Tight Rope Pakistan

by Nathan Hamm on 9/20/2010 · 6 comments

Below is a guest post from reader Umair — Nathan

Though much of the debate in the blog and scholarly world has been centered around Afghanistan and what kind of policies best suit American interests, (ASG-Foust debate), I want to (so sorry) switch the focus towards the neighbour to the
East, Pakistan. Mr. Zardari and company have at least begun to man up and fix the ethnic mess that has been raging in Karachi. If you don’t want to worry about that, here are some other issues to think about:

Pakistan has a few problems of its own at the moment and they definitely need to be delved into by a government that is not only looking for the best solution, but one that is also honest to themselves. Let’s imagine a map of Pakistan for
a second, there is the Kashmir problem to the Northeast, the Tribal areas to the West (not to mention the ridiculous amounts of drones being used) and more militancy to the Southeast in Baluchistan. Add the recent flood to the equation and Pakistan has significantly started running short on manpower and supplies. Just today, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, stated that Pakistan must raise billions for reconstruction alone. Pakistan must prioritize its problems quickly, and let’s be honest, it should also stop juggling all these issues at once
on a tight rope, and construct a stronger base to create less chances of failing.

Pakistan has to give up on Kashmir, at least temporarily, until the government can sort out the problems in the Tribal regions and hopefully bring down the influx of terrorism, particularly sectarian violence around the country.

Anyone who has a basic understanding of Kashmir, and has also read the recent and excellent article, Kashmir’s Forever War by Basharat Peer, will know that Kashmiris are growing very frustrated by the actions of both Pakistani funded militants and Indian military rule. Pakistan has also contributed greatly to the insurgency in the region, though has achieved very little. This is the result of the many Pakistani-based insurgents who are only hurting the Kashmiri population in their attempt to push out the Indian forces. Pakistan’s plan hasn’t worked, considering the insurgents actually harm civilians more than they harm India. Pakistan should seriously consider pushing back their position in Kashmir and focusing it towards the Tribal areas as well as in Afghanistan.

It does not seem like the Taliban will just go away. This is strongly due to the support that ISI (Pakistani intelligence) is feeding the group. In addition, it is also the result of the United States’ possibility of signing a peace treaty with them.
The key to Afghanistan seems to rely not only on American forces, but also on neighbouring states, Iran and Pakistan, as well as India and Russia. In such a circumstance, Pakistan has the ability to increase its influence since they have been
involved much longer than India; subsequently, Iran and Russia are more inclined to work with them.

Such an opinion was further solidified when Gilles Dorronsoro wrote a Op-Ed in the New York Times, in which he states that it was about time the United States negotiated a deal with the Taliban before it’s too late. Pakistan is already on board, and this is the ideal opportunity for them to lead the rest by example.

Of course, let’s not forget the drone strikes that are continuously taking place in Pakistan and are also causing resentment amongst the citizens. As Foust reminds us all, it was these drone strikes that led Faisal Shahzad to Pakistan in order to receive training in a terrorist camp. Pakistan will, of course, have to work harder on getting rid of these camps that are spread throughout the country. Really, they don’t need Laskar-e-Taiba, if anything, LeT has been causing many problems for Pakistan, and it’s about time they cut their losses (as hard as it may be).

But everything will be futile unless Pakistan can get a hold of a lot of money – and fast. The flooded areas have damaged Pakistan’s economy, and billions of dollars are needed to fix the situation. There is some good news however, as the IMF just approved $451 million under the Emergency Natural Disaster Assistance fund. If used properly, this can assist residents in dire need of food, clothing and medical attention. Without subsidizing meaningful causes and promoting idiotic ones (such as putting aside a billion dollars for a Bhutto monument) Pakistan is only shooting themselves in the foot. The government has also just set up a 15 member National Oversight Disaster Management Council
(NODMC) that will monitor the distribution of funds for the reconstruction and will report back on a quarterly basis to the Council of Common Interests. This is certainly a positive start.

However, Pakistan may not have to deal with any of this because of the possibility of an Israeli air strike that might provoke Iran, which consequently will certainly turn the United States attention away… but lets not hold our breath, although Jeff Goldberg thinks it will happen soon. Pakistan, regardless of the issues unfolding, should surely look to fix the aforementioned problems, because they will in the near future catch up with them.

Note: As I was about to send this article out, I was informed that a MQM leader living in London, England was stabbed outside of his house. The Mutihda Quami Movement have called for a ten day mourning period in Karachi, and will no doubt want to seek revenge. More reasons for a headache for Pakistan.

Subscribe to receive updates from Registan

This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

For information on reproducing this article, see our Terms of Use


abrar September 20, 2010 at 9:17 pm

“. Pakistan should seriously consider pushing back their position in Kashmir ”

The K in Pakistan stands for kashmir,no goverment or leader in Pakistan can change pakistans legitimate position on Kashmir.

