Thursday, October 09, 2008

America Did It - Redux

After the Marriott bombing, one noticed a marked change in the perceptions of the Pakistani people with regards to the causes of terrorism. People were more willing to accept that the violence was homegrown.

Alas, it appears that this national sojourn towards rational thought was like a snow day and the normal course of life has now been resumed; of course, in the normal course of a Pakistanis life, America is responsible for all that is bad.

In recent days I've had several conversations with seemingly intelligent people who have mentioned that the main culprit behind the attacks on Pakistan (including economic destablilisation) is an 'outside force'. Either it's India leading an insurgency in Pakistan to take control of Kashmir, or it's the U.S. wanting to bankrupt Pakistan and / or is supporting the terrorists because it wants to a) take over Pakistan's nuclear sites or b) take over Pakistan (yes, all of it) owing to its 'strategic geopolitical location'. None of this is of course news to me, but for a fleeting moment I had dared to imagine that things had changed, which makes these recent conversations just a little bit more disheartening.

The most troubling conversation on this topic occurred today at lunch. The topic of conversation had turned to how well trained and armed the insurgents in NWFP were when a person with a close association with the military referred to an article that his cousin had sent him on the topic. The cousin is an army officer and a tutor at the National Defence University, and the article he sent was written by a faculty member at the University. The article offered an in-depth analysis of the situation in NWFP and the growing terrorism in Pakistan , the conclusion reached was that America was behind the attacks on Pakistan, and is actively supporting moves to destabilise the country, which by the way included the U.S. supporitng the Taliban and providing them with weapons to fight Pakistan. Almost everyone on the table seemed to agree with this assessment; and why not, the article just confirmed what all of them already believed to be true.

After the person had finished his well referenced story about the American quest for domination, I just sat their quietly. To say anything would've been futile. I don't believe that American forces or the American establishment are behind the attacks in Pakistan, and I do believe that Pakistanis are more than capable of murder, terrorism, incitement of ethnic , sectarian and tribal tensions in order to get what they want, which in this case may be the establishment of their understanding of Sharia (I personally don't think the Taliban leadership is all that idealicetc, they just want power and know that they only way they're getting it is by unsettling the tribal system and Islam is the only way they can do that).

The raison d'etre of this post is not to argue the merits of the truth about the terrorism in Pakistan but to highlight that the truth may matter very little. If America really is behind the violence, then we're effectively at war with a superpower. If America isn't behind the attacks but the Pakistani military thinks that it is (as the article and the messenger of said article lead me to believe), then that means the Pakistani establishment does not really understand the conflict and is unlikely to properly address the matter. And when our military fails to deliver, you know what President Obama's going to do.

In essence, we're screwed!


asfand said...

pfft americans!

blowing up school buses :(

Ahsan said...

I don't think anyone who matters in the army (i.e. senior leadership) would believe this version of events.

At any rate, I'm currently reading a book called "True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society" by Farhad Manjoo. It's a pretty interesting read, and centers around the idea that with the plethora of information nodes in the modern world (blogs, 8 gazillion channels, random websites), facts actually matter very little. It's about America but much of it would resonate for most Pakistanis too, I think.

Majaz said...

Facts never matter to human beings the way they are supposed to. It's not just America or terrorism that circumscribes this course of thought. Rationalization is a universal defense.

These conspiracy theories have been abound ever since Pakistanis learnt the very definition of the word conspiracy and if it's not America, it's the Jews or Freemasons or some other covert/secret society.

I believe the terrorist attacks are a combined results of the US-led Afghan war, the unbridled forces of the North-West and Baluchistan, an excessively active military and of course, nuclear arms.

Pakistan has got one too many balls in the air.

But who cares. Death to America, right? And solve all our problems.

Reminds me of that South Park song. Blame Canada.

Barooq said...

The history of extremism spans over last thirty years.
To some extent, America did play a part, but more of it comes from our own stupidities.

The Us backed Afghan war against Russia needed a slogan, something to fire the fuel, and Jihad was the chosen slogan. As communists were godless bastards and Zia needed Islam to stay in power in the country. Russia went home, America washed their hands, and we were left with refugees, drug influx, arms influx and a generation raised to fight the holy war.
Then we just couldn't let t go. We needed to counter Northern Alliance in Afhanistan during the civil war (particularly after the failure of Hikmat Yar and Raza Rabbani Govt)because how couldn't we let afghanis be afghanis, and if Ahmad Shah Masood with his close ties to Iran (Beng Shiate) and hence India, came to power we considered that a threat. So, we meddled again, created and supported Taliban, a Sunni ( Deo bandi strictly) force to defeat Ahmad SHah MAsood. Problem is, once you feed the holy war to such brainwashed individuals, you cant control it.

