Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Can the world bear the loss of Pakistani territory to Al Qaeda?

Khaled Ahmed’s article in the latest Friday Times [Nov 9-15, 2007] reveals, again, a sense of despair about Pakistan. One wonders how pervasive this kind of thinking is in Paksitan.

Because The Friday Times is not openly available on the web [but the cost for online subscription is nominal] I here quote more liberally than I normally might. What I read here is a sense of doubt about whether Pakistan can in fact adequately deal with its issues, even whether it can survive. Note that it is not Musharraf’s situation and behavior that specifically causes the despair, although the General’s problems are undoubtedly the background for this statement; nor is it Benazir Bhutto, whose presence in the public discourse of the country has been inescapable, and whose popularly constitutes an implicit challenge to the current regime. The issue for Ahmed is far more fundamental. The crisis surrounding Musharraf is merely symptomatic of something more fundamental. Pakistan is at risk.

A nuclear power at risk? Is its territory, as Ahmed says, already “lost” to Al Qaeda?

Can the world bear this?

“Democratic dream and crisis of the state” by Khaled Ahmed
. . . In Pakistan, loss of territory is now more or less acknowledged. The next phase of acknowledgment has yet to come: that territory has been lost to someone who wants to create another state at the expense of Pakistan’s territorial integrity.

. . . .Territory is being lost to Muslim warriors who have better Islamic credentials than the state in Pakistan. That is why it is difficult for the mind of the state to formulate a new threat perception. . . .

Al Qaeda [is] looking for state of its own: Loss of territory to the likes of Baitullah Mehsud and Fazlullah means a chunk of Pakistan from where attacks are being launched into nextdoor Afghanistan . . .

[Pakistan] has reacted in a variety of ways: by denying the presence of the Taliban who attack across the border, or by counter-attacking the Kabul government and accusing it of all sorts of evil designs, . . .

That Al Qaeda is in search of a state of its own is known to the world. The last time it tried to gain a foothold inside a state was in Somalia in 2006. The sharia there was of the Arab variety and very close to what the Taliban want. The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), dispensing a wide variety of adjudication based on contradictory but legitimate sources of jurisprudence, set up its own legally fractured government, only to arouse alarm in the neighbourhood. The United States got ‘Christian’ Ethiopia to invade Somalia and put the Islamic warriors – some of them hailing from Pakistan – to flight.

. . . [W]hile patriotic Pakistanis defiantly oppose the label of ‘failed state’, there are signs of intervention that we can hardly ignore. Drones flown from the US have been attacking suspected Al Qaeda hideouts inside Pakistani territory. Latest reports from North Waziristan speak of drones overflying territory that is virtually lost to Pakistan.

[There has even been an] ‘offer’ of US forces ‘to fight the Taliban elements in the Tribal Areas and Swat’ by the US Central Command (Centcom) chief, . . . . It is quite clear what direction the national crisis is taking. The central crisis is not democracy and civil-military relations, but the survival of the state and, ironically, within the consensus that wishes to ignore the state are also those who actually want the federation to come to an end.

The nation agrees on nothing: If the state collapses, the sub-nationalists will all get their rights. The NWFP will repossess its hydroelectric assets that it can earn rental from; Balochistan will repossess its gas reserves and get rich by selling them at the global market, and Sindh will take its rightful cut from the revenues accruing from its industrial base and its ports. That leaves Punjab as the rump that will be forced to look towards India differently. The crisis of the state of Pakistan hinges on an increasing lack of national consensus over the federation. The Constitution is under rejection in various ways depending on who is looking at it. And there is foreign invasion by Al Qaeda that looks like internal reform aimed at fulfilling the Islamic dream.

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