Some, more serious, thoughts on Pakistan


How symbolic success has simply illuminated the cavernous differences between the states 

Ryan Cordell & Danny Janes

Outside the White House and in sports stadiums as ‘Americas Game’ played out the reaction to the news that Osama Bin Laden, the world’s number one terrorist and all round figurehead for Islamist extremism, had been killed was that of chants of, ‘USA, USA’ and the more viral, ‘America, Fuck Yeah!’ For many this looked like a true World Police moment but was it anything more than a symbolic victory and has it only served to strain the already circumspect relationship between the US and its ally in the campaign against the Taliban, Al Qaeda and associated extremist groups.

The most disturbing aspects of this new chapter in America’s battle is the reliability of and the posture towards extremist groups, most notably the Haqqani network, of the ISI (Inter-services Intelligence). With fears already present in America over the internal reliability of the organization as well as the security behind military and nuclear establishments in Pakistan the Bin Laden killing as well as the Kirachi attacks have only compounded these fears. The sheer number of insurgent groups in some of Pakistan’s tribal regions, who in many cases share an address, with major nuclear establishments is startling even more so with the ISI’s ‘pick and choose’ approach to combatting them. Fears that the ISI were sympathetic towards Al Qaeda’s leader were certainly intensified when he was found, just outside the Pakistani equivalent of Sandhurst in a military-style compound fitted with nothing short of eighteen foot fences, barbed wire, few outwards-facing windows and no telephone or internet access. With the raid occurring without the knowledge of Pakistan intelligence, they feel violated in terms of state sovereignty, alienated and embarrassed, yet critical of American actions and Obama’s decision to act without the approval or input of the U.S. ally. The real dilemma is however, in deciding whether Pakistan can credibly justify a complaint against the U.S. actions in Attatobad, considering the circumstances.

It serves to demonstrate how, many people in these volatile areas such as Afghanistan and Pakistan support the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and most worryingly their cause – jihad against the west. Pakistan may present themselves as an ally against terrorism, but they are fundamentally a state divided between insurgent sympathizers and allies of the West – unfortunately the ISI are divided even further, making co-operation increasingly difficult. The level to which the insurgents are based and operational in Pakistan is demonstrated by the 22nd May 2011 attacks on the military base in the port of Karachi. Ominously this is outside the most common base of operations for Pakistani insurgents, in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. Pakistani insurgents are willing to attack their own state in order to avenge Pakistan’s position in the fight against terror and for failing to prevent the death of Osama Bin Laden. This puts Prime Minister, Makhdoom Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, in an awkward position; already Pakistan’s commitment and reliability is doubted by the American government, yet if they are seen to be acting positively against terrorism than he is effectively jeopardizing his own people and nation.

Barack Obama’s decision to act without informing Pakistani intelligence or leadership and then to openly admit concerns about their reliability has both embarrassed and offended Pakistan. However their relationship is mutually dependent; Pakistan rely on U.S. financial aid and the U.S. rely on Pakistan for a logistical base and shared intelligence. Although, in the aftermath of the Abbottabad raid, Pakistan have sought to strengthen their links with China, their other major ally. In fact the base in Kirachi had both US and Chinese personnel working at it. America cannot afford to let Pakistan swing too far to the East as despite improving relations with China, there are still obvious differences between the two states. A strengthening relationship between the two nuclear powers, China and Pakistan, would only intensify tensions with India; potentially sparking another nuclear stand-off. If Pakistan and the U.S. were to drift apart, the Americans would have far less scope to diffuse any potential nuclear crisis between the arch rivals. Stability is what is needed in Pakistan and for that to occur America and Pakistan need to work even more closely; unfortunately it seems relations with Pakistan will simply continue to perpetuate the war on terror and crises in Asia and the Middle East.

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