Serious confrontations

Was wondering what y’all think of what’s going on in Pakistan.

Yesterday, an attempt to destroy one of the Intelligence Agency centers in Lahore killed more than two dozen people, injured more than three hundred, and destroyed an emergency services building:

Today (28 May 2009), Pakistan the Taliban warned people to evacuate cities (scary !!!).

And there have been three attacks around Peshawar so far, after the warning:

Update: the Times article says bombs exploded in Lahore today, too.

– – –

One of the cities under direct threat is Multan, a center of Sufi history, with beautiful old architecture:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multan

Making this city a target has two purposes, as I see it:  it’s a big commercial center, and its Sufi history is an implicit challenge to the Taliban’s views on Islamic rules for living.

– – –

My opinion about the conflict:

Anyone in the wondering why Pakistan appeared to be appeasing the Taliban can now see why that strategy was being used.  And anyone thinking the strategy was a sign of innate weakness can now change their mind.  That’s what I think, anyway.  This is a dangerous situation.  I wish all the best (how shallow that sounds) to the men in Pakistan who have to take on this fighting, and to the families who are having their lives destroyed by this conflict.

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3 thoughts on “Serious confrontations

  1. Dara says:

    Dear Heath,

    I am hesitant to get into Pakistani events in open forums. My first anxiety is because of my own bias. No matter how much I try to be objective, there is too much baggage from the past. So I’m sure it shows up in my thoughts to a neutral observer. Secondly, even if I do manage to remain unbiased, the audience cannot see my comments except through the fact that I am an Indian and therefore naturally biased. The darn Indo Pak hyphenation, even though I like to think that India has long since moved on and got on with it. Both sides of this equation are true and have validity. I will swallow the bait anyway!. You may see my comments through whatever tinted glasses you happen to wear at the moment! 🙂

    You understand why Pakistan wanted to appease the Taliban. Without going into arguments about good and bad Taliban, I am trying to understand why you think so. In fact isn’t this proof enough for people to see through the fact that successive Pakistani regimes have pussy footed around the Taliban issue? The military-politico balance in Pakistan is shackled in dealing with the Taliban. Tough action, is seen by the public as toeing an American line and helping the US achieve it’s own aim. The US is not anybody’s favourite right now in that country. Secondly, for many, the Taliban seems to represent an Islamic way of life and therefore it is wrong to wage war against them. They refuse to listen to those who say that what the Taliban represent is contrary to Islam.

    The fact remains that the Taliban were allowed to hold sway over a period of years. Yet, the moment the government decided to take strong action it took little time in gaining the upper hand. In my opinion this bloodshed was avoidable, if the administration had the guts to administer the country instead of letting things go out of hand. A clear cut case of a stitch in time. The Taliban have now claimed that Lahore is retaliation for the SWAT offensive. You cannot indefinitely run with the hare and hunt with the hound.

    This dangerous dance with the Taliban has one more twist to it. Pakistan claims to be allied with the US in combating the Taliban and establishing order in Afghanistn. Mullah Omar has repeatedly been sighted in Quetta and it is Quetta where most of the Taliban fleeing from Afghanistan are sheltered. Why is no one going about tackling them? These Taliban really do not pose a direct threat to Pakistan, is the line of thinking. They are ‘Afghan’ Taliban. Therefore, Quetta is left to become an enemy fortress. All these distinctions; good and bad, Afghan and Pakistani Taliban etc. are once again skirting the real issue. In my opinion, SWAT will be repeated again and again in different regions of Pakistan. Newer breeding grounds with tacit government support and inaction.

  2. heath says:

    Well, were the Taliban allowed to hold sway? I thought they were pretty much situated in Afghanistan, and maybe leaked over into the NWFP and FATA because the borders are porous — they’re artificial Raj-era borders, actually.

    I think the government always knew the Taliban would act this way, and hoped, with the Swat deal, to avoid it. Whenever I’ve made a deal with someone my instincts said was dangerous, sooner or later they became dangerous anyway. So it was here.

    The Taliban are being seriously pressured east of Swat and are looking for long-term safe haven in Pakistan’s lushest regions.

    I can understand holding back from going after anyone in Quetta. It’s essentially Afghanistan there — until about 120 years ago, it was.

    I write as if I know what I’m talking about. But I don’t really. My thoughts are a mix of understanding human nature, some reading about the region’s character and history, a decently viable skill with long-term strategies, and guesses.

    I love Afghan Hounds, and always have. A lot of my understanding of the region’s history and character comes from research I did years ago, into their origins and nature. Like the horses bred in the region, they were part of everyday life, until a few generations ago. They’re sight-hounds. They hunt with vision, not scent or sound. They’re amongst the fastest dogs, and they have brilliant stamina, again, like the horses. They do very well running on uneven ground and steep, rocky slopes.

    I’ve been watching for Marwari horses in Bollywood films — often the horses for the most important characters are Marwaris, and the others are mixed or other breeds.

    I read this review:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/17/books/review/Barcott-t.html

    and want to get the book.

    It’s all links of a chain.

    love, h

  3. Dara says:

    Dear Heath,

    Sorry I took some things for granted. The Pakistan Afghanistan border has been porous from the time it was created and really is meaningless. Even so, please don;t tell a Pakistani that Quetta is essentially Afghanistan! I doubt they would like it. It is one of Pakistan’s major cities. As far as I know, and I don’t know too much, till a few years ago, the main business there was gun running and gun making. You could get anything copied there for the right amount of cash. From what I heard, you could even say you wanted a copy of a particular gun and the price kind of depended on how much you wanted to use the gun. You could say, I wanted it capable of firing just two shots, and you got that for a very attractive price as compared to another who wanted to fire 1000 shots from it.

    I am uncertain about how much you know about the deal the Pakistanis struck with the Taliban in Swat. Basically it allowed the Taliban control of the administration including the courts which were to run according to the Sharia. (Incidentally this has been a long standing demand). Following this deal, music was banned. Lawyers were warned not to attend courts set up by the government if they wanted to remain in one piece. Girl schools were closed down. Some were burned down. In return the Taliban were supposed tp stop attacks and lay down arms.This deal was struck with the ‘good Pakistani’ Taliban. The guy who signed it agreed that he would convince the ‘bad’ Taliban, led by his son-in-law, to disarm. He also stated that democracy was basically anti Islam. Islam didnt believe in electing a government or laying down laws. Presumably, because all this was already available in the Koran. Incidentally he was reportedly missing shortly after the deal was signed.

    Anyway as was generally expected, the Taliban refused to lay down arms and in fact then started trying to increase their influence in even more territory. There stated aim incidentally is to gradually put all of Pakistan under Islamic law and do away with democratic institutions. That is when the Pak army realised they had to do something.

    I would like someone to enlighten me as to what was good in the ‘good’ Taliban? Or, if this was the good section, what are the bad guys like? 🙂

    Anyway to cut this here, I was just wondering why you saw justification in signing a deal with the Taliban. In my opinion the Taliban cannot be broken down into Afghani or Pakistani, and good or bad. The Taliban is a cult that is rooted in militant Islamic ideology, or rather their own version of it, individual nationalities do not matter. Its idealogy thats the glue, not nationality or individual behaviour and nature.

    I think the root problem, as far as US thinking is concerned, and as you made mention earlier, is being out of touch and out of synch with the basic way of life and the history of the area. They still attempt to influence how things should run and it is this interference that often creates more problems than it solves.

    Love
    Dara

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