Friday, December 28, 2007

Part V - Pakistan's Trouble

There are many causes behind Pakistan's current situation, but none are as great as the drawing of it's borders by the British, most notably, the Durand line of 1893. As the situation exists now, apolitical tribal units are forced under a political state, and as such when the state enforces its laws on those groups that do not recognize the authority, form, and legality of them, friction naturally occurs. I postulate that if instead of dividing the tribal areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a country of Pashtunistan should have been created. If it had, Pakistan and Afghanistan would be entities completely composed of populations that resorted to democratic institutions rather then militancy.

(Below is a re-post of the fifth part of a series of posts I did relating to Afghanistan. It is relavent considering the current situation in Pakistan. The other parts can be found here: First, Second, Third, Fourth)


I started writing about Afghanistan with the intent of informing people about the hazard of remaining in that country. In doing research I have found that Pashtuns, a tribe that spans the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, are a major source of fighters and resources for Taliban and other insurgent fighters in the regions.

Pashtun Power

The Pashtun people are so populous that for close to a century Afghanistan and Pakistan have tried negotiating a territory for the tribe, and in the mean time practically giving the territory of east Afghanistan and north-east Pakistan autonomy. The very border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, drawn up by the British was an attempt to disperse the tribe in order to divide and conquer; however the people ignored the border and still today has little effect. If one is to ignore the Pashtuns, one would ignore a significant and powerful force in the Middle East; In Afghanistan and Pakistan Pashtuns number over 41 million, compared to Afghanistan which has a population of 32 million, and Pakistan which has a population of 165 million. Pashtuns make up over a third of Afghanistan's population and close to 16% of all Pakistans.

In Pakistan, the Pashtuns are increasingly making their presence felt. In today's The Globe and Mail Ovais Subhani reports cleric Mufti Muhammad Naeem warns of a "civil war if President Pervez Musharraf escalates his fight against militancy in Pakistan's northwest."

Pakistan's Pashtuns

Many people in Pakistan see President Musharraf's campaign at the growing militancy of the Pashtuns in the North as growing insecurity within the country. The article goes on to report:

"Things are not going the way Musharraf had anticipated," Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a member of parliament and a senior leader of a relatively moderate religious party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, told Reuters. "I will not be surprised if similar attacks follow in big cities like Karachi and Lahore."
This story comes on the heels of various incidents of armed conflicts with Pakistan between the state and the noticable Pashtun presence.

Pakistan's recently new policy of going on the offensive against the Pashtuns is a direct result from increased pressure on Musharraf by the United States, as quoted in the United Emirates Newspaper The Khaleej Times today:
"More violence looked certain after Musharraf — under intense US pressure to destroy Al Qaeda “safe havens’ — Wednesday declared a ”direct confrontation” with the Islamic radicals, pledging to deploy 30,000 more security personnel."
This more aggresive stance seems unlikely to deter the increased militancy of Pashtuns in Pakistan, indeeed the article cites Rahimullah Yousafzai, an expert on Pashtun affairs: "Military operations will have a temporary impact, but they won’t win hearts and minds." Adding "“It didn’t work in the past, and the military sued for peace. There is no military solution. They will not surrender. It’s their terrain, it’s their home, and they will fight until the end." (emphasis added)

In the Asian Times a nice summary of recent events in Pakistan and how they relate to US pressure and the Pashtun tribal areas is as follows:
"The Bush administration has long prodded the government of Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf to attack suspected al-Qaeda bases in the tribal areas that border Afghanistan, and its army did so with some success between late 2001 and 2004, when it captured or killed a number of high-ranking al-Qaeda operatives, sometimes with the help of US intelligence and its Predator missiles.

But after a series of clashes with local Taliban and foreign forces, the army over the past 18 months withdrew from North and South Waziristan and other parts of the mostly Pashtun Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in exchange for pledges by tribal leaders there to expel foreign fighters and prevent infiltration of Taliban forces into Afghanistan.

In fact, the army's departure left the region in the control of the Pakistani Taliban, which provided al-Qaeda the kind of safe haven it needed not only to rebuild its capabilities, but also to begin to exert its influence aggressively over neighboring territories and even into Islamabad.

Indeed, it was last week's bloody denouement to the protracted army siege of the capital's Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) that resulted in the breakdown of the Waziristan peace accords and a series of attacks and suicide bombings, including in Islamabad. Musharraf, who was encouraged by Washington to confront the militants who controlled the Red Mosque, has responded by deploying troops into tribal areas."

