Pakistan: Now or Never?

Thirsty South Asia’s river rifts threaten “water wars”

July 25, 2012

As the silver waters of the Kishanganga rush through this north Kashmir valley, Indian labourers are hard at work on a hydropower project that will dam the river just before it flows across one of the world’s most militarised borders into Pakistan.

Pakistan: The politicisation of death

July 6, 2012

So many deaths in Pakistan; so many to outrage or upset us. How do we choose whose death to notice? The civilian killed by a drone strike? The Shia Hazara gunned down in Balochistan? The Ahmadi father knifed to death in his home? The beheaded Pakistani soldier? The mother who died in a suicide bombing? The murdered journalist? The child swept away by floods? The acid attack victim?

Afghan economy: a hard landing ahead

July 5, 2012

If you go to the run-down Desh bazaar in central Kabul – which sells everything from widescreen Samsung televisions to used shoes – it doesn’t matter what currency you use to pay for your shopping. They will accept the afghani, the US dollar or the Pakistani rupee. 

US and Pakistan: an expedient truce

July 4, 2012

It took seven months and the underlying problems remain, but the United States and Pakistan are now back to opposing each other as “frenemies” rather than enemies.

Pakistan is not Egypt (and it hasn’t had a coup)

June 20, 2012

One of the risks of the deteriorating situation inside Pakistan and its worsening relations with the outside world is the temptation to box it into a manageable category to make it less bewildering. Thus this week,  the disqualification of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani by the Supreme Court was widely described as a “judicial coup” – an evocation of the many military interventions in Pakistan since its creation in 1947 – and from there it became easy to compare it to the reassertion of military power in Egypt .  By then we were but a hop, skip and a jump away from Pakistan’s definition as a failed state.

FATA is not a country in Africa

June 7, 2012

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is using increasingly forthright terms to describe the spillover of the war in Afghanistan into Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in its campaign of drone strikes. “We are fighting a war in the FATA, we are fighting a war against terrorism,” he said during a visit to India. The idea that the United States is at war inside Pakistan, albeit in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, is not new. But the use of language is significant, requiring as Spencer Ackerman noted at Danger Room, “a war-weary (US) public to get used to fighting what’s effectively a third war in a decade, even if this one relies far more on remote controlled robots than ground troops”.

What happened to the rule of law? US, Pakistan and Doctor Afridi

May 30, 2012

According to the Pakistani media, Shakil Afridi, the doctor who worked with the CIA to help track down Osama bin Laden, has been jailed not for his role in trying to find the al Qaeda leader, but for colluding with the Lashkar-e-Islam militant group and its chief, Mangal Bagh, based in Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Dawn newspaper cited court documents  showing that the tribal court which sentenced him to 33 years in jail  “did not entertain evidence relating to Dr Shakil Afridi’s involvement with the CIA, citing lack of jurisdiction as the main reason….” (Afridi was sentenced under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), a British colonial-era law used to deal with Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)). Instead, Afridi – arrested on May 23, 2011 shortly after the May 2 raid by U.S. forces who found and  killed bin Laden in the town of Abbottabad – was convicted on the basis of “his love for Mangal Bagh”.  “The court held that the LI (Lashkar-e-Islam) had sought the support of foreign intelligence agencies across the border in Afghanistan to wage war against the state of Pakistan and that Mr Afridi’s association with the militant outfit proved his involvement in activities inimical to the state of Pakistan.”

Taliban poetry, mourn the dead boy, curse the naked “daughter of the west”

May 24, 2012

“A calamity has emerged from the Western gloom,” we are told. “The Crusader world has come out… The red daughter of the West has come out; she dances naked.”

For a fistful of dollars, America and Pakistan wrangle

May 22, 2012

Pakistan’s relationship with the United States can’t get more transactional than the prolonged negotiations over restoration of the Pakistani supply route for NATO troops in Afghanistan.

In optimism over India-Pakistan trade, a warning flag

May 13, 2012

In 1997, the business-friendly Nawaz Sharif was prime minister, relations between Pakistan and India were thawing and the two countries were trying to use improved trade  to put decades of animosity behind them. Or as the Indian journalist Salil Tripathi wrote at the time, “this sorry state of affairs may be about to improve – through commerce.” Then came the nuclear tests in 1998, the Kargil war and a coup in 1999, mass military mobilisation in 2001-2002,  the Mumbai attacks in 2008, and now, finally, we are here again.