Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
A group of Pakistani kids have voted with their wallets (including Eid savings) for U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama, hoping he would resolve the conflict raging in their troubled northwest corner of the country through peaceful means.
The children in Peshawar, capital of the North-West Frontier Province which along with the Federally Administered Tribal Areas has become the central front in the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban, had collected $261 for “Uncle Obama’s election campaign,” The News reports.
The children, aged 10 and 13, gathered outside the Press Club in Peshawar, accompanied by their parents and teachers, holding placards highlighting the cycle of violence they were trapped in, the newspaper said.
“We hear Obama speaking in television debates and addressing public meetings about a safe and prosperous future for the American children and people. And this is what we desire for ourselves,” one of the boys said.
Is U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama going to heed calls from Pakistani-Americans to tone down his statements on hunting militants inside Pakistan ?
Democrat Obama and Republican candidate John McCain face off in a final debate in New York state on Wednesday night.
The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. Joshua Foust is a defence analyst who also writes an Afghanistan blog for Global Voices and is a contributing editor to Registan.net, a blog devoted to Central Asia and the Caucasus.
The view from the heartland
Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain stressed important differences in approach to Pakistan in their first debate.
On the surface, Obama advocated a tougher line, as he has done since the start of his campaign. “If the United States has al Qaeda, (Osama) bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights, and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take them out,” he said. He talked about the $10 billion Washington had given to Pakistan in aid over the last seven years, saying it had failed to rid the border region of al Qaeda and the Taliban
Given how little many people in the west seem to know about Pakistan — at most that it has nuclear weapons and, possibly, Osama bin Laden; rarely that it has 165 million people (not too far off three times the population of Britain) with individual day-to-day challenges of earning a living and bringing up children like anywhere else – it’s encouraging to see the range of debate in the U.S. blogosphere after President Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation.
Here are just a few that caught my eye, in no particular order, and with apologies in advance to anyone I’ve mislabelled as U.S.-based:
With both U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain calling for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan, there have been a slew of articles arguing this will at best not work and, at worst, fuel the insurgency.
The Financial Times quotes Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former U.S. national security adviser and prominent supporter of Barack Obama, as saying the United States risks repeating the defeat suffered by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. “It is important for U.S. policy in general and for Obama more specifically to recognise that simply putting more troops into Afghanistan is not the entire solution,” he is quoted as saying.
In Pakistan, disgraced nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan kicked up a storm by saying that the Pakistan Army under President Pervez Musharraf knew about the illegal shipment of uranium centrifuges to North Korea in 2000 — contradicting his earlier confession that he acted alone in spreading Pakistan’s nuclear arms technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya. Although Khan has subsequently suggested his remarks may have been overplayed, they are nonetheless likely to raise anxieties overseas about Pakistan’s nuclear programme. His statement, and partial retraction, have also spawned a range of conspiracy theories about which of Pakistan’s squabbling politicians stood to gain from it, as seen in the comments to this blog on All Things Pakistan.
Some people have begun to voice what has been for some time an unspoken fear in Pakistan - that of a U.S. attack.
What would happen if there were to be another big attack on the United States that is traced back to militants holed up in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the Afghan border?
“War does not determine who is right — only who is left.” (Or so said the British philosopher and anti-war activist Bertrand Russell.) So who is going to be left standing once U.S. and NATO forces have finished battling it out with the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan?