Pakistan: Outlook is Gloomier Than Ever

By B. R. Gowani

Tariq Mahmood/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“In Pakistan’s Buner district on Thursday, a barber looked at the “Shave is strictly forbidden” warning that the Taliban wrote on the window of his shop. The Taliban now control the region.” NY Times

“This concession represents a serious development and reflects both the growing strength of the Pakistani Taliban and the inability of the Pakistani army to conduct successful counterinsurgency operations.”
Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, commenting after his fifth visit to Pakistan.

“Pakistan is 173 million people, 100 nuclear weapons, an army bigger than the U.S. Army, and al-Qaeda headquarters sitting right there in the two-thirds of the country that the government doesn’t control. The Pakistani military and police and intelligence service don’t follow the civilian government; they are essentially a rogue state within a state. We’re now reaching the point where within one to six months we could see the collapse of the Pakistani state, also because of the global financial crisis, which just exacerbates all these problems. . . . The collapse of Pakistan, al-Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons, an extremist takeover — that would dwarf everything we’ve seen in the war on terror today.”
Counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen to Carlos Lozada.

“I think that the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the House Committee.

“I have absolutely no confidence in the ability of the existing Pakistani government to do one blessed thing.”
Representative David R. Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat and the leader of the House Appropriations Committee.

What is the difference between a suicide bomber and a suicidal government?

A suicide bomber is a person who thinks, or has been indoctrinated to think, that he (mostly it is men) has a higher goal to accomplish and so he does not care for his own life and, of course, for other lives. And when he embarks on a mission he destroys a particular target (place, people, or thing) and in the process gets killed.

On the other hand, a suicidal government is a body of people corrupted by the system who think only of embellishing their and their near ones’ lives and riches. And when it embarks on this mission it destroys the whole country. Unlike the suicide bombers, the leaders do not get killed—they flee to other countries.

Pakistani leaders are on one such fatal mission. Those from the elite class (the politicians, bureaucrats, defense personnel, business people, and others) who haven’t yet been influenced by the Taleban-Islam must have a plan to head off to England, the US, and the UAE. Those enamored with the Mumbai film industry and its actresses will head toward India.

Just within a span of two weeks Adm. Mike Mullen, US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has visited Islamabad twice to discuss the current crisis with Pakistan’s top military and intelligence commanders. Whether the United States — who to quite an extent is responsible for putting Pakistan in such a straitjacket situation — is serious about saving Pakistan or is simply pretending that it is concerned, but in fact is interested in seeing that country disintegrate, is really difficult to discern.

The two things United States could have done, or can do, are: End the military adventure in Afghanistan and the drone-bombing of Pakistan, and invest billions of dollars in educational, health, and social services in Pakistan. This would cause a substantial reduction in the Taliban influence there and make Pakistan a more livable place.

The latest news is that Taliban have established their control in the Banur district which is merely 70 miles from Islamabad and is strategically an important place. There are reports of Taliban being seen in two other areas near the capital.

On the other hand, Karachi, the biggest and the most cosmopolitan city in Pakistan, has also started to feel the Taliban threat more personally. Ardeshir Cowasjee reports in Dawn that the Taliban have visited the co-ed schools in Clifton, Defence, and Saddar and have issued threats against the residents there to comply with the strict ideals of the Taliban. Others have received similar threats too. (Defence and Clifton are the most posh areas in Karachi.)

Only the Pakistani government and the military can put a stop to this; and if they do not halt this immediately, it will be too late. Eventually if nothing is done by the government, a segment of the society will take up this task and there may be civil war, refugees, more problems, and more misery.

Some of the Pakistanis I talk to complain that Pakistan is always in the news and they feel uncomfortable. There is more bad news for them; Pakistan will remain in the public eye for the foreseeable future.

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

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