And then 9/11 happened and we denounced Taliban in a day.

Btw, notice that all Sunni Militant organizations like lashkar ghangvi etc are absorbed into Taliban. Jhang or Niaz Baig aren't volatile in Moharram anymore because sunni half has left to wage the war in peshawar and Quetta.

Now we have people, we armed and trained and cant find, cant control any more, going against us. It is and always have been impossible to control Pak/Afghan border and it will be impossible.

As for these particular attacks, it the same islamic nuts no doubt. But AMerica did have a part in starting the whole mess.

Analyzing it all, I cant see what can be done. I mean the mess is far spread. And unlike Bugti, Bait-ullah-mahsood can have a strng of successors. When his brother the one legged Abdullah died, no vaccuum was created and Bait-ullah came in swiftly. We hear he is ill, but with thousands of Uzbeks, Tajiks and Chechens ready to fight, and AlQaeeda in the mix, Bait-ullah is not irreplaceable. Even if he is gone, the fight isnt going to end.
Conventional wisdom of cutting the head and body would die wont work and because the sheer number, convinction and ammunication these nutter have, to kill them seems highly improbable.
I cannot see a single scanrio which can be effective quickly. And the longer it goes, the harder it'll be for people.

Btw, can you think of one?

Ahsan said...


Forget Canada. You should see what Cartman is up to vis-a-vis China in the latest episode.


You paint an ugly picture, my friend. There's really no factual or logical basis to disagree with you, but I would only say that our conception of what is possible is in large part dictated by the status quo.

For instance, many security experts predicted in 2006 and 2007 that Iraq was headed for an unmitigated, unrefereed civil war that would put Yugoslavia to shame. This was in large part because trends at the time seemed to suggest nothing else. But through some interesting strategic decisions by the Sunni tribes in Anbar province, some dumb luck, and a relative wising-up by the Americans, we appear to have pulled back from that nightmare scenario. I'm not saying that Iraq is peaches and cream right now, but what I am saying is that it is better off than it was in 2006 and 2007 (and about the same as it was in 2004 and 2005).

So I guess what I'm trying to say is: things can change, and we can't always foresee that change because our minds are heavily biased toward seeing present trends continue or worsen in these circumstances.

Barooq said...

Iraq didn't have a history of tribesmen running wild.
What happened in Iraq was that after the removal of Saddam, the man no mater how tyrant ruled with an iron hand, his enemies, shiates and supporters of Muktada Sadr tried to avenge thrity years of mis fortunes and sunnis fought back. americans were caught in a sect hungry for revenge and n a sect who couldnt let their dominance go.
Not the menton the differenece in terrains, number, ammunition and an over all different history.
Comparing Iraq and Afghanstan is a mistake...
And unlike Iraq where insuegency rose for an year and took an yar to die, Afghan people have been fightng for 30 years, without any signs of tiredness.

Its not status quo over an year that is defining my perceptions, its a pattern over thirty years. And even in all the best case scenaros, the ripples of actions from 30 years wont halt in a day anyway. And, hope is a good thing. You hope too much :)

bubs said...

A bunch of mullahs went to parliament asking the MPs to call a halt to the military operations. They provided some pretty conclusive proof that the terrorists are Americans and Indians.

"They said there are authentic reports that when some foreign agents were caught or their bodies were found, they were found uncircumcised, which proved that they were non-Muslim. They said such American and Indian agents are fighting Pakistani forces in the tribal areas in the guise of Taliban and carrying out bombings in various Pakistani cities to malign the real Taliban."

Ahsan said...

There's a lame joke to be made here about a "smoking gun" but I am not clever enough to make it. Where's Farooq when you need him?

AKS said...

@ Bubs

Thanks for the link. The list of ulema does consist some heavy weights.

@ Ahsan

I think I was pretty agitated and despondent when I wrote the post. I too don't think that the Generals really believe that India or America is behind the Taliban. I still don't trust them enough to make not make a dumb move which under the current circumstance we just cannot afford. I'm getting images of Dr. Strangelove (not all out annihilation, but that same fixation with a manipulative Master Plan.)

By the way, isn't Farhad Manoo the guy who writes technology articles on Slate?

Ahsan said...

No, AKS, it's not. There's actually a bunch of Farhad Manjoos running around in the journalist/publishing world.