Thursday, June 05, 2008

Pakistan: still the source of insurgency in the Middle East

It is hard to believe that the Pakistan government continues to deny that Pakistani territory is a source for Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgents to base their activities in harassing Afghanistan. Once again an Afghan official is charging Pakistanis as giving sanctuary to insurgents. And once again the Pakistanis are ignoring and denying such claims.

We have just heard of another person's report, through personal sources. on a recent visit to Quetta. They report that Taliban and Al Qaeda members openly walk the streets of Quetta, and openly recruit fighters in their war against Afghanistan. They are paying families for allowing their young men to go off to the “holy war” against the Afghanistan government and the Americans. They seem, again, not to lack funds, and there are few jobs for the local recruits.

Pakistan is a festering source of insurgency – in fact, not only in Afghanistan but elsewhere in the Middle East.

The long-practiced denial in Washington is being emulated in Islamabad.


Azad said...

It reminds of Ahmed Rashid's recent speech to the Carnegie Council where he said that, "Almost every single important extremist leader is living on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan."

I lived in Quetta for many years and there are obvious no-go zones. Recruitment centers operate with authority and impunity. There aren't even any cover ups, everything is happening in plain daylight; yet, all we hear and read about is the 'Success of the Surge' in Iraq!

Bob said...

Thanks so much Azad,
Good for you. I so much appreciate getting a comment from someone who knows the location in question because it seems ever harder to trust whatever the "official sources" tell us, especially about sensitive issues. Official denial, as many of us have discovered, seems to be an affliction of governments. But at what price? The truth, whatever it is, is usually less than flattering, but if societies are to confront the issues before them successfully, it cannot be useful to to deny the truth? Certainly there will be people on the ground who know better. It seems that many of our government leaders have become inured to deception and denial.
I am pleased and flattered that you would help out by telling us what you actually have seen and heard in Quetta. Thanks so much.

hannah said...

That's horrible - are there any Western media sources working in Quetta? Can this be brought to wider attention?

Bob said...

Hi Hanna,
I have already seen an article saying essentially all this somewhere. In fact it seems to me that the secure position of the Taliban in Quetta is well known and has been duly noted in the media. Somewhere there is on my blog a reference to Retired Gen Hamed Gul as the paymaster for the Taliban in Quetta. This is to say that, yes it is horrible, and the secure position of the Taliban in Quetta seems to be openly and widely known. I would welcome advice and comment on how that knowledge could be translated into serious action, a serious attempt to get control of that situation.
It's good to hear from you, Hannah; I am hoping that people like you -- important people like you [!] will be able to help advertise more widely some of the egregious mis-uses of power taking place -- known to be taking place - in Pakistan's western provinces. Thanks for your note.
Best, B.

Sami said...

Hannah, there are plenty of Pakistani journalists working (for "Western media sources") in Quetta and the rest of Balochistan who do actually try to bring much of what is going in those parts to the attention of the wider world.

In the aftermath of Daniel Pearl's murder in 2002, most of the American press corps in Pakistan cowers in their Islamabad hotel rooms, venturing out only occasionally to transcribe government press conferences or to interview some local big shot (who happens to be equally out of touch with the country's realities) under heavy security.

The local stringers or fixers upon whom these American correspondents rely for much of their linguistic abilities and "reporting" are routinely harassed, even tortured, by state agents who view investigative journalism as hostile anti-state activity.

Nevertheless, Quetta's role as a Taliban haven where recruitment and fundraising activity continues is not news to anyone who has been following events in these parts since 2002. It is simply when things appear to be looking worse than usual in Afghanistan that it becomes useful for journalists (in order to educate their readers) to periodically re-focus and highlight the problem across the border which feeds the anti-NATO insurgency.

The problem has more to do with unsustained coverage of develoments in Quetta in the American media, which moves from one sensation to the next, than a failure of (Pakistani) journalism to bring these issues to light, often at great personal risk to themselves. In the meantime the only way we're able to get more detailed accounts of what's going there is if we wait for a credible journalist like Ahmed Rashid to write a new book and fill us in on what we've been missing.