Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Some different views of reality: Euro-American vs Pakistani

The reports on what is going on in Pakistan come from very different points of view. Compare what we see in today’s papers in US sources versus what one Pakistani observer sees. I collect here some quotations from articles in today's papers and then note what I found in one Pakistani blog, chosen only because I recently came to know it. It cannot be representative of all Pakistanis, or of all middle class Pakistanis even though this web site seems clearly to be a product of some young Pakistanis. So I cannot present it as representative of Pakistanis in general. But there seems to be a great deal of uncertainty, even confusion, among Pakistanis about what is going on in Swat and in the tribal territories, and this comment on Swat by this blogger reveals how confused one can be, and thus how mistaken one might be about what is taking place only a few miles away from the capital city. Anyway, for what it's worth I juxtapose these several newspaper reports with this blogger's perception of what is going on.

The New York Times [JANE PERLEZ And PIR ZUBAIR SHAH, “Porous Border With Pakistan Could Hinder U.S. Troops” May 5, 09]
• [A Taliban source] described a Taliban strategy that relied on free movement over the border and in and around Pakistan, ready recruitment of Pakistani men and sustained cooperation of sympathetic Afghan villagers.
• The Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group of many brands of jihadist fighters backed by Al Qaeda, are spearheading wars on both sides of the border in what for them is a seamless conflict.
• "There are so many people working with the Afghans and the Americans who are on their payroll, but they inform us, sell us [the Taliban] weapons.”
• The drone attacks simply prompted Taliban fighters to spend more time in Afghanistan, or to move deeper into Pakistan, straddling both theaters of a widening conflict.
• [The Taliban have] a long-haul strategy to destabilize and take over a nuclear-armed Pakistan.
• The tactician says he embeds his men in what he described as friendly Afghan villages, where they will spend the next four to six months with the residents, who provide the weapons and succor for the missions against American and NATO soldiers.
• His guerrillas, in their late teens to mid-20s, are handpicked for their endurance and commitment, he said. Some, like him, were trained by the Pakistani government as proxy fighters against India in Kashmir and have now joined the Qaeda and Taliban cause.
• There was respect for the scale of Al Qaeda’s ambitions. “They have a global agenda, they have a big design,” he said. The Taliban goal was more narrow. “Capturing Afghanistan is not an Al Qaeda mission,” he said. “It’s a Taliban mission. We will be content in capturing Afghanistan and throwing the Americans out.”

Washington Post [Pamela Constable, “The Taliban Tightens Hold In Pakistan's Swat Region”]
• Yet even as the Taliban continued its rampage and rejected the government's latest concession to its demands -- the appointment of Islamic-law judges in Swat -- Pakistan's military leaders clung to hopes for a nonviolent solution, saying that security forces were "still exercising restraint to honor the peace agreement."
• Behind this strained hope for a peaceful solution lie an array of factors -- competing military priorities, reluctance to fight fellow Muslims, lack of strong executive leadership and some internal sympathy for the insurgents -- that analysts say have long prevented the Pakistani army from making a full-fledged assault on violent Islamist groups.
• analysts said it is doubtful the army has the stomach for a sustained fight against Taliban forces if the peace accord does collapse.
• "The militants have resolve, determination, focus and ideology. On the other side, I don't see any of those," said Aftab Khan Sherpao, a former interior minister and a member of Parliament who comes from northwest Pakistan. "The army understands the threat from the militants, but they are more permanently worried about India. They are waiting for civilian leadership and direction, and there isn't any.”
• Analysts said that in the past several weeks, the growing defiance and ambitions of the Taliban -- whose forces reached within 60 miles of this capital city when they seized Buner -- have frightened the country and begun to shake its leaders out of their complacency.
• "The occupation of Buner did raise alarm bells, and a shift in thinking has started to take place. But I'm not sure it can be sustained," said Talat Masood, a retired general and defense analyst. "People are still confused about whether this is our war or America's war, and nobody in the government is getting out and explaining to them why we should fight it. Nobody has the guts to say that cutting off people's heads is un-Islamic. People don't seem to realize how dangerous Talibanization is for Pakistan. It would destroy us."
• Despite the Taliban's record of rapaciousness, it is hard for the Pakistani military establishment, trained to view Hindu-dominated India as its mortal enemy and inculcated with an Islamist mind-set during the military dictatorship of the 1980s, to accept Muslim insurgents as adversaries. Soldiers home on leave have been taunted for fighting their own people; desertions are rising.
• But now that Pakistan is under democratic rule, analysts said, the army has no desire to be seen as making policy and is determined to seek civilian cover for its actions.
• "The government is trying its best to give time and space to the other side to allow the reconciliation process to reach its logical conclusion," Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the military's spokesman,…

The Guardian [Declan Walsh, “Pakistan urges evacuation of Taliban-controlled Swat valley town”]
• Public opinion shifted two weeks ago after a senior pro-Taliban cleric who helped negotiate the pact, Sufi Muhammad, declared that democracy and the superior courts were "infidel" concepts.
• Swat residents now face a grim choice between Taliban gun rule and a bloody army operation. Yusufzai said Swat residents initially backed the introduction of sharia law but had grown disillusioned with the cleric Muhammad.
• "There is a view that the Taliban have another agenda. They want power. This is the talk of the town," he said.

In an effort to identify what people are thinking in Pakistan I went to the blog, Pakistani Spectator, to see what they were thinking about. And on that site we have an observer saying that the radical Islamist group that has taken over Swat, Tehrik-e Taliban [Taliban Movement], is really a front for the CIA. Here are a few quotes from A Khokar • May 4th, 2009.
• The recent smart move of Pak government in Malakand division to re-establish Nizam e adil [“The Righteous Order” or "The moral order"] has, although [it has] taken the air out of Tehrik e Taliban’s balloon and it seems that the calculated game of CIA for which this copycat TTP was hired on a high bids to subdue nuclear-armed Pakistan; at the face of it, their entire scheme is seen [to have] gone awry.
• Pak Armed forces have also moved in with full blast to cleanse the areas and make it free of anti Pakistan Elements. But the usual rhetoric of vulnerability of [a] weakened Pakistan Government and its nuclear arsenal at the hands of so called Taliban has exceptionally been heightened. The entire US Administration including President Barrack Obama is singing a same anti Pakistan chorus and they look at Pakistan, as it is breathing its last.
• To give a full Talibanish flavour to TTP [Tahrik-e Taliban Pakistan], reportedly the dissident of central Asia; Uzbek, Tajick even Chechnian and some Arabs are recruited on very good wages. The subversive activities by suicidal actions, bomb blasts, kidnapping of high profile personalities and large scale disruptions to cripple the normal government functioning are on its full scale and Pakistan is seen sufficiently bruised.
• TTP is a highly sophisticated tool in the hands of US lead NATO forces. It is exceptionally well armed on ground, well fed and has very well trained operatives. Seemingly CIA is satisfied with the ground works done by TTP inside Pakistan and its necessary preparation as a prelude to the planned final occupation of yet another sovereign country after Iraq and Afghanistan.
• Use of Nizam e adil card by Pak government, in troubled Malakand division has in a way weakened the stance of anti Pakistan elements but CIA is bound to spring up another cat out of their bag; the long awaited card of—moving in and striking an amoral power monger and self-anointed savoir of the world; —the old friend Osama bin Laden is there. By hook or crook an enclave for TTP is about to be secured in troubled PATA and Osama and his cohort of Al-Qaeda are likely to declare it the Islamic Emirates of Taliban; thus to enable the US lead forces; (a well sought pretext) to launch an invasion—- inside Pakistan.

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