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TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Articles on Pakistan after 2008
The war between Afghanistan and Pakistan
What to do with Pakistan
Pakistan's return to democracy
Bhutto's suicide
Articles on Pakistan before 2008

  • (june 2008) The war between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Afghan government has finally said publicly what everybody already suspected: that in april of 2008 Pakistan's secret services tried to assassinate Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai at a parade in Kabul. (See Afghanistan accuses Pakistan's secret services of trying to assassinate its president Karzai). Pakistan's secret services have a history of meddling in Afghanistan's internal affairs, trying to turn it into a satellite of Pakistan. They often acted independently of the civilian power, so it is not clear what part (if any) the government of Pakistan had in this plot. It may prove that president and general Pervez Musharraf was already weaker than the USA believed, even before he lost the parliamentary elections to the late Benazir Bhutto party. (Many in Pakistan also believe that the secret services let Benazir Bhutto be murdered by extremists).
    The problem has intensified after the PPP of the late Benazir Bhutto and the PML-N of Nawaz Sharif won the parliamentary elections in Pakistan and de-facto reduced Musharraf to a symbolic figurehead while Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari and Sharif fight for power. Pakistan has since then plunged into a power void.
    In the meantime, Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, has de facto created an independent Islamic republic at the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. At first the newly elected government pledged to negotiate with the Taliban (basically granting them autonomy in exchange for a stop to the terrorist attacks that killed hundreds of Pakistanis). But the Taliban reacted like all Islamic fanatics do: whenever they obtain a concession, they view it as a sign that Allah wants them to intensify the jihad. Therefore they have become bolder in their campaign to control the territory (see this article).
    Pakistan is being dismembered not by the USA but by its own internal forces. The problem is that its instability is spilling over into Afghanistan, a country that has already been the victim once of Pakistan's instability. Afghanistan may have no choice but to face the real enemy: while Iran, Russia, China and the USA are all united in opposing the Taliban, the Pakistani front remains wide open and quite sympathetic to the Taliban. Pakistan is the enemy.
    At the same time, the new government in Pakistan and Pakistan's silent majority that voted for it should realize that the USA was right: the Taliban are indeed a serious problem, that Pakistan has never completely solved. And cancers have a way of getting worse if you don't root them out. The weakness and hypocrisy of this government spells trouble for the future of Pakistan, that may find itself soon embroiled in a war with Afghanistan, a civil war with the Taliban, a power struggle in Islamabad, and the withdrawal of all USA military aid. Worse of all is the prospect that this is a country with nuclear weapons and nobody really knows who controls them, as amply proven by the episode of international scoundrel Abdul Qadeer Khan (the scientist who developed Pakistan's nuclear program and gladly sold nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea).
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (june 2008) What to do with Pakistan. Pakistan's recent elections were a model of democracy. Even better they signaled the maturation of the Pakistani electorate that rejected both the Islamic extremists and its de-facto dictator. Voters rewarded the party of the woman who had just been assassinated by the Islamic terrorists, and who was the main nemesis of the dictator.
    That was the good news. The bad news is that very few in Pakistan sympathyze with the Afghani government, even fewer want to fight Al Qaeda, and even fewer want to stop nuclear proliferation, and even fewer want to give up on Kashmir. Many in Pakistan side with the Taliban against the Afghani government. Many in Pakistan consider Al Qaeda as somebody else's problem (or even as a legitimate organizations). Many in Pakistan consider Abdul Qadeer Khan (the scientist who developed Pakistan's nuclear program and gladly sold nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea) as a national hero. Many in Pakistan consider Kashmir a Pakistani territory that is partially occupied by India.
    Pakistan is creating too many problems for too many countries. Potentially, it has created a problem for all countries in the world: if Khan's nuclear plans have already reached terrorist groups, sooner or later those terrorists will detonate a nuclear bomb somewhere. The fact that North Korea acquired nuclear technology from Pakistan means that the entire Far East is now destabilized. When Iran achieves the same landmark, the Middle East will be rocked by political shockwaves and possibly a full-fledged war between Israel and Iran.
    Should Pakistan be exempt from retaliation for all the trouble that is causing to the rest of the world? This is the question that the mature Pakistani electorate should ponder. And ponder it very seriously, because the consequences of Pakistan's actions may become visible very soon in a dramatic way.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (february 2008) Pakistan's return to democracy. Musharraf has been forced by internal and external pressures to grant free parliamentary elections and the people have spoken. They have spoken loudly: the PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) of late Benazir Bhutto won the most votes (86 seats), followed by the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League) of Nawaz Sharif (64). Musharraf's PML-Q won only 37 seats. This means that a Bhutto-Sharif alliance would have the absolute majority in parliament. In fact, such a huge majority that they could impeach Musharraf.
