Pakhtunkhwa Times

Who Will Save Pakistan? (The Guardian)

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on March 4, 2009

The attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore shows the folly of politicians like Imran Khan who placate the Taliban

Guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 3 March 2009, Simon Tisdall

The audacious attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket players as they travelled through Lahore has underscored fears that politically fractured, economically destitute and militarily challenged Pakistan, if not already a failed state, is heading rapidly towards the status of international outcast.

The virtual certainty that Pakistan’s days of hosting Test cricket are over for the foreseeable future is the least of the country’s problems. The attack in the heartlands of the Punjab, the army’s traditional stronghold and the most populous province, looked like a deliberate throwing down of the gauntlet to army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

It is barely six months since the democratically elected civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari succeeded in ousting General Pervez Musharraf, a Kayani predecessor who had ruled the country for nearly a decade following a 1999 coup d’etat. But Zardari and his Pakistan People’s party (PPP) are mired in domestic controversy and appear increasingly unable to manage Pakistan’s multiplying problems.
Kayani has vowed to keep the military out of politics, a pledge he reportedly renewed during talks in Washington last week on a new, combined military and political strategy for what the Americans call “Afpak” – Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the Obama administration’s confidence in Zardari, as with the Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, is wearing thin.

If Kayani and his fellow generals felt obliged to step in “for the good of the country”, then Washington, more concerned about defeating the Taliban and al-Qaida than preserving a democratic system that daily appears to be more and more of a travesty of itself, might well go along. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time.

Like other Pakistani commentators, author and journalist Ahmed Rashid pinned blame for the attack against the Sri Lankan team squarely on Islamist militants with whom Pakistan is fighting a spreading battle along its north-western flank. Involvement of Baluchi separtists or Tamil Tiger renegades from Sri Lanka itself was largely discounted.

There was also broad consensus about the purpose of the attack, which was widely compared, in terms of tactics and aims, to that carried out by the Punjabi group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, in Mumbai last November. “I think this is a deliberate attempt to undermine the government at the time when there is a huge political crisis in the country,” Rashid said. “They are trying to create a vacuum of power in which eventually they can take over.”

If internal chaos is the aim of the jihadis, they are being ably aided and abetted by Pakistan’s mainstream politicians. It is only a year since civilian governance returned to Islamabad, with the principal parties promising to work together.

That was then. The vicious infighting now under way between Zardari’s PPP and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League is strongly reminiscent of the epic battles between Sharif and Zardari’s murdered wife, Benazir Bhutto, that led directly to Musharraf’s coup. If unchecked, it may not only encourage the militants; it may also open up a path to power to Pakistan’s religious parties, in alliance with or separate from Sharif.
Last week’s supreme court ruling barring Sharif, and his brother, Shahbaz, chief minister of Punjab, from elected office, was widely seen as a political putsch engineered by Zardari. His decision to sack Punjab’s government and imposed direct rule recklessly upped the ante even further. Now the Sharifs and their angry supporters are planning to lead a massive protest march on the capital on March 12.

The march will commemorate the dismissal two years ago of the chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who Sharif says should be reinstated. It is being organised by a lawyers movement but will also be supported by Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist party which wants sharia law adopted throughout Pakistan. This is an unholy alliance, even by Pakistani standards. The potential for a violent confrontation, and for a further, possibly fatal weakening of Zardari’s grip on power, is not inconsiderable.

The president’s authority is already under fierce fire on several other fronts, not least the impenetrable north-western tribal areas where Pakistani Taliban groups are variously reported to have formed an alliance to fight Nato in Afghanistan, to be in the process of reneging on a recent truce, or to be giving up the fight in agencies such as Bajur.

This confusion is typical in a region where alliances shift as quickly as the winds blowing off the Hindu Kush. But one thing is certain: the government in Islamabad is not in control of events and, more often than not, is a victim of them. For instance, Washington’s anger at the peace deal in Swat allowing the introduction of sharia law there is tempered by the expectation that, like previous agreements with the ungovernable Pashtun hill tribes stretching back to the days of the Raj, it will not stick.

The US is offering massive new infusions of economic aid, in addition to conditional military assistance, to help root out the jihadi menace. But at a time of growing febrility, there’s little doubt US pressure, increasing under Barack Obama, is also making matters worse, at least in the short term.

The rise in cross-border attacks by US forces using Predator drones armed with Hellfire missiles since Zardari took power has further alienated tribal leaders and encouraged radicalisation, Pakistani officials say. Washington argues the policy is necessary in the absence of better answers from Pakistan. Critics say Zardari has secretly sold out the country’s sovereignty in return for Obama’s support.

