The New York Times today ran a news article on how the recent upsurge of violence in Afghanistan is based out of Pakistan. And how Pakistan’s effort in stopping the training, the financial backing, the supply of equipment to terrorists is stopgap at best.
We’ve all heard time and time again – about how relatively impotent Pakistan is in stopping dubious activities on its terrorist infested, wild, tribal lands of its North West Frontier Province. Given the social, political, religious and historical nature of the tribes that inhabit those lands, it is understandable why it would be difficult for the government of Pakistan to really have control as to what transpires there.
Having said that, Pakistan’s intents towards a non- Taliban Afghanistan have always been circumspect. Readers need to understand Pakistan’s predominant national psyche. Pakistan, for all its fragmentation and imminent threats of breaking up along sectarian lines, has survived on a common national platform of paranoia and hatred towards India. It has manifested in the three wars fought over Kashmir, it manifested itself in Musharraf’s inspired mis-adventure to take Kargil from India using insurgents and regular Pakistan Army troops, it manifests itself in Pakistan opposing any pro-India action in any world forum – be it the United Nations or the World Bank.
So given this almost religious obsession of hatred of India as an entity (strangely enough, not as a people – because of the cultural affinity), Afghanistan has always been a country that Pakistan has looked at to providing strategic depth against a much larger, much more powerful and increasingly much more prosperous India.
Pakistan, especially since the reign of Gen. Zia Ul-Haq ( a close ally of the United States, a military dictator and a rabid India hater) has actively encouraged and incubated the growth of these fundamentalist Islamist forces – which they wanted to engage in a low intensity war against India in Kashmir. Which is why, it found natural alignment with the Taliban government of Afghanistan – it was one of the two countries in the world that recognized the Taliban government. It offered Pakistan of what it needed the most – strategic depth against India as also the ability to tap into the millions of disaffected, fundamentalist Muslim youth to go to Kashmir to fight the “holy war”. And this had been going on for 15 years till September 11th 2001.
Hence, now, post September 11th, to have a government in Afghanistan that is obviously close to India is antithetical to Pakistan’s historical and geopolitical goals.
September 11th forced “alignment” of Pakistan with the United States to fight the “war on terror”. So consequently, now, Pakistan is caught between a rock and a hard place – almost literally as much metaphorically. On the East, Pakistan has India – a country with an economy on fire, with vast intellectual capital, poised on a historical transformation of the nation. On the west, it has Afghanistan with a moderate government desperately trying to strengthen its foothold. Both countries are democracies. And Pakistan is stuck in the middle of the two. With a military dictatorship.
And to make matters worse, now the fundamentalists are getting restless because of Pakistan’s much vaunted cooperation with the United States. And the United States is getting impatient because Pakistan’s military junta – specifically its rather loud, dramatic, clownish and ineffectual president has been promising a lot and delivering very little. Yes, it would occasionally bomb its own country ( with American drones every now and then – specifically before a high-profile state visit or before an election in the United States) – but generally, very little.
And the funny thing is Pakistan is a punjabi dominated society – and punjabis are very liberal, rather hedonistic people. Just goes on to show, what a lack of democracy and very bad long term strategy can do to a nation.
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