The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Tag: Pakistan

The Palestinian Option for Kashmir?

Back in 1980, I visited Kashmir with my parents. This was before the troubles, and it remains perhaps the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.

Last week, India’s PM, Modi, abrogated clauses in the Indian constitution relating to Kashmir, which does not allow non-Kashmiris to buy property. As Margolis says:

Modi is clearly copying Israel’s Netanyahu by encouraging non-Muslims to buy up land and squeeze the local Muslim population. Welcome to the Mideast Conflict East. China is also doing similar ethnic inundation in its far western, largely Muslim, Xinjiang (Sinkiang) region.

Dai Lake, Kashmir

By their friends, you shall know them. I’ve never liked Modi, his demonitization was incredibly damaging to the Indian economy and hurt the poorest Indians. That he spends all his time buddying up to Israel’s Netanyahu tells you all you need to know about whether he’s more good than bad. (If it doesn’t, you need to self-reflect a bit.)

But Indians did vote for Modi in droves. It’s another episode of people, who are scared and have shitty lives, voting for the tough guy, thinking he’ll be tough for them, rather than for his core supporters. In Modi’s case, hard-right Hindus.

It’s worth remembering that the UN called for a referendum in Kashmir and that India never held it, because they know that, given a choice, Kashmiris would rather be part of Pakistan.

So, ethnic cleansing time! This is the world we live in, more and more, a place where the weak do as they must and the powerful do as they will (ever has it been thus, but sometimes it is less thus). For now, India’s the powerful one. Soon enough, it won’t be–because this BS is a distraction from actual existential threats to India, mainly around water. I can’t think of any major nation which is going to get hit harder than India.

Meanwhile, of course, both the Pakistani and Indian militaries are on hair-trigger alert, and both have nuclear weapons. Because India has a much larger army, if war does break out, Pakistan either goes to nukes or loses.




Why Pakistan’s Decline Is Almost Inevitable

Image by takebackpackistan

Image by takebackpackistan

Benazir Bhutto’s niece, Fatima Bhutto, lays out the reasons for decline as  succinctly as anyone I’ve read:

The Taliban and their ilk, on the other hand, are able to seat themselves in towns and villages across Pakistan without much difficulty largely because they do not come empty-handed. In a country that has a literacy rate of around 30 percent, the Islamists set up madrassas and educate local children for free. In districts where government hospitals are not fit for animals, they set up medical camps—in fact, they’ve been doing medical relief work since the 2005 earthquake hit Northern Pakistan. Where there is no electricity, because the local government officials have placed their friends and relatives in charge of local electrical plants, the Islamists bring generators. In short, they fill a vacuum that the state, through political negligence and gross graft, has created.

To combat the Taliban’s incursions further into poverty-stricken parts of the country, Pakistan’s government only has to do its job less leisurely. That’s the frightening truth.

Napoleon once said that the moral is to the physical as ten is to one.  My simple rule of thumb for determining who will win civil and guerilla wars is “who is the government?”  Now if I were to ask 100 people who the government of northwest Pakistan is, 99 would probably say “the government of Pakistan.”

No.  Government is what government does and Taliban is the government in most of that region.  The organization which supplies security, social services and law is the government, and it doesn’t matter who is recognized by foreign powers.  This is a mistake which the West makes over and over and over again, most recently in Somalia when the US greenlighted and aided in the destruction of Somalia incipient government, the Islamic Courts Union, plunging the country back into even worse anarchy than before, and pretending that the foreign chosen “interim government”, which had no popular support, was actually a government.

Now Napoleon didn’t say the moral is to the physical as infinity to one.  If you’re badly enough outgunned and outnumbered, well, being the government may not be enough, especially if you’ve only been the government for a brief time.

This is why a lot of analysts believe that Pakistan can never “fall”, because the Pakistani army is very powerful.

I am far less sanguine.  The army has shown very little willingness or ability to fight the Pakistani Taliban.  It is unclear to me that the Pakistani army is willing to fight the Taliban, at least all out and if ordered to do so that it would obey that order, either at the top level, or at the operational level.  Which is to say, just because the “President” orders it to do something, doesn’t mean it will, and even if the military took back over through another coup (quite likely) that officers and even line soldiers are willing to be used against the Taliban, when the Taliban is actually a more effective government than they one they ostensibly serve.

The legitimacy of a government comes from doing what a government does.  The Pakistani “government” is less of a government to most of the country than the Pakistani Taliban.  The danger is that it will continue to expand into places where the Islamabad government is not actually acting as a government, till it controls most of the countryside and some of the smaller cities.  From there it will likely reach an accommodation with the army.

Although they aren’t communists, this is classical Maoist style countryside to city guerilla strategy.  By the time the major cities fall, they will be all that is left, completely isolated from the rest of the country.

The Pakistani army is powerful, but it is only an army, not a government.

Government is as government does.  If the current Pakistani government wants to stay in charge, Fatima is right, it needs to do its job.  If it doesn’t, those who are willing to do the job will take over.


1. Fatima does have an axe to grind with the other faction of her family, but that doesn’t make her statements inaccurate.

2. Certainly Juan Cole is correct that the government is not likely to fall in the next 6 months to a year. In fact it might never fall, per se.  Despite the fact that Hezbollah is more powerful than the Lebanese central government, that government still exists.

Pakistani Taliban Move to Within 60 Miles Of Islamabad

Image by takebackpackistan

Image by takebackpackistan

I’ve been saying for years that the two pieces on the game board that matter to those who want a Caliphate are Pakistan, because of its nukes, and Saudi Arabia because of its oil.   The realpolitik problem with the Afghani war is that it’s destabilizing Pakistan so much – Afghanistan falling to fundamentalists really doesn’t matter that much, Pakistan doing so changes world geopolitics significantly.

The Taliban came to within 60 miles of Islamabad last week. What’s also interesting about this is that it wasn’t the military that fought them, it was a the police and a militia called up by the elders.  Now, the timing of this is such that the military had a day to get to the district, and didn’t bother, which given it’s 60 miles from the capital of Pakistan, they certainly could have.

Isn’t that… interesting.  And while the accounts of the fight are somewhat ambiguous, it doesn’t sound to me like the Taliban were forced to leave.

Is the military deliberately deciding to let the Taliban continue to put pressure on the civilian government?  One does wonder, doesn’t one?  Or is morale too uncertain to risk against the Taliban?  Or are they so overstretched they can’t get a company 60 miles from the capital?  Or does the “truce” mean that they’ve decided to comletely write off the entire north and let the Taliban take it over unopposed, even when the citizens don’t want it? Whichever it is, it isn’t good.

Lots of folks assume that the Pakistani military is more than capable of crushing the Taliban whenever it wants. I don’t know if that’s true, but I suspect that as long as attacks on the Taliban are seen as doing America’s work against their own countrymen, that the military is going to be both reluctant and somewhat crippled in doing so.

Furthermore, as Steve Hynd notes, in the areas it rules, the Taliban is a more effective government than the Pakistani government ever was.  It is able to solve long standing problems Islamabad could not.

Escalating in Afghanistan is going to turn into the biggest mistake Obama makes in the foreign sphere.  Not only is it a bleeding ulcer robbing America of troops and treasure it cannot afford to lose at this time, it may well lead to the fall of Pakistan.


(Go to the The Long War Journal and look at this map of Taliban control of Pakistan to get a visual picture of how much territory the central government has lost control of.)

Piece modified to reflect JPD’s corrections. Thanks Dave.

I’ll be traveling to Victoria and Vancouver from Tuesday through Saturday this week.   Since my laptop is on the fritz that means posting will be light, though there will be at least a couple pieces.

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