Friday, August 25, 2006

Pakistan's Wars

Recently there have been two articles with similar titles, “Afghanistan’s Other War” (The American Prospect July 12, 2006) and “Pakistan’s Other War” (Time, Asia Magazine edition, Jun. 19, 2006). Actually, they could both be entitled “Pakistan’s Wars”. It turns out that in both cases, Pakistan’s struggles -- with the Baluch in their own territories or with their neighbor, India – belong to the same bundle in the sense that they are critical issues for a government whose legitimacy is getting shakier by the month. It is hard not to see Pakistan as the most conflicted, even dangerous, place on earth. The Pakistanis are struggling with India over Kashmir – and as the articles indicate, they still resent the loss of East Pakistan (now Bagladesh) – and at the same time their future depends on connecting into the riches of Central Asia, which requires that they do everything possible to have a commanding presence in Afghanistan. In the mean time they have to deal with insurgent Baluch who believe they have been short-changed, and who in fact sit atride not only vital gas reserves but also the new port being built at Gwadar, in preparation for the day when it will be the terminus (and access point for the world) of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan. So, our friends who are supposed to be “fighting terrorists” must somehow balance crises on three fronts: Afghanistan, which is increasingly unstable, but in any case is resentful Pakistan's failure to control the Taliban who are spilling across their borders; India, for which Pakistan needs to keep producing a reserve of holy warriors to fight for Kashmir; and Baluchistan within its own borders, for which Pakistan must deploy a professinal army. Not one of these problems is new or will go away in the near future. A dangerous situation for the country, but also a dangerous situation for the world, as this is a nuclear power.

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