Friday, August 22, 2008


The Asia Times man in Karachi, Syed Saleem Shahzad, looks at the prospects for war or peace in Pakistan. It looks like war.

Musharraf, he points out, had a nuanced policy towards the Pashtuns, Taliban in Afghanistan OK, al-Qaida sometimes OK, some Taliban in Pakistan OK, others not OK. The new government is putting them all in the same basket, and probably that means war is coming. That will make the US happy, and maybe take some pressure off Afghanistan for a while, but Pakistan under the best circumstances is a fragile country, more united by what it is not (India) than by what it is. If Pakistan unites the Pashtun against them, there will be hell to pay.

The Pashtun are about as tough as people get, but they have seldom been united. Against the British, it would usually be a Mullah, or a Fakir who would unite them for a while. Now the Taliban are trying to perform the same roll, but they are also subject to factionalism. But that could change if Pakistan tries to move in force into the tribal areas, circumstances can make people unite under a leader.

Risking to unite the Pashtuns against Pakistan is a dangerous game, but US money makes politicians take risks, even if they know better. The Pashtun gave the British fits until they left, but they've never really challenged Pakistan. The semi-independence of the tribal regions is written in the Pakistan constitution, so that helped guarrantee the peace. The Durand Line, part of the current boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan divided not only Pashtuns, but even individual tribes. They've never liked it, and if Pakistan pushes too hard, there could be a serious attempt to break up the status quo that has existed since Pakistan independence. And if Pakistan disolves into chaos, kiss Afghanistan goodbye. There would be no way to supply the US and NATO.


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