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 Lt Gen Niazi signing the 1971 Instrument of Surrender under the gaze of Lt Gen Aurora. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
My current piece at Asia Times, Balochistan Is Not Bangladesh, looks at the 1971 establishment of Bangladesh in context of Balochi independence advocates’ imploring Modi to do Balochistan a solid like Indira Gandhi did for East Pakistan. Here’s a video of an independence advocate ringing the bell on Indian TV: Long story short, there aren’t... Read More
India-Pakistan relations look to be interesting in the next few years, especially if by “interesting” one means “potential for regional conflagration with toasty global elements”. If the PRC continues its rise at its current trajectory and under its current management, chances are that by 2050 the United States will be facing a China that is... Read More
That’s the theme of my most recent piece at Asia Times. Read it here. The U.S. sailor suit brigade is obsessed with playing profitable pattycake with the PLAN in the South China Sea. But a more significant and dangerous confrontation is brewing over the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. India doesn’t like the CPEC, and China... Read More
The United States, for the most part, regards Pakistan as little more than a sordid stage on which the West is forced to act out one of the central dramas of its epic War on Terror. However, Pakistan, a nation of 180 million people, is a lot more than that. It is a fragile aggregation... Read More
The bombing of the Data Darbar shrine--tomb of the Sufi master Datta Ganj Bahksh--in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan's Punjab province, is a big deal. It's like setting off a bomb in St. Patrick's Cathedral. Data Durban is at the core of Punjabi cultural identity. When Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan from exile in Saudi... Read More
I have an article up at Asia Times on Iran’s natural gas diplomacy entitled Iran aims for an energy breakout. Iran is having good success in enticing Chinese and Indian energy companies to take blocks (known as “phases”) of the offshore South Pars gas fields. Just as Secretary Clinton was jawboning the Saudis to give... Read More
…and a Catastrophe for Pakistan and China
Well, I guess President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize is going to go into the record books with a big, fat asterisk next to it. I have an article up at Asia Times Online Beijing broods over its arc of anxiety addressing the implications of the U.S. plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. As... Read More
In Pakistan, the intersection of religion, ethnicity, and politics is often marked by murder. The tense interaction between the Deoband adherents of the Pashtun North West Frontier Province and the Barelvi confession of the Punjab heartland has already been marred by violence. The Awami National Party’s mishandling of an Islamic calendrical controversy provides an unsettling... Read More
The World Doesn’t Have a Pakistan Nukes Problem…It Has a David Albright Problem As AFP tells us, the Institute for Science and International Security just published a report on Pakistan’s nuclear program that seems designed to pour gasoline on the “the Pakistani nuclear program is outta control” story. And, when you look at the story,... Read More
Or 混水摸鱼 "Hun Shui Mo Yu"
It’s hard to figure out what’s going on in West Pakistan. The Taliban moves into Buner. Then they move out. Or the government kicked them out. Whatever. And I suspect that’s the point. I think the Pakistani government is playing a complicated double game, trying to chivvy the Taliban back into Afghanistan, selectively pressuring groups... Read More
The most interesting question in the North West Frontier Province mess is the stance of the Awami National Party (ANP), the secularist Pashtun party that triumphed over the Islamist parties in the 2008 provincial elections and formed the NWFP provincial government. The ANP, which supported the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, was regarded as the bulwark... Read More