However the degradation of the peace accords between Pakistan and the Pashtun tribe in the North are not completely hopeless. In another article in today's Globe and Mail it's reported "President Gen. Pervez Musharraf insists the [The peace] accord — under which the military scaled back its operations in the U.S.-led war on terror in return for pledges from tribal leaders to contain militancy — offers the best long-term hope of pacifying the region."

It can be seen that General Musharraf is being torn between external and internal pressures. The tribal North of Pakistan is supplying Pashtun fighters and supplies to Afghanistan as well as arguable training grounds for other terrorists, as the US alledges, thus the US has been pressing Musharraf hard to crack down on the North. Yet the Pashtuns hold considerable influence and power, as they exist almost in an independent territory of Afghanistan already, they also comprise a large part of the population, and not to mention are quite unified. If Musharraf, who already has a weak hold on his country being an unelected official, sides with the US, it will most likely cause a civil war; if he allows the Pashtuns immunity, Afghanistan will continue to be a quagmire with NATO troops constantly on the defensive.


It is evident the Pashtun presence needs to be addressed, however I am on the side of Rahimullah Yousafzai, the Pashtun expert, who believes military action will not be effective. I propose the implementation of an old solution, first presented by Prince Daud of Afghanistan, the creation of a new state, Pashtunistan. This solution would prevent civil war in Pakistan and solidify the government's authority and in Afghanistan the loss of the eastern part of the nation would allow for real reconstruction to begin. Indeed it is in the North and west that no fighting even occurs. The only road block is the new nation Pashtunistan would have an unusual form of government perhaps incompatible with the current international government structures.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There’s clearly an array of powers at work creating the case right now for a war on the Pashtun tribal regions. These things don’t just happen in a vacuum. Wars seem to start with the careful choreography of the news media. The war masters, the maestros, start feeding their lap dogs, the press. The music is then played by the press for the rest of us to hear.

Notice how all the papers are beginning to play the same thing about the Afghan and Pakistan border? The theme of “lawless frontier” is being played every week. The sound drowns out the reality of a noble 5000 year old culture of some 42-million people.

We hear instead about the vilified denizens of a “lawless tribal frontier.”

What you missed it? Well, it’s only been playing for about two weeks. You need to tune in to the inside pages. The maestros have been composing for a while longer…. Their creative juices kicked in about the time Sen. Obama, answering one of those deadly sucker-punch sound bite questions showed us his war face telling us he would take action on “high-value terrorist targets" in Pakistan if President Pervez Musharraf "won't act.

That’s the sunshine it took to start the war-sap flowing. War-sap is sticky stuff, its residue has been known to encapsulate the creatures that get too near and preserve them there for posterity. There is a legal system in place of course, in this lawless frontier. It’s been there for 5000 years. The Pashtun call the system the jirga. But its not part of the sharia law, it’s unique to the Pashtun and precedes Islam by thousands of years. But we don’t sing about that just now.

Please, I definitely don’t want the Pashtun to start signing their homeland song either. I don’t want to learn that an 1893 border line drawn with the blessing of Queen Victoria divided a group of mountain dwellers along the Afghan and Pakistan boarder in two.

I thought mountain ridges where proper borders. Everybody uses them. I just can’t handle the sound of another this-a-stan or that-a-stan popping up. So please, I don’t want to know about a Pashtunistan. And I definitely have no interest in anything 5000 years old, if it means Obama can catch Osama on good intelligence, bring it on! That should be Commander Obama’s war face call: “Bring it on!” Hmmmm, that sounds familiar.

What is this Pashtuni-whatever, Pashtunwahli, anyway?

They openly express somewhat defiantly, total cultural independence and have seen conquering armies and powers come and go through the millennia. Probably because of their original geographic high mountain foothold they could stand off vast armies with terrain advantage. Well it’s about time maybe for all that to stop. And, how come they sound more like American cowboys than foreigners? Darn it, if we are going to start another little war, can’t we start it with some body that doesn’t live like my great, grandfather? The old Pashtun nationalist non-violent Kahn Abdul Gaffari Kahn 1930's photo, even looks like grandpa!

Setting aside the Pashtun mostly pray to the same God I do, grandpa did, and great grandpa too, how on earth did they adopt the same code as the old cowboy code of the west?

