Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Ultimate Metric Of Success In This War Is The Safety Of The Pakistani People

Something strange is afoot among the Pakistani body politic and military establishment. If you've been reading reports and blogs, you would think the war was over, and that Afghanistan, India, and the U.S. lost (do I really need to spell out who won?). With a post-US withdrawal scenario in Afghanistan looming, our strategic mavens seem to be on the road to securing what they conceive of as Pakistan's national interests, and ensuring considerable leverage and influence in Afghanistan. It's come to the point where Hamid Karzai, no friend of Pakistan, summed it up thus: "India is a close friend of Afghanistan but Pakistan is a brother of Afghanistan. Pakistan is a twin brother ... we're conjoined twins, there's no separation." How times have changed.

This state of affairs has meant that we get unnamed sources within the military establishment saying things like "We hold all the cards," talking about securing a "strategic coup...against rising Indian influence in Afghanistan", all the while continuing to make territorial gains against the TTP in the tribal areas. All of this reflects a rising confidence and sense of satisfaction with the status quo and the trajectory of events in the region in the short and medium term.

While I would love to share this smugness, there's a slight problem: you see, Pakistan keeps suffering terrorist attacks. To be sure, there are peaks (this past week, and the two month period of Otcober-November 2009) and valleys (first two months of this year) in the levels of violence, but no sane, rational observer would say that the threat of indiscriminate violence against Pakistani citizens has dissipated in any meaningful way.

Ultimately, this is what matters most. The job of the political and military leadership is not to secure "Pakistan's interests" -- whatever they may be -- in Afghanistan. Such language bears an uncanny resemblance to the neoimperialism that both our right and left so vociferously denounce when it originates from the West. No, the job of our political and military leadership is to ensure a robust, but by no means perfect, level of safety for its citizens, so that they can go about their daily lives. It's pretty simple.

This does not mean, of course, that one should expect or hope for success in a day, week, or month. I don't think any fair-minded reader could accuse me of impatience with our efforts in this war. This is a long, hard slog, and will remain so for a while, unfortunately. But my central gripe is what those efforts seem to be geared toward, rather than immediate-term success or failure of said efforts. I would submit that the Pakistani public has paid a fairly steep price for the last time our brilliant strategic minds devised their regional adventures. One hopes they have learned their lesson.


Anonymous said...

what happened to the 'cant post since im working 730-midnight' thing? drama queen

Ahsan said...

Haha. Sorry yaar, I'll try to stay away now.

Anonymous said...

To hell with geopolitics...
check out how the geography is changing up in hunza valley.

vanguard said...

I have been told by some 'unnamed military sources' that we are getting ready for war with India within next 2 years...

Mansoor Khalid said...

I completely agree with the notion that the foremost responsibility of any government is to secure the lives of its citizens. Not only securing but giving them a secure environment to practice and spend their daily lives according to their believes.

Anonymous said...

'threat of indiscriminate violence against Pakistani citizens'

correct me if i'm wrong but both the attacks in lahore and in swat were aimed at military and paramilitary targets - sad as it is, it was not indiscriminate.

i'd agree however that the single greatest indiscriminate threat to pakistani citizens, and that which has claimed the most innocents' lives - namely american drone strikes and pakistani airforce strikes do continue unabated.

funny how pakistani liberals ascribe innocence as they see fit?

or to quote it in lyrics... 'i can see your truuue colors shining through'...

lol, what a pathetic post.

Wyse Guy said...

Wow, American conservatives and Pakistani right-wingers have something in common; they both love anonymous drive by abuse-posting.

And drive by anonymous attacks are the nature of the murders Pakistani citizens face.

Wyse Guy said...

The Next Post is on my blog These Long Wars.

Wyse Guy said...

