Jan 05 2008

Something Is Happening In Pakistan

Published by at 11:30 am under All General Discussions,Pakistan

Benazir Bhutto’s assassination is not only reverberating against Musharraf and the United States. There is a rising backlash in the country against extremists and their bloody and deadly methods. More voices are coming out against the terrorist nature of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, there are calls to eject the Afghan refugees who fled the US actions back in 2001 and who have escalated the violence in Pakistan ever since, and there are even signs that elements of the more conservative Islamic political parties are changing their tone in order to avoid be neutered politically by losing the gains they had obtained in national elections. The following stories lay out and interesting “series of dots” to ponder.

But before we get to those it is important to note something else is also happening – something Bhutto supported publicly. And that is the increased presence and activities of US special forces in Pakistan, which is too coincidental with some of the tensions beginning to appear between the extremists and the rest of the country:

In the wake of the Benazir Bhutto assassination, American officials aren’t talking much about plans to dramatically boost U.S. military aid and counterinsurgency operations in the wild, tribal areas of Pakistan.

But the Dec. 27 murder of Bhutto, the U.S.-backed candidate in elections whose future is now in doubt, will prompt “no change” in U.S. plans to bolster Pakistan’s 80,000-strong indigenous Frontier Corps with aid and training, a State Department spokesperson said, speaking on a not-for-attribution basis.

The U.S. Special Operations Command, reportedly planning to “vastly expand” its presence in Pakistan, referred my request for details to the U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for the region. A spokesman there likewise said he could provide no information.

But the real Hail Mary play being called in the administration’s huddle is a plan to recruit tribal leaders in the frontier areas to go after bin Laden.

Putting aside the political chaos in Islamabad (which is a big put-aside), the idea that we can replicate in Pakistan what is temporarily working in Iraq is very likely a fantasy.

Classic liberal defeatist claptrap. But what this story recognizes is the fact the US is turning its attention to the last bastion of al-Qaeda and Taliban hideouts. And contrary to this person, who is too close minded and too biased from his experiences to see the big picture, the conditions in Pakistan suggest such a move by the Pakis and US could succeed.

The first sign that is apparent is the resignation of Pakistan’s version of Neville Chamberlain, who attempted to broker a peace deal with the tribes in the region that required them to be peaceful and expel the terrorists:

A top official in charge of Pakistani tribal areas resigned following a surge in violence linked to Al-Qaeda rebels hiding out in the country’s northwest, an official said.

He structured a peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban in September 2006 in the wake of bloody clashes between the army and militants that killed hundreds on both sides.

The deal under which militants agreed to not launch cross-border attacks in Afghanistan and promised to hunt down foreign extremists in return for a slowed down military crackdown, was criticised by Afghanistan and Western allies.

“The peace agreement was a risk he took,” security analyst retired general Talat Masood said.

“It was good conceptually but it was very weak on the implementation side and it ended up in consolidating and expanding the influence of the militants in the sensitive region,” Masood told AFP.

More here. The idea was worth a shot in order to avoid violence. But as we know the Islamists don’t do “peaceful”. It at least gave the pretext that there was no rush to war before military efforts were finally taken.

The fact is the Pakistan government has been applying pressure on the insurgents to the point the are starting to cry “uncle” and demanding Musharraf stop – with threats of real violence to come even though that violence started weeks ago and has been thwarted already:

akistani Taliban have threatened to launch retaliatory attacks in several cities in the NWFP including Peshawar if the government does not end the military action against them, reported BBC Urdu on Friday.

Why is this a plea to cease beating these guys up? Because there are movements to cleanse the country of the extremists. There are calls to send all the Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan since they are a prime source of the problem:

A top Pakistani official is calling for the repatriation of Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan in an effort to prevent terrorist indoctrination.
Sikandar Aziz Khan, Pakistani special adviser to the North-West Frontier province and chief minister on political affairs, says Afghan refugees in Pakistan are targets for Taliban recruitment and that to eliminate terrorism in the North-West Frontier province and in the surrounding tribal areas the refugees should be moved back to Afghanistan, the Daily Times reported.

“(The) repatriation of Afghan refugees would bring peace and tranquility to the country,” Khan said in a statement.

al-Qaeda and their ilk are clearly wearing out their welcome, as they did in Anbar Province and other areas of Iraq. At least in Pakistan it will not be US forces providing the security for those wishing to push out the extremists, it will be Pakistan forces, which should accelerate the process and leave off a US imprint to the actions. But make no mistake about it, US Special Forces are in Pakistan with permission to go after certain targets. And I am sure we are about finished with our target selection and tactical plans by now.

