Pakistan: is the threat exaggerated?

April 27, 2009

As Pakistani forces fight militants in an area close to Swat, there are two contrasting images of a state in upheaval.

One is a nuclear-armed country in great peril, in danger of being overrun by militants, and in turn a mortal threat to the rest of the world, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton painted it last week.

The other is a nation of more than 160 million people with a burgeoning middle class that all but rejected Islamist parties in the last election, and hit the streets last month forcing the government to respect the independence and integrity of the judiciary. A nation with a professional army that for all the coups it engineered at home has credited itself well in all three wars it fought with much larger neighbour India, a bureaucracy as professional and cast in the same steel frame of the British empire as its counterpart in India, and a free and aggressive press.

In short as Juan Cole writes on his blog Informed Coment, Pakistan, for all its problems, is hardly the Somalia that some people think it to be. “All the talk about the Pakistani government falling within 6 months, or of a Taliban takeover, flies in the face of everything we know about the character of Pakistani politics and institutions during the past two years,” he writes.

Pakistan’s two big provinces of Punjab and Sind account for some  85% of the  population, and while these provinces have some Muslim extremists, they are a small fringe there, he writes. The Pakistani Taliban are largely a phenomenon of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas west of the North-West Frontier Province, and of a few districts within the NWFP itself. These are largely Pashtun ethnically.

The  “breathless observation” that there are Taliban a hundred miles from Islamabad doesn’t actually tell you very much, since Islamabad is geographically close to the Pashtun regions and it doesn’t necessarily mean the Pashtuns can dominate the capital, Cole argues.
So is the world being unnecessarily alarmist? Can the Taliban made up of few thousand fighters really take on the world’s sixth largest army, well-trained and for the task at hand well-armed ?

Or is the threat - some say of an Iranian-style revolution – very real and the Pakistani state, perhaps even many of its people in denial?. Mohammed Hanif, author of the acclaimed book The Case of the Exploding Mangoes, wrote in the Washington Post that in much of Pakistan there is “little sense of an impending crisis, just the blithe belief that the Taliban are not as bad as they seem.”

In any case, many Pakistanis believe the fractious government and security services are no match for the men with beards and guns, he writes. “I hear vague comparisons with the days before the Iranian revolution; the only problem is that we don’t seem to have a Khomeini, at least not yet. And we do have nuclear bombs. ”

So if this is not the looming apocalypse that Washington has made it out to be over the past week, is it a steady drift  towards an Islamic fundamentalist state?  Pakistanis seems to be exhausted, and there is not the will to fight the Taliban, Hanif writes.

Every now and then when the alarm bells ring from Washington to London - and the arms of those in power in Islamabad are twisted - there is a bit of movement.  Another offensive is launched, as has happened now in Lower Dir. But many complain it does not really change anything.

The Pakistani establishment has shown no determination to stop that drift towards a fundamentalist state, only to slow it slightly, apparently so that the electorate can get used to the idea, argues Newswatch, an intelligence analysis website.

[Residents fleeing the fighting in northwest


if pakistan goes under and refuses to use its samson option, would that mean that muslims –or at least pakistani muslims– are more moral than israelis, who seem to be willing to nuke as many people as possible as they go under?

Posted by wadosy | Report as abusive

Umair says:

“LOL, Pakistan Army is fully deployed to counter India, while its the FC(Frontier Constabulary and Rangers) playing hide and seek with the Taliban.
- Posted by Umair ”

The PA propaganda machine is working well it seems. To create enough hysteria and create a “for now” containable enemy in Buner and SWAT for the sake and benefit of the Americans so they can keep giving Billion$ to the PA. Umair said himself, the real Army is waiting to wage a war with India.

Umair, it is refreshing to finally see Urbanites call for the removal of the Taliban and they are complaining that the PA is not protecting them. You stupid punjabi’s are just itching to start a war with India, just admit it, you know it is true. As you waste your time on the eastern border, the Taliban are growing mold and mildew in punjab for your benefit. One day, when you star a war with India, the Taliban are waiting for this, for it is then, that they will take the heart of Pakistan, when the PA army is bogged down in a confrontation with India.

Your punjabi Fauji’s won’t be able to prevent or stop the headless body’s which will be showing up all over Islamabad, the suicide bxmbings, bullet riddled bodies and missing people. You punjabi’s like to live illegally and on the edge of disaster, it seems.

As you keep sending your proxy armies, to Kashmir, India Army will keep finishing them off, as they have been for years. Thank God the U.S. is providing free Billion$ of dollars, so that the PA can fuel proxy armies against India. The U.S. republicans have been very helpful in that regards.