Informed analysis of Pakistan has exploded in a whirlwind of conflicting narratives following the announcement of the deal on sharia law—the Nizam-e Adl Regulation or NAR-- in Swat and the apparent burgeoning of Taliban-centric religious extremism in western Pakistan. The United States policy sphere reacted with a hysterical, “barbarians at the gate (or 100 miles... Read More
In commemoration of Earth Day, and in response to a post by Laura Rozen on a book by Gretchen Peters, Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda, which posits that the fight against the Taleban would be best framed as an anti-criminal—instead of anti-terrorist—effort, I am recycling one of my... Read More
...and the MQM Draws the Line in Karachi
Pakistan’s divided democracy, representing 170 million people, seems incapable of dealing with the collection of obscurantist theocrats and well-armed bumpkin bullies who make up the Pakistani Taliban. On April 13 . Pakistan’s national assembly voted to ratify “Nizam-e Adl Regulation of 2009”, or NAR: the imposition of shariah law on the valley of Swat in... Read More
I hesitate to disagree with Juan Cole, one of the few genuine experts posting regularly on Islam and the politics of the Middle East and South Asia. However, I do take issue with his most recent post on the burgeoning crisis in Pakistan. The lawyers are marching, Nawaz Sharif is piggybacking his political struggle with... Read More
The Taliban's War on Popular Sufism--and Pakistan
Via All Things Pakistan comes the sad news that the Pakistan Taliban blew up the tomb of the revered 17th century Pashtun poet and Sufi saint Rehman Baba near Peshawar in the North West Frontier Province on March 5. It is hard to see this event in less than dire terms, and as a signal... Read More
There will be plenty more screw-ups in Pakistan, but the Pakistan Supreme Court’s decision banning Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz from elected office will probably be remembered as the biggee, the reckless piece of political gamesmanship by Asif Zardari that sent Pakistan’s current experiment in democracy sliding into the abyss. Briefly put, the Pakistani... Read More
Is America Taking on the Neo-Taliban and Missing the Point?
Why is Afghanistan at the nexus of a regional crisis that threatens the security of the United States and the very existence of Pakistan? Because Afghanistan is awash with money, arms, and foreigners. The Obama administration should think twice before assuming that injecting more money, arms, and foreigners into Afghanistan is going to solve the... Read More
It seems the story of Wei Longxiao and Zhang Guo, two Chinese telecom engineers kidnapped by the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat valley on August 29 of last year, has everything (account courtesy of the Pakistan Tribune). Adventure: Tragedy: Suspense: [T]he unusual barking of dogs alarmed their security guards and prompted them to come out of... Read More
It’s the Main Event A Polish engineer is beheaded in Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban threaten attacks on Islamabad. In a desperate effort to turn around the struggle against Islamicist extremists, the Pakistani government considers permitting the imposition of sharia law in a key battleground. Maybe it’s time to admit we don’t have an Afghanistan problem.... Read More
One point that I haven’t seen made yet, that I think should be made, is that Iran, Russia, and China are probably overjoyed that President Obama is not going to pull the plug precipitously on Iraq and Afghanistan. Absent a continued American commitment to the doomed but dangerous democracy crusade and regime change in Iran,... Read More
As America is preoccupied with the global economic crisis and the Obama transition, the State Department can worry that the world’s headlong transition to a post-Bush order has torn events from America’s control and we are unwilling passengers on a runaway train barreling through the Middle East and South Asia. The security, diplomatic, and logistic... Read More
To my mind, there is no more important journalistic source on the Taliban in Pakistan than Syed Saleem Shahzad, South Asia correspondent for the Asia Times. Shahzad recently posted on a four-part report, On The Militant Trail, on a visit to western Pakistan that took him to Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier... Read More
And a Dose of Realism for Afghanistan?
