Pakistan on the Brink

by Dennis Loo

As I've written previously, Pakistan concentrates the present contradictions in the world more powerfully and dangerously than perhaps anywhere else. See here as well.

As the article below from The Independent UK shows, the failure of the "war on terror," and its viciously, spectacularly, counter-productive nature, are being played out in dramatic ways in Pakistan. If Obama becomes president, he will get the chance to continue these horrible policies that his predecessor, W., implemented on Obama's recommendations!

Look at what's happening to Pakistan and then ask yourself if this is the change we need and the change we can believe in.

Endorsing and defending the Empire, which Obama has made no secret is his credo in foreign policy, leads logically and inevitably to these policies and to these consequences. Is this the world you want? Is this the country you stand with?

Pakistan Stares Into the Abyss

Thursday 23 October 2008
by: Andrew Buncombe, Anne Penketh and Omar Waraich, The Independent UK

A spiraling conflict, economic collapse and blackouts threaten anarchy with far-reaching implications.

Pakistan was locked in crisis last night, with the government pressedby Washington to deepen its conflict with Islamic militants in thelawless regions on the Afghan border, and obliged to call in theInternational Monetary Fund to stave off financial catastrophe.

In the rugged north of the country, a major military offensive to rootout Taliban militants has created a flood of up to 200,000 refugees andpitched Pakistani against Pakistani, Muslim against Muslim, in aconflict some are beginning to regard as a civil war.

A new US intelligence estimate meanwhile has warned that the renewedinsurgency, coupled with energy shortages and political infighting,means that Pakistan, which is the only Muslim nation with nuclearweapons, is "on the edge."

"Pakistan is going through the worst crisis of its history," accordingto a leaked letter signed by the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif,the main opposition leader. It is a view shared by Imran Khan, anotheropposition leader, who says that the political and economic meltdown"is leading to a sort of anarchy in Pakistan."

"How does a country collapse?" the former cricketer asked. "There'sincreasing uncertainty, economic meltdown, more people on the street,inflation rising between 25 and 30 per cent. Then there's the rupeefalling."

Pakistan is experiencing power cuts that have led to hourly blackouts,a doubling of basic food prices and a currency that has lost a third ofits value in the past year. "The awful thing is there's no solution insight - neither in the war on terror nor on the economic side," Mr Khansaid during a visit to London. Heightening the sense of nationalemergency, the government yesterday turned to the InternationalMonetary Fund for $15bn (£9.3bn) to cope with a balance of paymentscrisis caused by a flight of capital, after previously saying thatapplying to the IMF would be a last resort.

Almost every day there are retaliatory attacks against police andsoldiers and Western targets. Hundreds of soldiers and an unknownnumber of civilians are losing their lives. The national parliamentrejected the US influence on the government by adopting a resolutionlast night calling for an "independent" foreign policy and urgingdialogue with the extremists.

The military operation against the so-called Pakistan Taliban isconcentrated in the largely autonomous tribal areas that borderAfghanistan. A total of 120,000 troops and paramilitary forces havebeen deployed against what senior officers say is a skilled andtenacious enemy. "They do not fight in one place, you cannot fight themin one place. It's basically guerrilla warfare," said Lt Col HaiderBaseer, a military spokesman. "The area is mountainous, it's vast. Andeverybody carries a gun. It's the culture."

Long accused of failing to confront the militants, the military angrilypoints out that up to 1,500 soldiers and many more civilians have beenkilled in such operations since 2001. America has triggered nationalanger by dispatching troops from Afghanistan to attack a Pakistanivillage. At the same time, Pakistani officials point out that US andNato forces in Afghanistan are looking to negotiate with the Taliban -something they have previously criticised Islamabad for doing.

Mr Khan claimed that the US-led "war on terror" had led to"approximately one million" men taking up arms in the tribal areas."The total al-Qa'ida who were supposed to be in Pakistan were 800 to1,200 people. This is the biggest gift of George Bush to al-Qa'ida,what he's done there," said Mr Khan. "It's like a factory of terror,it's producing terrorists, radicalising our society, pushing thosepeople who had nothing to do with al-Qa'ida or Taliban into the arms ofmilitancy and opposing the Americans and the Pakistan army," he said.[boldface added-DL]

Although Mr Khan leads the marginal Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf - whichboycotted the last election - his views carry weight because of thestrong moral stand he has taken in support of an independent judiciaryand against endemic corruption, according to Pakistani analysts.

This week, perhaps partly to try to smooth relations, Richard Boucher,the US Assistant Secretary of State, praised the current militaryoperation, which is said to have killed up to 1,000 militants. "I thinkit is good Pakistan is taking serious military action against theterrorists," he told reporters during a trip to the country, duringwhich he met the recently elected President, Asif Ali Zardari. But MrZardari's coalition government is weak and the civilian president isaccused by critics such as Mr Khan of being a "puppet" of theAmericans, as was his predecessor, Pervez Musharraf.

Suicide bombs have become a near-daily occurrence. There have been morethan 100 since July 2007, killing around 1,200 people. In 2006, therewere just six such attacks. A report by the Pakistan's ISI intelligenceagency suggested that in the first eight months of the year, morepeople were killed by suicide bombers in Pakistan than in Iraq orAfghanistan.

It remains unclear whether the army will continue to remain on thesidelines, as General Musharraf's successor as army chief-of-staff,General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, has pledged to do. But the army could actas a power broker from behind the scenes.

"I have never known as much uncertainty as this," said Mr Khan, who isbased in Lahore and is visiting his children who live with his formerwife, Jemima Khan. The security risks are now so grave for Pakistanipoliticians that for the first time, Mr Khan is considering wearing abulletproof vest after receiving death threats.


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