If it is true, that the PA is ready to start a war with India on a drop of a dime, it is apparently clear that their operational preparedness is a thinly veiled preplanned war with India. I can tell you Umair, if you guys start a war with India, it will be foolish, painful and above all extremely deadly for Pakistan. Pakistan will cause its own collapse if it attacks India. If India is attacked, the PA and Pakistan itself will be decapitated by the overwhelming Indian response. Maximum damage, defeat and surrender of the PA will be guaranteed. This time, the surrender will be signed in a Pakistani city and your nukes sitting in an Indian war museum. Just remember, do not cross that LOC with proxy armies and do not cross that LOC with any PA army either, because it will bring only one outcome for Pakistan.

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One more thing, I think having your whole army ready for a war with India, you guys have become rusty. Perhaps the ensuing tsunami of urban civil war in major Pakistani cities to ravage Pakistan in the not too distant future will be enough to give you guys years of training.

If the PA is corrupt, inept, doublefaced and cheating the Pakistani citizens of a full democracy. It is doing this by keep proxy armies pinned against India, which has also brought in the Taliban, who are starting to hurt Avg Pakistani’s. The PA is also playing a game with the US. and all of this, is orchestrated to maintain rivalry with India to keep lining the pocket$ of the PA army and their families in the gated urban centres in Pakistan.

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I guarantee, this time around, India, from the Dalits, to the Brahmins to the Sikhs, all Indians, of all backgrounds and religions are united to face off with Pakistan if it starts another proxy war. India has time and again shown its resiliency and unity, despite its own problems.

1.2 Billion Indians, they cannot stand a chance, because in war with India, they will run out of bullets, weapons and most of all, fuel. They will not have any where to land their precious F-16′s even.

Since Pakistan wants to reserve the right to start another war with India, through hook and crook or using the Taliban or proxy armies, India reserves the right to retaliate in a unified manner, using Russia, the U.S. and NATO to lead to Pakistan’s disinitegration and disarming, permanently.

The next uncalled for Kargil inflicted upon India, demands an unreciprocal answer to Pakistan, far beyond its imagination.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

I am just waiting to see how long it will take before Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Holbrooke are betrayed by the Pakistani establishment, ie the ISI and PA. Their games are not that hard to figure out.

While guys like Umair say:

“LOL, Pakistan Army is fully deployed to counter India, while its the FC(Frontier Constabulary and Rangers) playing hide and seek with the Taliban.”

Guys like Umair should realize that any war started by Pakistan, will be finished conclusively and decisively by India. No more flexibilities or niceties or gentle wrist slaps should be given the next time around, like they were in 1971, 2002, or Kargil.

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My preference would be to avoid a war. Because a war with India will help Pakistanis regroup and reunite. I want them divided as quickly as possible. The only way to achieve that is to let them divide by themselves. We have to do nothing. So if they provoke us, we should minimize the damage by being alert and acting ahead of them. We now have more technology on our side with the RISAT watching them carefully. If we get into a war, a dying Pakistan will try to use the nukes just to show its frustration. And a war at this time will drive off business in an already bleak world economy. We must hold off and be resilient. Our defense should be made proactive rather than reactive. This means we should not wait for the jackals to come in and cause damage. We must nail them before they act by watching them. May be using the help of CIA, Mossad etc India should enhance our intelligence capabilities. If we did this for the next few years, a frustrated Pakistan will shoot itself and fall apart. And I prefer that to any long lasting solution. Punjabi menace in the form of Pakistan will be eliminated. And Sindhis, Balochis, Kashmiris and Pashtuns can live in peace after that along with India. And they can keep those war mongering wolves in check. They are the reason why Pakistan is where it is today.  /01/pakistan.taliban/index.html

Mauryan, bloggers, please see link above.

This is a refreshing turn of events in Pakistan. It is always the women, who have to stand up against Radical Islamists. Where are the Pakistani men? Are you all cowards?

There is nothing greater in Pakistan than a female Pakistani who is putting herself out there against the backward male aggression of the Taliban, nurtured by the PA and ISI. Women in Pakistan should unite for all causes to get parity with men, who have used the religion to keep them down.

I hope there are more signs of glimmer and hope like we see in this article, it is the women of Pakistan who will bring peace and reconciliation with India.

Women sow and men plunder.

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GW writes: “It is always the women, who have to stand up against Radical Islamists. Where are the Pakistani men? Are you all cowards?”

Pakistani Men are Taliban’s favorites. It’s radical Islamic love. So women get to protest :-)


It is clear that Pakistanis value their Islam over everything else, including peace with neighbors and the world. It was able to attack India again and again with weapons that US gave it for its proxy wars in Afghanistan. No more, Pakistan has been getting its arms now from China and Korea.

With Baluchistan and Pasthunistan(more stans here!) poised to make runs for independance, this is a dire situation for Pakistan. A country that lives by the gun(so defined by its army and ISI, not necessarily all its people) will die by the gun. A Pakistan ruled by Taliban is even more dangerous, and other countries including US will treat it no better than a terrorist nation. Pakistanis, don’t complain later when countries of the world start bombing you, if you do not stand up for your country now and push your government to act strongly against your terror camps, madrassas and talibans.

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Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the issues. It was truly informative. Your website is very helpful. Many thanks for sharing!


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