I'll clarify with Ahsan on this. Look Ahsan, stopping the attacks on Pakistani citizens by fanatics will be a problem. It's always been a problem because going back till even 1977 (the Nizam-e-Mustapha days) and if you want to go back to the first ever Martial Law declared in Pakistan in 1953 over the Lahore Anti-Ahmedi riots, Pakistani society is configured to produce religiously fanatical, socially unstable people in life threatening quantities.
Let me repeat that: Pakistani Society, in conjunction with the Pakistani state, are hard wired to produce a set number of religious fanatics every year.
It hasn't reached state threatening quantities (although with the pattern of jobless Madrassa graduates openning their own Madrassas, maybe this will change and things will get more "interesting").
But any way, we can refer back to that documentary you linked to with Mosharraf Zaidi in it in which a US based Pakistani woman said that the Government education system is the largest Madrassa system of all. Then there's the ubiquity of religious propaganda in our society. There's also the situation where religious fanaticism intersects with social justice or class conflict like it did in Swat, or does so in Jhang. Preventing the murder of Pakistani citizens goes beyond the security forces. They need good intel of course amongst the areas known for harbouring religious nut jobs, but local police every where needs to be reformed into police forces, as opposed to the current day mob control agencies they are; as well as telling the security forces to stop stashing or recruiting fanatics amongst the general population or any where outside North Waziristan (which by the way, anybody notice, we've totally ceded to the Afghan Taliban AND US air power to duke it out).

Wyse Guy said...

I would also like to remind Ahsan, that our security institutions have no real regard for the lives of Pakistani's outside their own ranks (and sometimes extending this disregard to their own rank and file), thus could not give a tinkers damn if any non-officer is killed in pursuit of their "strategic" agenda/s.

Lastly, I also will have to remind Ahsan (sorry, using that phrase too often) there were at minimum three breakouts of violence in the wake of our last "victory" (Pyrrhus anyone?) in Afghanistan, which were resolved by the actions of democratic governments:

1) The outbreak of violence in Karachi and Urban Sindh.
Resolved by Military Action instigated by both the PPP and PML-N.

2) The outbreak of Sectarian assassinations in Urban Pakistan.
Resolved by a program of assassinating Sectarian militants instigated by the PML-N

3) The outbreak of the Afghan Civil War at the fall of the Soviet Afghan Regime.
Resolved by the PPP by sponsoring the rise and consolidation of the Taliban regime.

You will have noticed that I added how each episode was resolved.

And I added a plug for democratic governments cause it was THE mainstream parties which put the political pedal to the metal to finish of these conflicts.

The point being (and maybe one that Ahsan touched on but didn't fully continue on when he mentioned our military establishment) is that our vaunted security agencies do not have the political will, sense, vision or imagination to resolve an evolving closure to the Afghan imbroglio, that would give Pakistan both a modicum of peace and some sort of worthwhile strategic prize, or a gain, or at least not a total sense of a Pyrrhic victory.

For that, our political parties will have to present some sort of vision or idea on Afghanistan, more evolved than what the generals are capable of articulating.

So yeah.

1) Pakistan needs to stop producing fanatics.

2) Then Pakistan has to prepare to confront various militants.

3) Pakistan's political parties need to lead on this

4) Pakistan's PPP and PML-N need to present a co-operative combined vision of a peaceful post-conflict Afghanistan.

I think I'll go to sleep.

I'll post this whole thesis on "how to Stop Militant Violence in Pakistan" on my blaag.

How to stop violence in Pakistan. LOL.

pakblend said...

i completely agree with mansoor khalid. Pakistani military must be prepare

Anonymous said...


You may have jumped the gun. Inability to differentiate the forest from the trees places people in positions where they cannot differentiate between strategic gains versus tactical losses.

Sure there is a spike in bombing--just like there was a spike just before Najibullah was hanged to the nearest lamp post.

With Bharat out of Afghanistan--this level of sabotage in Pakistan will not be sustainable.

You may want to read read this very very carefully to see the pickle Bharat finds itself in.

Here is an excerpt from that article.

If Delhi failed to anticipate this shift in Karzai’s order of priorities, it has only itself to blame. Thus, even in the face of impending realignments in the Afghan political and military situation that were obvious to most perceptive foreign observers, Delhi kept up the presence of a few thousands Indians in Afghanistan whose security becomes now almost entirely its responsibility to shoulder.

If someone thinks that Bharti policy in Afghanistan has been successful, he/she is the only one on the planet.

In retrospect, Delhi’s hare-brained idea of a US-led “quadripartite alliance” against China, the “Tibet card”, the dilution of a 2003 strategic understanding with Iran, neglect of the traditional friendship with Russia, the lukewarm attitude toward the SCO, exaggerated notions within the establishment regarding the US-India strategic partnership as an alternative to an independent foreign policy and diversified external relationships – all these appear now like dreadful pantomimes out of India’s foreign policy chronicle of recent years that Delhi would rather not think about. Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar.

