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ProSense Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 12:44 PM
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Caution: Taliban Crossing
Op-Ed Contributor

Caution: Taliban Crossing

Published: November 28, 2007


These same tribal areas are now focus of Pakistans struggle with the Pakistani Taliban, particularly the North Waziristan and South Waziristan tribal areas on the Afghan border and the Swat region further north. The government trumpets it has more than 80,000 troops in the tribal areas, fighting bravely to root out the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Unfortunately, these troops supported with tens of millions of dollars in American aid appear even less able to police this wild frontier than were the canny British.

Despite the governments claims of a successful offensive over last weekend, for the most part the Pakistani Army is totally on the defensive and doing almost nothing to bring the fight to the militants. Yes, there have been heavy casualties in recent months, but this is very misleading: they are largely coming from roadside-bomb attacks against convoys and Taliban assaults against Pakistani military bases and checkpoints. There are relatively few reports of casualties during foot patrols, raids or any offensive assaults.

The only consistent reports of offensive action by the Pakistani Army involve the use of helicopter gunships and artillery to attack militant compounds. Aerial assaults, when carried out without support from boots on the ground, serve but one purpose: they help sustain the illusion that the Pakistani government is taking effective action.

The truth is that the soldiers have lost the will to fight. Reports in the Indian press, based on information from the very competent Indian intelligence agencies, describe a Pakistani Army in disarray in the tribal areas. Troops are deserting and often refusing to fight their Muslim brothers.


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Igel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 02:15 PM
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1. For being ex-CIA in Pakistan,
Edited on Wed Nov-28-07 02:30 PM by igil
he seems to not know the difference between the frontier guards, which report to the governor (and only the governor) and the Army (which reports to the Army chief of staff). Or that until the governor asks the prez to send in the army, the army can't be sent in. Such is the NWFP and FATA. The usual formulation was that the central government's "writ" extended to 100 feet on either side of the road--enough so they could stop, if need be, but no more. Sending troops into Waziristan a year or two ago created widespread outrage: They'd never gone there before, the region's autonomy was violated and they didn't much like it.

The Army's been involved in Swat for just over 3 weeks (with little happening for the first couple of days). They were in the area beginning in July, but had no mandate to do anything. They took casualties while the NWFP governor hemmed and hawed.

This region values negotiation over victory: Tribes are always at war, but the death toll is very low. It's a way of strengthening your negotiating position. As one pundit put it--how do you negotiate when you're losing, when you're seen as weak? It makes sense--if you adopt a rather different set of cultural values. If you can't adopt them, you won't "get it", and it's rather important to "get it" if you want to be able to say something interesting and true.

Moreover, in general, the Western press doesn't see different layers of government in Pakistan and why even a dictator respects them. If you read the foreign press, you see the same lack of awareness of the US reflected: if a US state court finds somebody innocent then it was the * administration that found them innocent, and the National Guard and the Marines are essentially the same thing--but less serious than confusing the Frontier Guard and the Army. Such conflation of entities and governmental layers only works if you don't really know much about the country you're talking about, and don't much care.

Ex-CIA posted in Pakistan, huh? It would help to explain things.
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ProSense Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 02:57 PM
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2. More background information:
Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Akond of Swat

Who or why, or which, or what, is Maulana Fazlullah of Swat? Recent headlines from Pakistan have been grim - pitched battles with many reports of casualties and mass migration of civilians from the conflict region. Yet, the foreign media hasnt really focused on Maulana Fazlullah - perhaps thinking that the story of Talibanization covers this particular mullah just as well as it does any other (Baitullah Mehsud, in Waziristan, is slowly getting some attention, though). At a cursory glance, it all does blend in. The overall deterioration in the NWFP (North Western Frontier Province) and the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) areas in recent years - specifically in Waziristan, the Malakand Agency regions, Dir, Bajaur, Swat and areas around Peshawar - is often called Talibanization and is often pegged to the aftermath of the Afghanistan war of 2001. There is, though, a longer history that offers some additional venues of thought. At the very least, it tells us to pay attention to the local even as we highlight transnational movements like the Taliban.

Shah Ismail (1789-1831) and Sayyid Ahmed Barelvi (1786-1831), specifically, are pivotal figures in the memory and history of Swat.1 In the late 1820s, they waged a religious war against Ranjit Singhs forces for the control of Peshawar. They succeeded briefly, declared themselves an emirate where the creed of Muhammad held sway, and were swept away in 1831 - killed in battle. Shah Ismail and Sayyid Ahmed, though defeated, emerged as an integral part of the narrative of anti-imperialism. But not simply for their militant struggle for the establishment of an Islamic polity, they came to represent a profound connection to the revivalist thought of nineteenth century Muslims in India. Shah Ismail was the grandson of Shah Waliullah - the progenitor of the deobandis, who have continued to enjoy a wide following in NWFP. I know that it is more fashionable nowadays to connect Shah Waliullah to Abdul Wahhab and build an argument about some unitary fundamentalist strain of Islamic thought - but, it is a wrong notion. There are crucial difference, not only in history but in the theological arguments underlining deobandi and wahabbi ideologies of revivalist Islam. The deobandi, in particular, combined the idea of a polity based on Islamic Sharia and free from foreign influences with a more quixotic attempts to migrate or settle a Caliphate in Afghanistan. (The migration of thousands of Muslims to Afghanistan in 1920 needs recent historical attention.)

The mountainous regions between Kabul and Peshawar and across Baluchistan and Gilgit remained an odd absence in the centralizing ideology of Pakistan. Partly it was due to the linguistic and ethnic communities that stretched beyond the nation-state. Partly it was a function of the lack of political legitimacy for any federal government in the region. The Pakistani State, created with unequal halves of East and West Pakistan, proved unequal to the task of imagining itself. In 1971, Bangladesh emerged out of the political chaos and opportunism and military destruction wrought by West Pakistani armies. In 1972, Pakistan embarked on a new path to re-affirm itself. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the father of Benazir Bhutto, was the chief architect of a program of Islamization to glue together the rest of Pakistan. He looked towards the Pan-Islamic movement to position Pakistan as an international entity that wasnt simply a footnote in the red hot Cold War. Bhuttos Islamization efforts continued under Zia ul Haq, who overthrew Bhutto in 1977. Except, that under Zia ul Haq, they became the Sunnification efforts to counter his (and Saudi) fears of a Shia revolution sweeping out of Iran and across the Muslim world. The frontier, as always, of these efforts was the NWFP. It is around this moment that the Soviet-Afghan war overshadows all local narratives but I would like to put in a call to study the movement of Pashtun men out of NWFP territories and into the urban centers of Karachi and Lahore - and further to Riyadh and Doha - for economic reasons. We are sorely lacking scholarship that can trace these movements back to the origins where petro-dollars (from doing labor in the Gulf States) transformed these small communities. (It is one sad casualty of our current myopia that we are interested only in the monolithic account of Soviet-Afghan war and the Talibanization and continue to stress top-down factors in our analysis.)

In November 1994, the year old government of Benazir Bhutto faced a crisis in NWFP. Some of the Pashtun tribal chiefs, led by a Maulana Sufi Muhammad proclaimed that Sharia needed to be enforced in NWFP. His movement, the Tehrik Nifaz-i Shariat Muhammadi (Movement for the Establishment of the Path of Muhammad), enjoyed wide-spread support. He was shutting down airports and businesses and making life hard for the PPP. So, she cut a deal. It may be shocking to remember that this same Benazir Bhutto who is now proclaiming herself as the Sole Secular Leader was none too shy about cutting deals where it suited her. The Musharraf regime also turned to TNSM and Maulana Sufi Muhammad to try and operate in the Swat region. But, the Bajaur strike and the Lal Masjid crisis ended their partnership. Maulana Sufi Muhammad is under arrest but Musharraf is actively trying to broker another deal.


The Not Yet Nation
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