Dec 28, 2007

What Next For Pakistan?

Funeral procession for Benazir Bhutto (بینظیر بھٹو), former prime minister of PakistanLeft: Funeral procession for Benazir Bhutto (بینظیر بھٹو), former prime minister of Pakistan

While sitting in the waiting room at my doctor's office yesterday, I continued my obsessive viewing of the news channels and their coverage of the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto. An older woman sat down, glanced at the television, and asked me if "these are the ones who want to build a nuclear plant?"

I informed her that she was thinking of Iran, and she chatted away in her blissful ignorance about world politics and the holidays and her husband's illness. I half-heartedly participated in the conversation, keeping one eye on the scenes of chaos, violence, and carnage being broadcast from some of Pakistan's major cities.

I did not see the need to worry this person about the dozens of nuclear warheads that Pakistan possesses.

Now, admittedly, I woke up this morning in a bit of a funk, and perhaps the pessimistic assessment I am posting reflects my cynical state of mind. Yet there is little in the way of positive news that I can see about the future of Pakistan, and I suspect a Pakistani civil war might be the least of our fears.

The possibility of the fracturing of the Pakistan state has never seemed more likely than at the present moment, and the Sindh province might become the center of a secession movement. Much of the country's industrial and commercial wealth is centered in Sindh, especially in the sprawling megalopolis that is Karachi. This modern city, with its millions of middle class citizens, lies in sharp contrast to the considerable poverty and religious traditionalism found in the northwest regions of Pakistan.

The Pakistani military might be strong enough to stave off the immediate turmoil that seems to be sweeping through Pakistan, but my reading of the geopolitical tea leaves leads me to believe that sections of the country are pulling in completely different directions. The killing of Benazir Bhutto was much more than just another example of Pakistani political violence; despite her flaws, Bhutto represented a vision of Western secularism that some powerful factions in Pakistani politics reject.

Lurking in the background, too, is the simmering dispute with India over the fate of the contested Kashmir region. India and Pakistan - both nuclear armed powers - have fought a series of small wars over the territory, and recent saber-rattling between the two nations does not bode well for the maintenance of peace in light of the current political chaos in Pakistan.

Also bouncing around my head is the historic parallel between the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and a similar act of political violence committed against an unpopular Archduke in 1914. My greatest fear is that this killing in Rawalpindi will be the spark that ignites a global conflagration that will make the First and Second World Wars resemble playground disputes.


Anonymous said...

Maybe it will be an even newer exit strategy from Iraq and Afghanistan for Bush:

"We're leaving through Pakistan!"

--JD (I stole that from The Onion!!!)

Anonymous said...

I've followed some of the developments since Bhutto ended her self-imposed exile and returned to Pakistan. It is my understanding that she wanted to bring (some form) of democracy to the country and that Musharef (sp) was opposed to her because it would end his tenure as the country's leader. I've got two questions:

1. How did Musharef get into power in the first place?
2. Why does Bush support him so much if he isn't a supporter of free elections?

nancye said...

Obviously, the U.S.'s $10 billion to Mushariff was incentive to bring Bhutto back into Pakistan's political mix. Bush and his administration are still working on the longheld thesis that the way to end Islamic extremism is to introduce and support democracy in Middle Eastern countries. In the short term, this doesn't work, but apparently the Bush administration is looking to the long view - that holding up puppet dictatorships is in the end a detriment to U.S. interests. Only history will tell us if the U.S. policy is right or wrong.


microdot said...

To try to apply the ointment of democracy as if it were an over the counter cure all to the worlds problems is such an over simplification and just a panacea to the American public.
The Pakistani policy has been run directly from Dick Cheneys office for the last 6 years. If a diplomat came to the USA, he was shunted directly to the vice president.

Let's make no bones about the fact that there truly is a civil war develop[ing in Pakistan. In the last year, over 1400 people have been killed in violnce directly related to Sunni aggression against the Shiites.

If the USA attacks Iran, most of the forces will be launched from Pakistani bases. This is still on the table, but the new line is that it is the officially Cheney labeled, arm twisted accuastattion that the Iranina Revolutionary Guards are a terrorist organization...Plan A, the Iranian Nuclear Threat panned out, let's go to Plan B.

I saw a great interview with a French reporter last night who was with Bhutto from the time she arrive in Pakistan, throuth the house arrest and up too the assasination..
He claims that she was always on a short leash from Washington and was told to get rid of him after he published pictures of her having an open house party during her house arrest.
She was very fatalistic and said to many people that she knew she would be killed.
As far as the direct hand of Musharrif, it's very hard to believe that a secular government could inspire a suicide bomb assination attempt.
Things thoughh are never as direct as they appear to be, the military stood to lose a lot of funding if Bhutto was in power. Also, not to discounted is the ex prime minister, Sharrif, who was a very corrupt politician and is already trying to exploit this for political gain. Perhaps he is Washingtons' Plan 9 from Outer Space?

The Atomic Bombs are going to become the albatross around Musharrifs neck. In the last 3 years, the United States has spent over 4 billion dollars to install and secure Pakistans nuclear arsenal with the latest technology.
Washington is more in control of Pakistans bombs than the Pakistaniss could ever be at this point in time.

The biggest danger from Pakistans Nuclear Weaponry are the regular band of scoundrels here in America who will try to exploit the publics terrorist panic level for their own political power and gain!

A little knowlege goes a long way!

microdot said...

at the cost of being obsessive, I leave you another little piece of info with some editorial comment:

"And right on cue, shortly after former Pakistani premier Bhutto's own slaying, two key al-Qaeda news items appear. First, "senior US officials" are checking into an al-Qaeda claim of responsibility for the assassination, and—lo and behold—"Osama" himself will soon release a message regarding Iraq.

Bhutto asserted to David Frost less than two months ago that bin Laden had been murdered by Omar Sheikh, whom the Sunday Times once described as "no ordinary terrorist but a man who has connections that reach high into Pakistan's military and intelligence elite and into the innermost circles" of bin Laden and al-Qaeda."

mud_rake said...

Of course Bush/Cheney accused al-Qaeda of the assassination which, of ocurse, would mean just the opposite, as we have become accustomed to.

Microdot- you ought to write a full post on the Cheney-Pakistan collusion.

The People History said...

My own gut feeling is Musharef is involved , I think we may well see a civil war but also think it may go much deeper with the area including Bangladesh and India becoming involved.

As an outsider to the country and not having that deep an understanding I can see little difference in the way Musharef holds power in Pakistan to how Saddam Hussein held power in Iraq.

Both appeared to rule by brute force. Why is one acceptable and even supported by the West and the other is liquidated ?

microdot said...

We tolerated Saddam for quite a while and even aided him. Who gave him the chemical weapons to gas the Kurds, Mr. Rumsfeld? He was our pet monster until we didn't need him any more...what do you do with a pet monster who is creating problems?
Now Musharrif is our new pet monster...he does lots of scary tricks and sometimes monsters do things that are out of control, nut he is our pet monster...until we grow tired of him and don't need him anymore....

mud_rake said...

Yes, microdot, but he was OUR dictator, one of two dozen or more who worked for 'the American interests'!