Thursday, May 07, 2009

Another warning from Ahmed Rashid

As Ahmed Rashid says in his Op-ed piece in the Washington Post, May 5, 09, he has been sounding alarms about the advance of militant Islamists in Central and South Asia for many years. The difference now is how shrill his warnings have become. He sees disaster almost already here.

My problem is that it is hard to refute him. We are seeing various groups, each with its own distinctive quarrel with the Pakistani administration, gathering together under the umbrella of the Taliban against the government. What was once a Pushtun/Pathan movement ["Taliban"] has attracted the support non-Pushtuns -- Baluchis, Punjabi, Sindhis. Several kinds of militant groups now seem to agree that “the government is the problem” and in the name of "Islam" they seem to be working together. Obviously, if they succeed in bringing down the whole administrative edifice – which Rashid seems to fear is about to happen – they will soon fall out among themselves for their complaints are different. The scenarios that come to mind, all of them, seem truly terrifying, especially for the Pakistani people who deserve better but have been cursed by failures of leadership.

Anyway, here are some quotes from Rashid’s most recent appeal for American help.
• Pakistanis are beset by a galloping Taliban insurgency in the north that is based not just among Pashtuns, as in Afghanistan, but that has extensive links to al-Qaeda and jihadist groups in Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan. That means the Taliban offensive in northern Pakistan has the potential to become a nationwide movement within a few months.
• The army's recent counteroffensive against the Taliban was prompted in part by U.S. pressure and, more significant, by a dramatic shift in public opinion toward opposing the Taliban. Many people are beginning to see the country threatened by a bloody internal revolution.
• Every government official I have met says that the country is bankrupt and that there is no money to fight the insurgency, let alone deal with the refugees [from Swat, possibly as many as a million].
• But the extensive conditions [being established by congress for giving aid] -- as varied as improving relations with India, fighting the Afghan Taliban and allowing the U.S. interrogation of Pakistani nuclear scientists -- are too much for any Pakistani government to accept and survive politically.
• Pakistan is deteriorating. Congress should pass the emergency funds quickly and, at minimum, offer the first year of the $1.5 billion without conditions to foster stability between the two sides at this critical juncture and ensure that the powerful right wing here has no excuse to once again decry U.S. aid as politically motivated.

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