Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
Manan Ahmed has a piece up at Chapati Mystery which should be essential reading for anyone interested in the current state of Pakistan and its prickly relations with the west, particularly with the United States.
Starting off with a re-reading of Salman Rushdie’s “Shame” (one of those books that I expect many of us read in our youth without properly understanding) he returns to the original inspiration for the title – “Peccavi“, Latin for “I have sinned.” According to an apocryphal, yet widely believed, story of British imperial conquest, “Peccavi” is the message that General Charles Napier sent back to Calcutta when he conquered Sindh (nowadays one of the provinces of Pakistan) in the 19th century. He then discusses how the modern-day view of Pakistan is defined by shame, or by a perception which over-simplifies it to “Peccavistan”.
“Peccavistan is just as real as Pakistan,” he writes. ”It is a bundling, an explaining, a framing, a means of de-mystification when the mystery is itself a reflection of paucity of sources not of intelligibility. Peccavistan sells because Peccavistan takes away complexity, it reduces our mental and emotional commitments to Pakistan. Pakistan, though 180 million strong, ravaged by floods and suicide bombers, continues to carry on. Apocryphally speaking.”
Do read the whole thing, but his description is familiar. I’ve shortened some paragraphs below to illustrate the point, in ways I hope do not do too much disservice to his text:
President Barack Obama’s words on relations with Pakistan were always going to be carefully scripted during his visit to India, where even to say the word “Kashmir” aloud in public can raise jitters about U.S. interference in what New Delhi sees as a bilateral dispute.
So first up, here’s what he had to say during a news conference in New Delhi with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in response to a question about what role the United States could play in resolving the Kashmir dispute (NDTV has the video).
The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is a defence expert and author of two books on the Pakistan Army.
By Brian Cloughley
Many of Pakistan’s problems are of its own making, courtesy of uniformed dictators or ineffective politicians or weird alliances of both. When military rulers took over the country in their bloodless coups they were welcomed by the majority of citizens, which was understandable given that the governments they replaced were feudally authoritarian and grossly incompetent.
What is going on in Kunar and Bajaur, two neighbouring regions on either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border?
NPR has a view from the Afghan side in this piece written from the perspective of U.S. troops fighting in Kunar. (h/t The Captain’s Journal) Key takeaways are the level of mistrust about the Pakistanis, driven by the suspicion its military is supporting the Taliban, and the presence of a massive but newly abandoned CIA post there.
Will President Barack Obama make some public remarks on Kashmir during his trip to India next month?
At a White House press briefing, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes refused to be pinned down on specifics, beyond saying that the United States would continue to express support for India and Pakistan to pursue talks.
In his must-read essay on the debate about the state of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, Amil Khan has one of the best opening lines I’ve seen for a while: ”Much is said about Pakistan, but I’m constantly saddened that so many innocent pixels are lost without good cause.”
Much the same can be said about the recent flurry of stories on the war in Afghanistan, from upbeat assessments of the U.S.-led military offensive in Kandahar to renewed interest in the prospects for a peace deal with Afghan insurgents.
Pakistani journalist Mosharraf Zaidi had a good post up last week attempting to frame the many different challenges Pakistan faces in trying to deal with terrorism. Definitely worth a read as a counter-balance to the vague “do more” mantra, and as a reminder of how little serious public debate there is out there about the exact nature of the threat posed to a nuclear-armed country of some 180 million people, whose collapse would destabilise the entire region and beyond.
Zaidi has divided the challenges into counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and counter-extremism.
In Obama’s Wars, Rob Woodward attributes the following thoughts to U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke on the prospects for a peaceful settlement to the Afghan war:
“He saw reconciliation and reintegration as distinct. Reconciliation was esoteric, an iffy high-level treaty with Taliban leaders. Reintegration occurred down at the local level in villages and towns…”
Amil Khan has a post up at Abu Muqawama about last week’s bombing at a Sufi shrine in Karachi and its implications for intra-Sunni conflict between Deobandi Taliban militants and people of the majority Barelvi sect:
“There are all sorts of studies written by people much cleverer than me that will tell you violence in this type of conflict aims to do a lot more than just kill its immediate victims. In Pakistan, right now, it also aims to push people into ideological camps (for or against) so that the perpetrators can claim they defend a constituency and create an ideological cover for their actions. In that sense, the attacks were aimed at forcing people to think about the ‘who is Muslim and who is not’ argument.” he writes.
One of the more troublesome aspects of the current situation in Pakistan is how subdued – at least relative to the scale of the deaths – are protests against suicide bombings on Pakistani cities. Travelling from Lahore to Islamabad last month, my taxi driver winced in pain when I told him I had a text message saying the city we had just left, his city, had been bombed again. Yet where was the outlet for him to express that pain, or indeed for the many grieving families who had lost relatives?
I was reminded of this reading Nadeem Paracha’s latest piece in Dawn on the outcry over Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist jailed in the United States after being convicted of shooting at U.S. soldiers. She has been claimed as the “daughter of the nation” who must be rescued from an American jail.