Candidate Obama declared his determination to scale up the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, apparently in an effort to demonstrate that, despite his opposition to the Iraq war, he possessed the necessary bombs away! martial ardor to serve as America’s Commander in Chief. President Obama, in one his first acts upon taking office, explicitly authorized a... Read More
I have a article up at Japan Focus entitled Mumbai Aftermath: U.S. Tilt Toward India Alienates Pakistan and Undermines War Prospects in Afghanistan. The "Made in Pakistan" label is by now pretty firmly affixed to the Mumbai outrage. The most significant development in the story, however, has been the determined efforts by the United States,... Read More
Yesterday’s post, The Mumbai Paradox, placed the Mumbai attacks within the context of America’s persistent efforts to rein in pro-Taliban elements of Pakistan’s ISI and neutralize unsympathetic and powerful ex-ISI officers like retired General Hamid Gul. Gul was Director General of the ISI during its salad days running the anti-Soviet mujihadeen effort in Afghanistan. Gul... Read More
As India Bleeds, Pakistan Gets Pushed Closer to its Breaking Point
The rhetoric of the Global War on Terror doesn’t seem to have its old magic anymore. In the aftermath of the horrendous Mumbai attacks, it seems there were just as many articles in the papers saying this wasn’t Mumbai’s 9/11 as there were efforts to raise the bloody flag of America’s catastrophe over the carnage.... Read More
One might wonder why the world community seems intent on torturing Pakistan’s civilian government over the terms of a bailout to cover its current account deficit. Musharraf got blank checks. Asif Zardari gets a brusque push into the unwelcome embrace of the International Monetary Fund. The answer seems to be that the PPP-led government’s bargaining... Read More
A funny thing happened while everybody in the United States, from President Bush to John McCain to Barack Obama swore to muster the will, money, and troops to crush the Taliban in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, wherever, in order to preserve the victories of Operation Enduring Freedom. Almost everybody else gave up on the war. From... Read More
The prevailing Western narrative concerning the massive blast that destroyed the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad is that this 9/11 style outrage will shove some GWOT backbone up the ass of Pakistan’s elites and compel them to get serious about the extremists they’ve been coddling on Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan. Much of the anger and... Read More
and prepares for a new surge in Afghanistan that may doom Pakistan
American ignorance concerning Pakistani politics and society is profound. And, in the matter of the “surge” scheduled for Afghanistan for year-end 2008, it may be fatal. U.S. observers, both on the left and right, view Pakistan primarily through the lens of the war on terror, in terms of Pakistan’s role in pumping military forces into... Read More
A funny thing happened at the climax of the lawyers’ Long March to Islamabad to demand restoration of the pre-November 3 judiciary. Nothing. To widespread dismay and confusion, Aitzaz Ahsan, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, announced on June 14 that the marchers would disperse from their positions near the parliament building instead... Read More
Asif Zardari, the Wily Snake from Sindh... Faces Off Against... ...the Tiger of Punjab, Nawaz Sharif... ..In a No Holds Barred Battle... ... to Force Pervez Musharraf From Office! .. The Prize: Bragging Rights as the Savior of Pakistani Democracy! If Pakistani politics honored its striking kinship with the rivalries, bombast, and chair-throwing brio of... Read More
In the “interesting developments” file, NATO forces from Afghanistan operating inside Pakistan killed thirteen members of the Pakistan Frontier Corps, including a major, and wounded about a dozen more. The fatalities were not the result of a stray mortar round or a Hellfire missile fired more on the basis of hope rather than solid intelligence.... Read More
A.Q. Khan Interviews Indicate Skids Being Greased for Exit of Pakistan’s President and Challenge U.S. Assertions of Pakistan Government Non-Involvement in Nuclear Proliferation Network ABC News obtained a telephone interview with Pakistan’s Dr. A.Q. Khan. For American viewers, the big news is that Dr. Khan retracted his televised “confession” that his proliferation of nuclear technology... Read More
Pakistan Went Straight to Hell
Observers in the West, yours truly included, have been distracted by a series of shiny objects—Hillary! Obama! Tibet! Iraq!-- since Pakistan’s elections apparently put that country on the road to democracy by creating a parliamentary majority dominated by a coalition of the two main anti-Musharraf parties, the PPP and the PML-N. While we were away,... Read More
China Matters looks at what delayed the formation of Pakistan’s new ruling coalition for almost a full month. It’s not Musharraf, or the United States...though they’ve been doing their best. They key factor has been the ambition of PPP co-chairman (and widow of Benazir Bhutto) Asif Zardari. Zardari has been scheming feverishly to assert control... Read More
