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.