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Friday, 17 February 2006
Pakistan on the brink?
Topic: War on Terror

Pakistan is really beginning to worry me. Yesterday the cartoon protests moved back to Karachi when 40,000 demonstrators turned out to burn Danish flags. There have been at least five deaths associated with the seemingly unending protests and they're spreading all over the country. They've gone beyond the initial spontaneous expression of outrage over the Muhammad cartoons to full blown orchestrated attempts to destabilize the Musharraf regime. The NYT reports that "The protests have...become enmeshed with Pakistani politics as opposition parties and Islamic groups opposed to the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, have led the protests and directed the anger over cartoons into denunciation of General Musharraf's alliance with the West. "(And keep in mind his military and intelligence services are full of like-minded wackos.)

As I wrote earlier on this week, the problems in Baluchistan are even more troublesome than what's going on with these protests. The ongoing resistance to the Pakistani government in that state has ramped up again and in the latest violence three Chinese engineers and their driver were killed. Selig S. Harrison wrote a column on Musharraf's "other war" on the 15th in the WaPo: He warns that Musharraf is diverting military resources away from the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban to regain control of the region that supplies most of the country's energy needs. Harrison writes: "According to U.S. intelligence sources, six Pakistani army brigades, plus paramilitary forces totaling some 25,000 men, are battling Baluch Liberation Army guerillas in the Kohlu Mountains and surrounding areas. The independent Pakistani Human Rights Commission has reported 'indiscriminate bombing and strafing' by 20 U.S.-supplied Cobra helicopter attack gunships and four squadrons of fighter planes, including U.S.-supplied F-16 fighter planes, resulting in 215 civilians dead and hundreds more wounded, many of them women and children."

The U.S government feels that this perfect little war is an "internal matter" for Pakistan to handle and hasn't brought it up with Musharraf and I agree with Harrison that this policy "should be reversed." (That's all we need is more enemies!) Harrison also points out that this area of the world is of major strategic importance. The Chinese, along with helping to maintain the energy infrastructure in Baluchistan, are also helping the Pakistanis build a port at port at Gwadar, "close to the Strait of Hormuz, with a projected 27 berths, enough for a major Pakistani military base that could be used by Beijing." (hmm...the Chinese navy stationed on the Strait of Hormuz, no problem there.)

Then add the war in Afghanistan into the mix and you've got one hell of a bad situation going to hell in a hand basket. A front page story in the NYT on Wednesday says most of the suicide bombers in Afghanistan are being recruited and financed in Pakistan. When and if W. goes to Pakistan next month he's going to have a full plate of very nasty issues to deal with. Of course, he'll probably gloss over all the big issues and just stick to signing Musharraf for some more F-16s. The business of the U.S. is business, after all, and he's the CEO-in-Chief.

Helene Cooper, the NYT's Editorial Observer, wrote yesterday that if the U.S. really wants to stabilize the situation in Pakistan a way to go about it would be to help Pakistani manufacturing, which accounts for 45% of its jobs. Cooper believes the US should lift its tariffs on Pakistani textiles in order to put more Pakistanis to work. I don't really go for the whole free trade argument myself; more textile jobs in Pakistan could mean lost jobs in North Carolina, but I do agree that unless we start putting more money into jobs, education and health care---and less into F-16s to prop up dictators---in those blighted areas of the world like Pakistan. we're in for a whole heap of trouble down the road. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have put us into the position where we we're not able to handle one more crisis and if Pakistan goes up in flames we're going to have a lot more to worry about than whether Mahmoud Amandinejad is calling us names again.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 11:28 AM EST
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