Again, is this just making connections that don’t exist? Well how are the political Islamic Parties acting? This is what I find so interesting and hopeful:

We converged on the rooftop that afternoon to attend the opening ceremony for Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s campaign office in this dusty city in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, better known by its abbreviation, J.U.I., is a hard-line Islamist party, widely considered a political front for numerous jihadi organizations, including the Taliban. In the last parliamentary elections here, in 2002, the J.U.I. formed a national coalition with five other Islamist parties and led a campaign that was pro-Taliban, anti-American and spiked with promises to implement Shariah, or Islamic law. The alliance, known as the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, or M.M.A., won more than 10 percent of the popular vote nationwide — the highest share ever for an Islamist bloc in Pakistan. The alliance formed governments in two of the country’s four provinces, including Baluchistan.

he J.U.I. was gearing up again for national elections, then scheduled for the second week of January, but the message this time was remarkably different from what it was five years ago. One by one, hopefuls for the national and provincial assembly constituencies gave short speeches. Most of them spoke in Pashto, but, knowing Urdu, I could understand enough to realize that they weren’t rehashing the typical J.U.I. rhetoric. No one praised the Taliban. Shariah was mentioned only in passing. Just one person, a first-time candidate in a suede jacket who probably felt obliged to prove his credentials in a party of fundamentalist mullahs, attacked the United States.

If hardline Islamic leaders are tacking away from the extremists, then there is clearly something happening in Pakistan. Why no mention of the Taliban? Are they now persona non grata in Pakistan’s most Islamic regions?

In Quetta, Maulvi Noor Muhammad, who is 62, sat on the madrassa’s cold concrete floor wrapped in a wool blanket as he leafed through a newspaper. Speaking in Pashto through an interpreter, he said that Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the J.U.I. chief, had visited three times in the previous few weeks to persuade him to enter the election. Muhammad claimed to have refused each time because he believed the J.U.I. had drifted from its core mission: to lead an aggressive Islamization campaign and provide political support to what he referred to as the mujahedeen, a term for Muslim fighters that can shift in meaning depending on who is speaking. “Participating in this election would amount to treason against the mujahedeen,” he said.

There is a rift between those dedicated to Islam in Pakistan. There is more than just the mindless murderers acting in the region. There is an opening here. Yes, a small one which can go either way. But there is an opening, and as Iraq showed it is definitely worth trying to exploit. I still say the extremists are vastly outnumbered everywhere. And once they bring their jackboot tactics into a region they create natural enemies in large numbers. Unlike the defeatist I linked to in the beginning I think this is more than it worth attempting – and it could work.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Something Is Happening In Pakistan”

  1. ama055131 says:

    Thanks AJ for for your spot on analyzations and news that you can’t find on tv. This is the first site that I turn to when surfing, and for thoses that come to your site i would like to remind thoses that this is a new year and it does take money to run the site I would urge those to remember that a donation or tip to AJ should be made. I don’t think 50$ for 52 weeks is a bad deal!

  2. crosspatch says:

    Putting aside the political chaos in Islamabad (which is a big put-aside), the idea that we can replicate in Pakistan what is temporarily working in Iraq is very likely a fantasy.

    Well, this pretty much puts a big giant neon sign on exactly what Jeff Stein’s agenda is. And as Jeff Stein is their “National Security Editor” I would expect all national security content to reflect Jeff Stein’s personal political agenda and not really have a whole lot to do with any objective look at facts. He is pretty much going to cherry pick any facts he can find to validate his agenda. That discounts anything he, and by extension, CQ might have to say on national security issues.

    Does he issue any criteria by which the changes in Iraq can be considered “permanent” and why he considers the several month period of mayhem to be the norm and not a temporary condition? I believe we have pretty much returned to the norm from a temporary surge in violence spurred by AQ.

    Jeff Stein believes (or would have others believe) otherwise but gives no reasoning for his belief. Political hack, political water boy, nothing more.

  3. crosspatch says:

    Also, AJ, it is time to call out these so-called Journalists by name and hold them personally responsible for their advocacy “journalism”. You should not only print the name of the publication but also print the name of the propagandist who wrote it.