Pakistan may be in dire straits at the moment but nations do not change their principles in times of adversity or they seize to become one.

Suleyman Alina September 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm
CostOfWarBlog September 21, 2010 at 5:37 pm

I would be interested in more detail on Zardari’s efforts to clean “the ethnic mess.”
From my understanding, Zardari’s incompetence has brought Pakistan on the verge of another full-fledged sectarian violence, which Pakistan cannot afford. But it seems like you are more of an optimist– it would be nice if you could justify that with examples.
Here is what i think, from a few days back:

Umair September 22, 2010 at 12:45 am

Abrar- I certainly agree that Kashmir is a vital part of Pakistan’s foreign policy and I certainly understand that Pakistan cant simply drop such an important issue all together. However, I also believe that Pakistan must work according to the wishes of Kashmiri’s, after all they are the people that the government is trying to ‘free’.

Kashmiri’s do not like the Pakistani controlled freedom fighters such as Hizbul Tahreer. They are trained in Pakistan and eventually become overlords when they return to Kashmir. They instill fear within the Kashmiri population and what ends up happening is that they trap these same people they are supposed to be assisting between themselves and the Indian forces.

Until Pakistan can not conjure policy that is morally acceptable; where Kashmiris are not being harmed then they must step back and rethink. A good book to read on this issue is Arif Jamal’s, ‘Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir.’ The atrocities committed by the Indian forces are plain for all to see, but it is good to comprehend just how brutal these ‘freedom’ fighters can be.

As far as Zardari making any changes in cleaning ethnic mess, there has been small steps taken by the government to coerce certain factions to stop their indiscretions. It would be hard for me to show you any examples, and I think I have been proving wrong since the violence has been reignited since the death of Mr. Farooq in England.

Toryalay Shirzay September 22, 2010 at 5:54 pm

The first thing that need to be known about Pakistan is this:THE Pakistani establishment works very hard to bring in lots of money from governments,banks,international institutions and then spend most of this money on their military,ISI, and other ultra secret organizations to further strengthen their power and grip on Pakistan .What is left is then spent on flood victims who of necessity must be content with what trickle down to them.
Pakistan is the number one instigator and initiator of conflict and war both within and outside of its territory as the paki establishment has perfected this craft of profiting from wars.
Anyone who has heard of Kashmir,now hear this: for thousands of years,Kashmir has been part of India and it will remain part of India regardless of the conquest of islamic thugs and their paki dogs.Get this through your head and spare us the headache and go help your destitute ,oppressed paki people!!

Caleb Kavon September 22, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Pakistan is in no position to retake Kashmir.

There are more than enough problems to eliminate the

A. Recent disasterous flooding which has destroyed 45% of the rural areas, and exposed Pakistan’s long suffering rural poor to
near destitution in their millions.

B. Continued incompetence, and lack of action by Zardari and company are making a military coup more and more likely as the weeks continue.

C. Continued and Increased resistance from the Pakistani Taliban, which has made inroads into Punjab and now controls larger areas of population than before. Designed a Muslim “Land of the Pure,’ Pakistan has no real ideological counter to spreading of the radical islamic insurgency and Shariah law, much of which was in fact supported in the form of the Afghan Taliban for the last 15 years, and bequethed as policy by Zia Ul Haq and his Dictatorship.

D. An economy on life support via a large IMF loan. The major activity in the economy being transit of war material to Afghanistan.

E. Large percentage of under 21 year olds with little or no hope of success or employment.

G. Whole scale destruction of infrastructure during the flood which when combined with the band aid level of international aid makes any recovery remote before the next growing season which may lead to both localized famine and further discord. The flood has set back the country at least 20 years at the very worst time possible.

H. Karachi both the key transit and industrial city in the country has been wracked by over a month of quasi ethnic/political violence resulting in hundreds of killed and wounded. MQM may loose its tie in with the PPP and thus be a further target of violence.

I. A military mind set which on top of using vast resources from the budget considers its involvement in politics as a right and formulates illogical strategic concepts such as “strategic depth” which justifies both coup d’etat and involvement in Afghanistan’s affairs.

These problems in combination surpass any in Afghanistan, and may be more damaging to the future of the World’s 6th most populated country. Pakistan needs more help than Afghanistan if it is maintain any semblance of order in the near term.

The fact that Pakistan’s leadership has time to waste on calls for Kashmir’s secession and the Cricket bribery scandal when confronted with such a wide array of destablilizing problems is almost shocking, but really par for the course when analyzing the last 60 years of history in this country.

It is not a pretty picture at all. Kashmir can truly wait.

Previous post:

Next post: