December 20, 2014


Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders (Shikha Dalmia, December 19, 2014, The Week)

Regimes change course only when the cost of maintaining the status quo exceeds the cost of enacting change. This is not to minimize the cost of scores of innocent young lives. But to Pakistan's political leaders, the price of these children's lives is still lower than the toll of a veritable civil war with an intelligence service that has long played footsie with extremist groups it finds geopolitically useful.

Ever since its inception over six decades ago, Pakistan has been obsessed with countering its neighbor, India. Some fear is obviously warranted given that nuclear-armed India is six times bigger in both size and population, and its predominantly Hindu population has no love lost for Pakistan. But Pakistan's fears have taken almost pathological proportions. And India's secular democracy has done a relatively decent job of keeping its own belligerence in check (even when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has been in power, although the jury is out on the party's current prime minister, Narendra Modi, who has a track record of tolerating anti-Muslim violence).

Thanks partly to exaggerated fears about India, Pakistan has built its army and its intelligence arm, the Inter-Intelligence Service (ISI), into all-powerful entities that are scarcely answerable to civilian rulers. Indeed, no Pakistani government can survive without their support. The army and ISI know it, and demand free rein over the nation's foreign and defense priorities.

They threw in Pakistan's lot with America during the Cold War not because they appreciated American democracy and freedom, but simply as a counterweight to India's alliance with the Soviet Union. But after the U.S.-backed Afghani guerrillas defeated Russian forces in the 1980s, Pakistan helped the Taliban defeat its rivals and take control rather than allowing Kabul to return to secular monarchical rule, lest it ally with India. Furthermore, although Pakistan denies it, ISI has colluded with the Taliban to train and arm Islamist terrorist groups to conduct a proxy war in Kashmir, the Muslim-dominated border state that Pakistan wants to wrest out of India's control.

This is also why it was vital for ISI to reinstate the Taliban in Afghanistan after NATO forces toppled the group in the wake of 9/11. Even though the Taliban had become a pariah in the world thanks to its retrograde ideology and harboring of al Qaeda, ISI offered it sanctuary, training, camps, expertise, and fundraising advise. "ISI support was critical to the survival and revival of the Taliban after 9/11," notes the Brooking Institute's Bruce Riedel, "just as it was critical to its conquest of Afghanistan in the 1990s."

ISI even allowed a rump group of Pashtun Taliban fighters driven out of Afghanistan by American forces to settle in North Waziristan and open a Pakistani chapter. Since then, however, this group has chafed at the ignominy of having to live under Pakistani rule and wants to impose sharia on the whole province -- if not all of Pakistan.

If Waziristan is permanently ungovernable, then it must be made permanently unlivable.  A sovereign is a precondition of modern life.

Pakistan's 9/11? (AYESHA SIDDIQADEC. 19, 2014, NY Times)

[P]akistan's leaders want to keep at least some militants around to fight India and re-establish some influence in Afghanistan. Even as the Pakistani military was conducting its anti-Taliban offensive in North Waziristan in recent months, it refrained from going after the Haqqani Network, an insurgent group that staged several attacks in Afghanistan this summer, or the thousands of militants in Punjab and Sindh who the military thinks might one day serve as proxy fighters against India.

One popular narrative distinguishes these various terrorist groups according to three broad categories: those fighting other sectarian groups in Pakistan, those fighting in Afghanistan and those fighting in India. But these differences are illusive. Lashkar-e-Taiba, whose primary purpose is to challenge India's control over Kashmir, also calls for jihad generally: Its supporters leave graffiti in streets throughout Pakistan calling for war against the United States and the West. Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jaish-e-Muhammad are revivalist Sunni groups that call for the establishment of a Shariah-based political system, but they multitask, too.

All are tolerated by the government. Jaish-e-Muhammad, which is known to cultivate links with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, is allowed to run madrasas in South Punjab and to produce literature that calls for killing religious minorities and burning alleged blasphemers. Hafiz Saeed, the leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, has appeared on television advocating jihad against India.

The party of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N, is accused of maintaining close ties with the leaders of Punjab-based militants. The opposition PTI is seen as a Taliban sympathizer: Its leader, Imran Khan, said at a political rally earlier this year that the Taliban "did not want to enforce Shariah in the country at gunpoint," but "wanted to liberate it from the U.S. war," according to Dawn, a Pakistani newspaper. The power base of the PPP, the social-democrat party of the Bhutto-Zardari clan, includes right-wing politicians and their militant partners in the southern province of Sindh.

More important, none of these political actors has the strength to challenge the military's policy of tolerating terrorist groups that are hostile to India. 

Posted by at December 20, 2014 9:42 AM

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