The Ugly Choice
July 27, 2012: The Pakistani leadership is caught in a trap of its own making. Since the 1970s the local media has (often under government pressure) enthusiastically backed Islamic radicalism and hatred of infidels (non-Moslems, especially all those Indian Hindus). Efforts to make peace with India and the West are crippled by the large number of Pakistanis who still believe the decades of anti-infidel propaganda and cannot be quickly turned around. Decades of spewing hatred at India and the West, and support of terrorism has created a monster that is now at war with Pakistan as well.
The wealthy families that run the country are beset on one side by reformers determined to shut down the corruption that has made the ruling clans wealthy while crippling the economy and civil society. The rulers are also under very deadly attack by the Islamic radical groups who want Pakistan to continue supporting a religious movement that demands restrictions on women, education and social progress. For the ruling families, siding with the Islamic radicalism would maintain their power, but only as rulers of a medieval dictatorship. This would be a Pakistan that would fall farther behind the rest of the world in terms of economic growth, education and so much more. Yet to halt the Islamic radical disease means casualties to the families and years of violence and uncertainty. It's an ugly choice, with heavy losses no matter which way you go.
The decades of pro-Islamic radical propaganda has created popular support for anti-West political parties and forced the major parties to pay lip-service to anti-Indian and anti-Western hostility. This has made it impossible, so far, to achieve a peace treaty with India (continuing 65 years of war or hostility). Many Pakistanis accept the idea that Pakistan has been under attack all that time and has been an innocent victim of outside forces. Politicians have found that pushing the "its not our fault" angle is an easy way to gain followers. Even the pervasive corruption inside Pakistan can be dismissed as a foreign plot. All this makes meaningful reform in Pakistan very difficult.
After four years of fighting, the Pakistani Army has been unable to shut down the Pushtun tribal rebels (operating as the Pakistani Taliban) in the Khyber and Bajaur areas of the tribal territories. There are less than a thousand armed tribesmen resisting government control, and over 5,000 troops on the ground seeking out and fighting the Taliban whenever they can catch them (which is not often). Pakistani aircraft and paid informants on the ground are constantly looking, and occasionally find Taliban camps, which are bombed or shelled by artillery. That kills some Taliban, but most usually gets away. Fighting the lowlanders (over 80 percent of Pakistanis live in Sind and Punjab provinces) is an honored and popular activity among the Pushtun, even though over a million civilians have fled their homes to avoid the artillery, air attacks and violence in general. While most Pushtun just want to get on with their lives, the local Taliban want to turn Pakistan into a religious dictatorship, heavily influenced by pious and heavily armed Taliban gunmen. This is not acceptable to most Pakistanis, but there are still thousands of Pushtuns who support the idea, and over 500 of them who are out there killing soldiers and civilians who actively resist the Taliban in the Khyber and Bajaur areas.
Afghanistan accuses Pakistani troops of firing over 300 rockets and artillery shells into eastern Afghanistan (Kunar province) over the few weeks and over 1,300 in the past three months, apparently in an effort to hit Pakistani Taliban bases in Afghanistan. This sort of thing has been going on for over two years, and has become more intense lately, leaving dozens of Afghan civilians dead or wounded in the last week or so. The rockets and shells disrupt economic activity, especially farming. Pakistan denies the attacks, even though the Afghans have plenty of evidence (in the form of fragments of Pakistani made rockets and shells).
Pakistan is dismissive of Afghan protests and either ignores them, or dismisses them with denials. Pakistan considers Afghanistan a client state. The Afghans are considered a collection of fractious tribes pretending to be a nation. With no access to the sea, most Afghan road connections to ports are with Pakistan. The Afghans resent this, especially since for thousands of years invasions of northern India (which, historically, lowland Pakistan was a part) came out of Afghanistan where many Pushtun tribesmen would join the invaders. Pakistan and India are well aware of this, and still consider the Pushtuns a bunch of bloodthirsty savages from the mountains. Afghanistan has only been around for a few centuries, and Pakistan was carved out of British India in 1947 (before that it was a collection of feudal states and tribal territories). When you get right down to it, Pakistan's big problem is that it contains two-thirds of the Pushtun people (who are 15 percent of Pakistan's population) while Afghanistan contains the other third (who are 40 percent of Afghanistan's population.) "Pushtunstan" is a nation of 30-40 million Pushtuns caught between Pakistan (still over 150 million people without the Pushtuns) and northern Afghanistan (with about 18 million non-Pushtuns) Without Pushtuns, Afghanistan would become yet another Central Asian country with a small population (neighboring Tajikistan has 7.7 million and Uzbekistan has 30 million). But Pushtunstan is never going to happen because the Pushtuns have long been divided by tribal politics and cultural differences. When the Pushtun aren't fighting outsiders, they fight each other. The violent and fractious Pushtuns are a core problem in the region, and have been for centuries. There is no easy solution to this.
The Afghans refuse to attack the Pushtun tribes in eastern Pakistan that are sheltering the Pakistani Taliban. Doing so would stir up those tribes against the Afghan government and would greatly annoy most Afghans who are angry at over a decade of Pakistan providing sanctuary (in North Waziristan and Baluchistan) for the Afghan Taliban and other Islamic terror groups that sill carry out attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies these sanctuaries exist and the lies become more painful with age.
The Indian campaign against Maoists in eastern India is doing considerable damage to the leftist rebels. In response, the Maoists have apparently held a summit meeting with senior commanders and decided to organize one or more major attacks on the paramilitary police battalions arrayed against them. The Maoist have a problem in that they are running out of places to hide. The police commando and elite recon units are getting better at tracking down Maoist units and their remote bases. Without these bases the Maoists cannot maintain, and concentrate large (hundreds of gunmen) groups for major attacks. When Maoists can kill dozens of police in one action, it has a demoralizing impact on the police and disrupts operations over a wide area. The police are still vulnerable to these large attacks, and are currently hustling to find large groups of Maoists before they can gang up on a police camp again.
In Indian Kashmir, an ancient Hindu shrine (Kapal Mochan) has been reopened after being closed for two decades because of the Islamic violence in Kashmir, especially the efforts to drive all Hindus out of the area. There are many Hindu shrines in Kashmir, which are still visited by Hindus from all over India each year.
Nemo me impune lacesset,
|"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.