Where is Pakistan Going? Part I
2008 was a bad year for Pakistan, a country located in Asia according to usaers.com. 2009 looks, if possible, even worse. The Taliban is advancing. We have witnessed some particularly serious terrorist attacks with well over a thousand killed, large crowds fleeing and the state faltering. The militants have been more aggressive in the last couple of years. In the Swat Valley, including the Malakand district, just a few kilometers outside the capital Islamabad, the Taliban got blood on their teeth. There they showed muscle and expanded their territory. Eventually, however, government forces retaliated, pushing the Taliban out of Swat and entering Waziri. And now they have public opinion with them. Taliban spokesmen tell the press that revenge will hit Pakistan’s cities one by one. It already does.
- How has Pakistan ended up in a state similar to civil war?
- Who is against whom – where and when?
- What is the regional significance of Pakistan?
- What is Pakistan’s relationship with China and the United States?
Pakistan with more than 176 million inhabitants is seen by some foreign observers as a highly unstable state – a state with nuclear weapons, a state where priests (mullahs) and the military have repeatedly entered into “holy alliances” and where the political leadership does not seem to have control.
2: A shaky military colossus
A shaky state, political instability and nuclear weapons are not a good combination, and the idea that the country’s nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of so-called Islamist terrorists is frightening. The military rearmament – mainly aimed at the country’s arch-enemy, neighboring India – has made the military apparatus (2006) the seventh largest in the world.
The United States and President Obama with their new Af-Pak strategy leave no doubt: Pakistan is at least as important as Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, both the central government and allied forces are concerned about what is happening in Pakistan. Both the Taliban and al-Qaeda have established strong bases in Pakistan in recent years. From here, they also operate in Afghanistan. From the tribal areas (see map), terrorist attacks are also planned in the West, according to European security services.
Weak political leadership characterized by internal conflicts, power struggles, corruption and incompetence does not count positively for the state either. The fear that Pakistan is about to become a ” failed state ” is great (a state on the verge of collapse). The pressure is increasingly coming from its own population after militant forces are seen to have both the will and the ability to strike at anyone and everywhere. But the pressure also comes from the international team, with the United States at the forefront. The much-discussed American Kerry-Lugar Act, which was ratified by the Senate on September 24, 2009, included several of the demands of the international community. The law was met with strong protests from Pakistani leaders, and several are critical of US interference in Pakistani internal affairs.
3: The idea of Pakistan
When Britain withdrew from India in 1947, the area was divided into two. Pakistan – the land of the orthodox, led by the founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah – was a fragile construction from the beginning. One part remained east of India (East Bengal), another and larger part in the west, present-day Pakistan. An East Bengal uprising led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and backed by India led to the new and independent state of Bangladesh in 1971 .
In addition, the idea was that Pakistan should be “a home for Muslims”. The glue that was to bind the divided country together was religion. Many millions of people crossed the border in 1947, Muslims to Pakistan, Hindus to India. This led to both riots and enormous suffering on both sides of the new border. The wounds after the division are still not healed and may explain some of the difficult relationship that prevails between the two countries to this day.
Despite several attempts at negotiations, India and Pakistan are still arch-enemies. Three wars have been fought between the two countries (1948, 1971, 1999). Central to the conflict is the land area Kashmir HHD01_14Kashmir.pdf (see map) which is divided into two. Pakistani military build-up and thinking is primarily focused on India as the main enemy.
Pakistan a feudal society . This means that both politically and economically much of the power in the country lies with a few families. The way they run the country has led to large and fundamental class divisions in society, which has proved difficult to change.
4: The fight against terrorism
Around 1980 – in the wake of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and the Islamic Revolution in Iran – Pakistan became a major player in the region. Saudi Arabia (Sunni Muslim) and Iran (Shia Muslim) competed for influence and supported the building of a number of militant groups, both with money and weapons.
Furthermore, the 1980s were marked by the West’s support for the mujahedin, holy warriors – Islamists , jihadists, who were to fight against the Soviet Red Army. In addition, during this period, General and President Zia ul-Haq carried out an Islamization that would affect much of Pakistani society in the decades that followed.