The Big Payday
April 12, 2012: Pakistani politics continues to be dominated by politicians and parties that support Islamic radicals. While, in 2009, 53 percent of Pakistanis supported attacks on Islamic terror groups, that has since declined to under 40 percent. The reason is the security forces have shut down most Islamic terror operations in Punjab and Sind (where 85 percent of Pakistanis live). There is still a lot of terrorist violence, but it's almost all in the tribal areas along the Afghan border. That is considered alien territory to most Pakistanis, and most politicians and media continue to push Islamic radicalism and hatred of non-Moslem nations. The army continues to claim that India is a threat and that the military must have more money to deal with this (and pay the generous pensions granted to military officers).
In Pakistan's most northern tribal territories (Gilgit-Baltistan), violence by Islamic radicals, especially against Shia Moslems and locals who oppose the Pakistani government in general, has led over a hundred people killed or wounded so far this year. The army has imposed strict travel controls to try and contain the violence. In the last few days, over a hundred foreign tourists had to be evacuated by air. This area is claimed by India as part of the original Kashmir.
The Pakistani army continues to hunt down and battle Islamic terror groups in the tribal territories. Although North Waziristan is a sanctuary for Islamic radicals (mainly the Taliban), many Islamic radicals that are not affiliated with the Taliban continue to fight to establish control over parts of the tribal territories. So the army, police and tribal militias fight back. This violence leaves a hundred or more people dead each week in the tribal territories. So far this year, these operations have sent over 100,000 civilians fleeing their homes to escape the violence.
Pakistan is willing to reopen its Afghan border to NATO truck traffic if a large ($1,000-1,500 per truck) bribe is paid. Apparently the size of the bribe is calculated to be a bit below the additional cost of moving in goods via Central Asian railroads. As NATO forces depart Afghanistan in 2014, Pakistan does not want to miss out on a one-time opportunity to make some money from the heavy traffic generated by NATO forces shipping their equipment home. Pakistani officials see this as a big payday for themselves as little of that money (which could be north of $200 million) will go to anything like public welfare. Instead, the cash will go to politicians and other government officials. That is not unusual in Pakistan, it's the norm.
Political and religious violence in Karachi, Pakistan's largest and wealthiest city, have killed over 300 so far this year. While bad, the violence is down compared to last year, when over 1,700 died. The unrest in Karachi has cost the economy billions of dollars last year and some of those losses continue this year.
|"The chief aim of all government is to preserve the freedom of the citizen. His control over his person, his property, his movements, his business, his desires should be restrained only so far as the public welfare imperatively demands. The world is in more danger of being governed too much than too little.
It is the teaching of all history that liberty can only be preserved in small areas. Local self-government is, therefore, indispensable to liberty. A centralized and distant bureaucracy is the worst of all tyranny.
Taxation can justly be levied for no purpose other than to provide revenue for the support of the government. To tax one person, class or section to provide revenue for the benefit of another is none the less robbery because done under the form of law and called taxation."
John W. Davis, Democratic Presidential Candidate, 1924. Davis was one of the greatest trial and appellate lawyers in US history. He also served as the US Ambassador to the UK.