Friday, April 03, 2009

The Ambivalent Pakistan

Nightwatch is a free information service on political developmens and their recent analysis of Pakistan's ambivalence towards the Taliban reinforces my own biases on the subject, so I thought I'd share their analysis with you, my disloyal readers. ;-)

Pakistan: The commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, General Petraeus, said today that Taliban and al-Qaida-linked groups based near the Afghan border threaten Pakistan's existence...The US view is that Pakistani Islamists pose a grave threat to Pakistan.

Pakistani media and personal anecdotes indicate Pakistanis generally do not agree with the US view and even sympathize with the Islamist argument that the government has strayed too far from Islamic values.

Many news outlets denounce the violent tactics of the Islamists but equate them with the US drone attacks in the tribal agencies. They also do not reject the religious sentiments that ostensibly motivate the Islamists... and especially dispute the notion that the US knows what is best for Pakistan better than Pakistanis...

[T]he more visceral Pakistani and Pakistan Army thesis that the Indians are the gravest threat to Pakistan, not Muslims. A significant and influential segment of Pakistani media argues that the Afghanistan instability problem is instigated by India for Indian strategic purposes to destabilize Pakistan.

Multiple outlets reported the allegation by retired officials this week that the Indians were behind the Lahore attack yesterday. They argue Baitullah Mehsud is an unwitting agent of Indian intelligence. Thus Chinese conventional arms aid is welcome for building conventional capabilities to deter India.

Of these two views, the anti-India view is by far the more widely held and the more popular, based on press coverage, especially in the retired Army officer associations.

As long as that view dominates, Pakistani cooperation in rooting out Pakistani Islamists will be begrudging and half-hearted.

Pakistanis are deliberating now – in inchoate fashion -- whether Pakistan should be a moderate Muslim state or an Islamist state. The US insists on cooperation in a fight that Pakistanis doubt is righteous and fear might be sinful.

The conversion of a secular Pakistan into an Islamic Republic was decided by the General Zia Ul Haq administration in the mid 1980s. Secular government is not in Pakistan’s future: it is part of a discarded past. |Nightwatch - April 1, 2009|(emphasis added)

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