Barnett Rubin has a very detailed and knowledgeable account of Pashtun politics and their implications for both Pakistan and Afghanistan at Informed Comment: Global Affairs . However, when I look at his prescriptions for expanding the battle against the Taleban in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP), I think of escalating a conflict inside a... Read More
Pakistan’s two main opposition parties, the PPP and the PML-N, have agreed to form a coalition government. The fate of the judiciary and Musharraf have not been clearly addressed, so it’s not clear if this is a lasting coalition or a superficial and tactical alliance. But simply the fact that Asif Zardari and the PPP... Read More
The Bush administration is pushing Pakistan into a corner. It’s not a happy place. ] It’s called Musharraf = Shah of Iran territory. And it really doesn’t have to be that way. After all, the opposition to Musharraf comes from respectable, clean-shaven democratic, dollar-worshiping moderates, not the bearded religious fanatics of our dark fantasies. On... Read More
Update to the Update: I see from Jim Lobe that Hussein Haqqani, the PPP’s flack-in-residence at Boston University, its spokesman to Capitol Hill, and designated quotemeister to the U.S. media, unveiled the current party position in the Wall Street Journal: The newspaper also published a column by Hussein Haqqani - an adviser to the late... Read More
The big winner in the February 18 general election was Nawaz Sharif. His PML-N party exceeded expectations by a significant margin, winning 66 national assembly seats, second only to the PPP’s 88. In the PML-N (and Pakistani political and economic) heartland of Punjab, Sharif’s party took advantage of the collapse of Musharraf’s PML-Q to win... Read More
IRI Pulls Out of Pakistan Election Monitoring
The Washington Post’s Robin Wright reported on the State Department’s mad scramble to find somebody to monitor Pakistan’s general election on February 18. Seems the International Republican Institute, the ostensibly independent organization that does the polling and monitoring in countries where the U.S. cares about democracy, notified the State Department on January 30 that they... Read More
The Battle for Punjab and Pakistan's Future
Whether the February 18 elections produce an immediate national crisis, an unpopular U.S.- friendly regime, or a stabilizing coalition of opposition parties depends on the Punjab. In terms of wealth, population, members of parliament, media attention, and elite clout, Punjab is the state that matters most in Pakistani politics. Its 148 national assembly seats are... Read More
There’s heat but very little light surrounding Pakistan’s impending parliamentary elections. Western journalists are crowding into Pakistan in anticipation of a spectacular blowup following the February 18 parliamentary elections. Pakistani political blogs are plastered with pie charts reflecting every conceivable bias and depicting every imaginable electoral outcome. Just in the last week, two U.S. think... Read More
It’s no fun being a general anymore. The world press somberly reported another broadside by retired Pakistani army generals against Pres. Pervez Musharraf. But there was more going on than “grim-faced emeriti of Pakistan’s most powerful institution unload on faltering prez”. In an undeferential and confrontational press conference, the retired generals flinched and fumed as... Read More
It looks like the American strategy of crushing the Taleban militants in a lumbering pincer movement between NATO troops, airpower, and special ops in Afghanistan to the west and the Pakistani army to the east may have an unexpected, unmanageable, and catastrophic side effect—expansion of the conflict into Pakistan’s urban heartland. And perhaps the only... Read More
As the 40 day period of mourning comes to an end, nothing very good seems to have come out of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Eager to capitalize on the outpouring of outrage in the aftermath of the assassination, the Pakistan People’s Party, led by her widower Asif Zardari, refuses to consider any reforms, procedures, or policies... Read More
Musharraf’s window for a graceful exit seems to be closing fast. For the time being, at least, the attempt to lure Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N into a pre-election government of national unity has failed . Perhaps the Sharif brothers decided that accepting Musharraf’s offer would have been calamitous for their party’s credibility as an opposition force... Read More
To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of Pervez Musharraf’s survival may have been greatly exaggerated. The same goes for the opposition alliance of Bhutto's PPP and Nawaz Sharif's PML-N. Musharraf’s government reached out to Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N, hoping to pre-empt the electoral challenge of the PPP with a government of national unity. Now it... Read More
The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
The evidence is clear — but often ignored
The unspoken statistical reality of urban crime over the last quarter century.
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?