    More good news: two secular parties won 29 seats. The Islamic parties won a tiny percentage of votes. Western fears that Pakistan would fall to the Islamists were unfounded. The silent majority in Pakistan is hostile to Musharraf, but has no appetite for an Islamic dictatorship. The world expected a strong showing by the Islamist parties at least in the region that borders Afghanistan (the Pashtun). Instead, the religious parties were largely defeated in their own strongholds: the Jamaat-i-Ulema-i-Islam that won regional elections in 2002 and has been ruling since are the big losers of this election. The anti-Taliban parties have won almost two-thirds of the regional vote in an area that seemed to be increasingly angry at the USA, and therefore likely to vote for the pro-Taliban party. The good news is that Pakistani voters are more interested in a good economy and a honest government than in Islamic demagogy.
    Nonetheless, Pakistan's electorate appears split between two major middle-class parties, a fact that does not bode well for creating a stable coalition.
    The PML-N voter belongs to the urban (Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad), educated, Urdu or Punjabi speaking, motorbike-riding, middle class. Their ideology is molded by two main factors: nationalism (especially against India and the new Afghani government) and moderately politicized Islam. They watch satellite television channels but get very little English-speaking (i.e., Western-influenced) news.
    The PPP voter is mostly rural and traditional, inspired by Sufi ethics. The fact that the PPP has won so many votes is, in a sense, surprising because it relied mostly on Benazir Bhutto's personal charisma. Her husband is far less popular. Her son is inexperienced. There is little to make this party relevant in the 21st century but for the time being they may represent the real compromise between the urban middle class and the rural world.
    The bad news for the USA is that both winners represent an electorate that is mostly indifferent or hostile to the USA's war on terrorism. The new political leaders are unlikely to fight any battle on behalf of the USA, the way Musharraf did (or at least pretended to do). They might be forced to do so if the insurgents are stupid enough to provoke them by expanding their control of the border areas, but they will otherwise be under pressure from their own voters to focus on Pakistan's (overwhelming) problems, not on the USA's ones.
    This presents an obvious problem of ambiguity, one that has characterized Pakistan since the beginning of the insurgency in Kashmir. If the USA (or even just Afghanistan) perceives that is being attacked by armies that are based on Pakistan's soil, and Pakistan refuses to rein them in, what are the USA (and Afghanistan) supposed to do? Pakistan has lived in this ambiguous state with India, claiming that it has nothing to do with anti-Indian terrorists based on Pakistan's soil but refusing to arrest them. It now looks likely that Pakistan will try the same stance on the USA and Afghanistan. Just like it was unthinkable that Pakistan would let India attack the (eastern) insurgents inside Pakistan, it is unthinkable that Pakistan will let the USA attack the (western) insurgents inside Pakistan.
    Clearly it was not the economy that bothered the electorate. Musharraf correctly emphasized that Pakistan's gross domestic product has doubled since he seized power in 1999 (with an average annual growth of 7.5% over the last four years that is second only to mainland China's).
    Musharraf's dismissal of the Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has been a much bigger factor in alienating the Pakistani electorate. Musharraf underestimated how much Pakistani people wanted to defend democracy. He has just learned it the hard way.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (january 2008) Bhutto's suicide. Benazir Bhutto ruled Pakistan from 1988 to 1990 and from 1993 to 1996. It was during her second term that Pakistan helped the Taliban seize power in Afghanistan. It was also during those years that the war in Kashmir was largely subcontracted to the Islamic extremists. Instead of a political issue, Kashmir became a religious issue. In fact, many Kashmiri fighters were no longer from Kashmir at all. There were Arabs, and there were many Pakistanis from other regions who had been trained by the secret services: most of them came from religious institutions and were fighting not for the self-determination of Kashmir but for a holy war against the infidels. She was apparently killed by the very monster she had created: Islamic terrorism. She was only the one millionth victim of that monster. Her monster had killed innocents in India, in Afghanistan, in the USA, and eventually all around the world.
    The world will not miss her.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • Articles on Pakistan before 2008
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
    Back to the world news | Top of this page
Editorial correspondence | Back to the top | Back to Politics | Back to the world news