

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.

Ahmed 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 in general."

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.

By 2004, 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.

For 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."

Even 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 authorities.

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.

Rashid 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 crucial country.

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 too.

Pakistani Nukes

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 the army."

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 Islamic extremists.

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."

Pakistan openly 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 populous province.

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.

As 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.

Pakistan 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.

This once 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.

Intelligence 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.

The 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

By Ahmed Rashid
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."

In 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.

Eleven percent 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.

American officials 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 of Islamabad.

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 India.

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 parties.

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 them.

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 ago.

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.

Pakistan Update

By Tariq Ali
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.

The 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.

Fazlollah's reign 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.

Two senior 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.

In classified 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.

In 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.

Osama 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.

The 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!

Denuclearize Pakistan

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 investment.

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.

The 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

Christopher Hitchens
Vanity Fair, July 2011

Salman Rushdie's 1983 novel Shame 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 Abbottabad.

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 essential".

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

By Tom Hundley
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.

This 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 India.

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.

Pakistan's 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 control.

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.