Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Pakistan’s tribal areas; can money go where troops can’t?

Amid all the talk about whether U.S. troops would, could or should go into Pakistan’s tribal areas to track down al Qaeda and the Taliban, here are two items putting forward an alternative — that money might succeed where military power fails.

In a feature called “US aims to turn hostile Pakistani tribes friendly“, Reuters Bureau Chief in Islamabad Simon Cameron-Moore says that the United States this year will start spending in earnest $750 million in the hope of making Pakistan’s unruly tribal lands less hospitable for al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Protest in Peshawar

“The United States fears Islamist militants using satellite telephones and laptops in mud-walled compounds on Pakistan’s fabled north west frontier are plotting a devastating attack in the West, just as al Qaeda did from Afghanistan in 2001,” writes Cameron-Moore, to explain why the Americans are thinking of spending money on developing Pakistan’s semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

In a detailed analysis of the insurrection in Pakistan’s tribal areas, which includes such telling details as the literacy rate for women (officially three percent for women and ”probably much less”), Brian Cloughley, an expert on the Pakistan army, says that the rebellion in FATA cannot be defeated by military means alone. In a paper written for the Pakistan Security Research Unit at Britain’s Bradford University, he suggests instead “the time-tried and effective means of discreetly-implemented, generous bribery”.

from FaithWorld:

Pakistan’s “Mother Teresa” detained by U.S. immigration

Abdul Sattar Edhi holds baby recovered from human smuggling ring, 15 March 2002

(Update: Edhi returned to Karachi on Feb. 4.)

When U.S. immigration officers question an arriving Pakistani for eight hours and seize his passport, they presumably suspect some kind of link to Islamist terrorism. Abdul Sattar Edhi, 79, "has links" to some horrifying violence, so to speak, but it's hard to imagine they're the kind that immigration officers may have suspected when they detained him at New York's Kennedy Airport on Jan. 9.

Edhi and his colleagues care for -- and, when necessary, bury -- the victims of violence in his native city Karachi. His private Edhi Welfare Trust foundation runs an extensive ambulance service, buries unclaimed bodies and maintains centres for orphans, the homeless, the addicted and the mentally ill. In a country where state-run welfare services are basic or non-existant, his charity work is so unusual and prominent that he is often called "Pakistan's Mother Teresa".

Karzai’s Ashdown snub and the Pakistan link

Last week’s offer by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to send U.S. troops to Pakistan in the face of Pakistani opposition has provoked a deluge of comments on the Internet and in the blogosphere.

Presidents Karzai and Musharraf

One of the more interesting takes comes from former Indian ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar. He writes in the Asia Times Online that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s decision to snub Paddy Ashdown as the west’s choice of UN envoy to Kabul may also help President Pervez Musharraf resist western pressure. 

America’s unwelcome offer

Brushing off Pakistan’s insistence that it does not want foreign troops on its soil, the United States says it is ready to send its soldiers to help the Pakistan army fight against Taliban and al Qaeda militants. Defense Secretary Robert GatesDefense Secretary Robert Gates said last week the United States was “ready, willing and able” to send troops to Pakistan.

In The Huffington Post, Ambassador Marc Ginsberg sees this as more than an innocent offer but rather “a trial balloon” by Gates meant to test the waters for sending U.S.  troops to Pakistan. “All this is to say that the real war against al Qaeda has yet to be fought where it counts — in Pakistan…” he writes.

Lawyers’ brief

With the father of the nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, himself a lawyer, the legal profession has a certain resonance in Pakistan that it does not have elsewhere. But the lawyers’ movement which led the opposition to President Pervez Musharraf last year had slipped off the front pages with the death of Benazir Bhutto. This week, a number of people have pushed the issue forward again.

In a column in the Daily Times,  called Who is Afraid of Aitzaz Ahsan, former foreign secretary Tanvir Ahmed Kahn argues that the history of the British empire in India showed that imprisoning the leaders of protest movements never helped. 

So what did happen after 9/11?

With apologies to those out there who are not fans of India’s first prime minister, here is an interesting quote attributed to Jawaharlal Nehru: “You don’t change the course of history by turning the faces of portraits to the wall.”

In the latest Carnegie Endowment report on Pakistan entitled “Pakistan and the War on Terror: Conflicted Goals, Compromised Performance”, Ashley Tellis gives a lucid and detailed account of what happened after 9/11, when Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf pledged to help the United States track down al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts in Afghanistan.Musharraf outside the Elysee Palace

Flour power

Soldiers guarding Karachi flour mill

While the outside world debates who killed Benazir Bhutto and why, inside Pakistan the shortage of flour is beginning to dominate people’s thoughts ahead of the Feb. 18 election. Reuters China Economics Editor Alan Wheatley highlighted quite how important food supplies are becoming with a piece on Sunday saying that across Asia food is the new oil.

The flour shortage has got so bad that Pakistan has had to use paramilitary troops to escort wheat trucks

from FaithWorld:

Growing gap seen between Western, Muslim countries — Davos poll

High security surrounds Davos, site of the World Economic Forum, 21 Jan. 2008/Stefan WermuthMost people in Muslim and Western countries believe divisions between them are worsening and each side believes the other disrespects their culture, according to a poll released on Monday.

The Gallup poll, published in a report on Muslim-Western relations for the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos this week, reflects "an alarmingly low level of optimism regarding dialogue between Islam and the West", WEF chairman Klaus Schwab said.

Pakistan: Now or Never?

In a 1933 pamphlet, Choudhary Rahmat Ali – credited with coining the name of Pakistan — called on fellow Muslims in the Indian subcontinent to set up a separate nation. His pamphlet titled “Now or Never” argued that Indian Muslims risked losing their heritage if they did not fight for their own country. “Either we live or perish for ever,” he wrote.Child throws petals at Bhutto’s grave

Now more than 70 years later, Pakistan faces a crisis which some say could threaten its very existence — a view dismissed as alarmist by its leaders. In the coming weeks and months, we will aim to round up the best opinion, analysis and blogging about Pakistan, from both inside and outside the country. While content on external internet sites does not reflect the views of Reuters, we will be looking to identify the major themes as they emerge.