Editor Rupee News.
Moin Ansari

Checkmark P. said...

do I really need to spell out who won?

How about a hint instead?

Shiyay, Mirzaiyay don't taste good anymore... Hindoo/Krantay are no fun really (too few and they don't even pretend to run!)

I mean, OMG LOL, like, you totally forgot to tell!

takhalus said...

quote for the day from cafepyala
Ah, had we been as vigilant about the Taliban as you are about Zardari …

Azk said...

Pakistan has came a long way in this war against extremism, since the very inception of this war many felt that this war was imposed upon us, however this war was inevitable and this realization has came late but now we do take ownership of this war.
We have suffered heavy losses but we have gained a lot too, the strongholds of militants have been destroyed and they are on a run, the whole hide & seek has led to the successful captures of many key leaders of Taliban and Al-Qaeda. We must not abandon this war at such a critical juncture the more we do now the sooner will this war end.

Smci said...

The Military, any military has a broad goal, which is to preserve the national security of its nation. Yes, that does mean first and foremost preserving the life of its citizens, but it also extends to preserving the national interest, as that interest is defined by its policy makers.

That being the case, without delving in to the morality of the Afghan imperative, yes, the Pak Estanblishment has made recent gains vis-a-vis India. This all the while more and more of its civilian population is dying at the hands of a domestic insurgency. But my hunch is that most of the Establishment see these as two disconnected issues. Try as we might, the popular dichotomy between Tehrik-e-Taliban and the Afghan Taliban isn't leaving popular perception any time soon.


Now, as for the moral argument, I think we can legitimately argue that Pakistan's policy, or for that matter India's, or Iran's - rings of "Neo-Imperialism" of one form or an other.

It's clearly not "New Imperialism" because in the minds of any of the actors involved, they aren't pursuing influence in Afghanistan simply for 'influence's sake.' Rather, it's more akin to offensive realism , where the threat, real or percieved, of the enemy's influence outweighing that of our own drives us to meddle ever further in the affairs of the theatre concerned.

It's also not "NeoColonialism," because aside from paltry access to markets in Iran or Central Asia, Afghanistan doesn't offer much other than poppy trafficking. There aren't any Pakistani state control industries or stated-tied multinationals sucking up the resources or labor of Afghanistan.

I don't think NeoImperialism (and I know you were using it loosely) is the proper neologism to describe Pakistan's complicated relationship with Afghanistan. Evil though it may be, the Pak Establishment doesn't necessarily see themselves dominating nor subordinating Afghans to their whim.

What ordinary Pakistanis should ask themselves is this. The Pakistani Government, both civlian and military, supported the draconian and oppressive rule of the Taliban (supposedly to replace the chaos wrougth by various Mujahideen). They did this by allowing tens of thousands of Pakistani Madrassa students to be brainwashed and transported enmasse to join the Taliban ranks in the mid 90s against Rabbani, Massoud, Dostum etc. They knew full well the nightmare that would rain upon the Afghan people when the Taliban took over... forced prayer at the end of a stick, beatings for not growing beards, public executions on specuous grounds, and the wholescale elimination of half of the population, women, from public life. All in the name of their well known, retarded interpretations of Shari'a.

So the question then is, in all sincerity, why would you support such tyranny on your Afghan brethren, when in election after election, the parties advocating for even a semblence of Shari'a in Pakistani public life have consistently failed to get more than single digit support?

You don't want religious tyranny on yourselves (or perhaps your own mothers, sisters, or wives), but it's completely OK for Afghans because "our national interest versus India comes first."

It's a manipulative and cold-hearted double standard, or whatever "-ism" we want to use to describe it.

Shame on us.

Wyse Guy said...

Shame on us.

Hypocrisy is a way of life in our country. As you have summed up, it is also a matter of policy within our country.

Manish said...

Very well said,,,
Absolutely the crux of the issue.
I read your blog once in a while and find your perspectives though provoking, even though I don't agree with all of them..

Ali said...

The title of this post immediately reminded me of a line from Costas Douzinas' "Human Rights and Empire: the political philosophy of cosmopolitanism" in which he argues that 'human rights/humanitarianism' are the 'moral' agenda of new imperial-esque missions. In relation to the recent Iraq war he said:

"What the Iraq war has shown us is that human rights are paramount, the humans are not."