Pakistan’s economic troubles, compounded by a fast expanding population, chronic poverty, high unemployment, and lack of education, have added to a sense that the country is isolated and in danger of imploding. Islamabad was obliged to accept a $7.6bn emergency IMF loan package in November. It may yet need much more to stave off collapse.

Heightened tensions with India following the Mumbai attacks, friction with Afghanistan’s government over security, China’s rising alarm over its neighbour’s predicament, and international worries about the safety of Pakistan’s unregulated nuclear weapons stockpile form the wider context to this dramatic, apparently ineluctable descent.

Pakistan’s disintegration, if that is what is now being witnessed, is a tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions, a riveting spectacle, and a clear and present danger to international security. But who in the world can stop it?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/mar/03/sri-lanka-cricket-team-attack-pakistan

Some Comments:

@sumant: “Clearly the intolerant aggressive and poorly educated Pashtuns prefer an austere medieval life style and should be allowed to live in that manner if they so choose.”

You are woefully misinformed. The Pashtuns have demonstrated, time and again, that they are secular, liberal and modern in their outlook. In recent elections, they have elected the Awami National Party (which is the oldest secular and liberal party in Pakistan) with absolute majority. You should also remember that Pashtun society has the history of Khudai-khidmatgars : nonviolent freedom fighters of Bacha Khan (who was a close friend of Mahatma, and known as Frontier Gandhi) . Is there any other politician in Pakistan of the stature of Bacha Khan in the struggle for independence. (Jinnah does not even count because he was from India.) Pashtuns are a political minded people and are very amenable to democracy. In fact, they have tradition of republicanism and democracy running back 2000 years.

If Pashtun polity is in a mess, that is purely a result of the meddling of foreign powers. Pakistani army has encouraged fundamentalist Islamists to curb growing nationalist feelings in Pukthoonkhwa. The Pak government has imprisoned Bacha Khan (along with several other nationalist leaders) for 30 long years. If we don’t see any democracy flourishing in Pakistan, that is purely a result of their own doing.

Not to be outdone, the Americans and CIA have pumped arms and money to fundamentalists in their covert war against the soviets. Thus, absolute no-names such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar became supreme warlords dripping with money and guns. How can any secular politician stand up against this type of meddling ?

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“Some facts will make the things a bit clear. The President of Pakistan has kept his family and all of his property and business interests in foreign countries. Most of the top politicians including PML N leaders have all their assets in foreign countries. This is also true about Flag Staff of Armed Forces and Top bureaucrats and businessmen. It looks like Pakistan’s ruling elite has no faith in the future of the country. They know something which ordinary people do not know. Things are very serious and frightening too.”

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“Who will save Pakistan?

Only the Pakistani people can save Pakistan.
They need to rise against the Pakistani Army, ISI and the feudal families who use the Taliban and various other terrorist groups to do their dirty work in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan so that they can play their power games while innocent civilians get killed. They need to see that the Pakistani army and the elite are whipping up anti-American and anti-Indian sentiments to maintain their power and economic might while the rest of Pakistan starves.

Unless the people of Pakistan realise the nefarious and destructive nature of the Islamic terrorists and their backers, they are going to become another failed state”

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Simon Tisdall’s words on Pakistan reflects so accurately the western powers approach and response to what is happening in Pakistan at the moment,that a reader of his article could be forgiven for thinking,that he was a spokesman for American foreign policy and it’s military commanders.

The west has long meddled in the internal affairs of Pakistan,with a view to installing a sympathetic puppet,who will carry out policies best suited to western interests,regardless of what that might mean for the indigenous population,which very often means being diametrically opposed to what the people want,or their aspirations.

Indeed, Simon admits in his article that the western powers would be better off with a tyrannical despot dictator,totally devoid of any democratic credentials,as long as this despot was sympathetic to the western cause.

When the west operates to such double standards,is it any wonder that western values are being rejected by those that they would want on their side ?.
One would have to imagine what any western country,with the population of Pakistan,a nuclear power,would make of interference in their internal affairs,by a foreign country,do you suppose that this situation would be accepted by the population,without massive social unrest and protest ?,causing a fragmentation of the system that allows for normal governmental control of it’s people ?.

Why then is it always read that the normal reactions of a non western country’s population,would not be the same as they could expect from their own,when being subjected to the same thing, being so amazed and surprised,when they discover they are not.The arrogance is breathtaking !!.

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