According to “lawless frontier” musical score, the first impressions I hear is Pashtun love rifles, chewing green tobacco, and appreciate a good sense of humor. So what's not to like? I can’t go to war on that.

If I fell out of the sky and landed in a group of people like that, I'd get along just fine, especially if I were being chased by the law. What they call Nanawateh we call asylum. Nanawateh is extended even to an enemy, just like the Cowboy Code of the Old West. Except if you are granted asylum (called Lokhay Warkawal) by the Pashtun elders as a group you're in like Flynn! They protect you even if it means forfeiting their own lives. Man that is lawless. Imagine a code of living where a principal was so honored, that it exceeded my duty to the state. Hmmm. Now that is lawless. Isn’t it?

You know, if the Pashtun just hang in there with there non-violent thesis a few more generations, they'll be the dominent culture of the entire region with the new awakening of intellectual prowess and coming Islamic Reformation which is beginning right now. Their hopes of control over their resources, a name for themselves, and an end to fundamentalist radical Islamic persecution will fade away and they will be the dominant culture. They would be wise to muster whatever assets are needed, magically go find Osama bin Laden and turn him over to the world court thus avoiding a coming war in the tribal area.

Better to just seek hospitality, then they’ll treat you like a king, which makes me want to open a 5-Star hotel somewhere in the snowy peaks along the boarder if I can find a few acres for a ski-lift not planted in opium poppies, viewed on Google Earth satellite, not that anyone is actually checking the carefully cultivated fields above 6,000 feet along the borders. I would feel right at home there, not unlike parts of Tennessee or California.

Look at the forces arrayed here. My little fantasy war is going to happen if the Pashtun don't cough up bin Laden. The Democrats need to show they can be trusted with national defense again, be it Hillary or Obama. And McCain says fight to win.

The second verse of the song is still being written: Floating the contingency balloon. Up, up, and awa-a-a-ay, in my beautiful ball-o-o-o-on….

Obama or Hillary, or McCain get sworn in January 20, 2009. By mid June, whoever is President is going to make a push into the boarder regions the so-called "lawless frontier tribal zones” and “on good intelligence,” unless of course my leader does it first before June 20th. The operation will be Pakistan’s (well okay we’ll give them a few billion). It will be a fast coordinated air-ground attack with airborne US intelligence and lots of surrounding US air cover as a safety check to insure the operation stays within operational parameters. Pakistani’s will not go into Afghanistan and vice a versa. Meantime the Pakistan Navy will be backed up (some would say surrounded and outgunned) by the US Navy to keep a lid on the operation seeing to it they don’t launch an attack on India by Pakistan Islamic fundamentalist-leaning ground forces. We’ll hold India’s hand throughout the entire episode and offer security where needed.

Up, up and awa-a-a-ay in my beautiful …. This thing’s going to happen regardless of who wins.

You can’t deny the poetic justice in someone with a Muslim name (Obama) catching a renegade terrorist (Osama). Can you imagine the songs that we could write about that? To the tune of “Froggy went a courting.”

Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, uh-huh,

Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, uh-huh,

Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, he hunt Osama on the Mount,

Obama went a hunting and he did hunt, un-huh. …..

The best time to wage this little war would be during the Chinese Olympics. China would likely remain quiet with their hands temporarily full with the Olympics.

So my fantasy, glorious, contingency war needs to be brief, violent, and force the Pashtun jirga to rethink their long term cultural interests. It needs to end with Osama in a holding tank, brought up on charges in the world court.

If it fails? Well what do you expect from the lawless tribal frontier area in Pakistan with questionable army allegiance? Corruption is everywhere.

I’d still like to open a 5-star hotel with some good ski-runs. You don’t suppose the opium production their so good at, has anything to do with the foolishness of some of our drug laws? Nah.

Victor Davis Hanson says you have to look at war with a long term perspective in order to understand its meaning. Long term is real long term. It may well turn out that while many say Bush's legacy must be a failure, history may have a completely different take on things, long after both you and I and our great grand children have come and gone. It may turn out, that doomed legacy of a Bush Presidency we hear so often this campaign-cycle ends up being written 1000 years from now as the President who started Islamic Reformation and brought freedoms that enabled thinking people to ask questions about religious practices that eventually changed the world and started the east and the west talking again.

The Ritz, I like that franchise, a 5-star Ritz, mini-conference center and 18-hole Tiger Woods certified golf course. A Pashtun bag-piper paying my old favorite, “The Ass in the Graveyard” with double malt scotch, in the bracing night air.