Saturday, April 25, 2009

Manufacturing Extremism

When oppression and neglect by a corrupt elite (be it a financial elite in New York or a landed aristocracy in Pakistan) reaches the point of provoking sustained violent protest, the result is typically the rise of a new brand of self-serving elite. It is our ironic habit in the West to term this second type of self-serving elite "extremist." The example of Pakistan follows.

The following opinion piece in Pakistan’s Frontier Post should be required reading for Washington decisionmakers on several levels. The first lesson it teaches is that state collapse is a long complicated process that contains numerous opportunities for influencing the course of events. The second lesson is that there exists an historical pattern that by now should be (though it certainly is not) obvious to all American decisionmakers: a pattern of justifiable insurgency in protest against local injustice that becomes radicalized as a result of “self-serving policies” of the elite. The third lesson is that American boots on the ground have a tendency to exacerbate rather than resolve the situation. For those who still don’t get it, that is what statements such as “Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam” mean.

The remark by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen that the arrival of another 17,000 U.S. troops would hopefully stabilize the situation illustrates the astonishing blindness of U.S. decisionmakers – astonishing after the lessons of Vietnam and Algeria and Lebanon and Somalia and Gaza and Iraq.

The turmoil in Pakistan’s FATA and NWFP offer a set of “models” illustrating these lessons. It is not more U.S. troops, more drones, more straffing runs by U.S. helicopters piloted by local militaries, more Israeli slash and burn tactics created in Jenin and Gaza and Southern Lebanon and reapplied from Fallujah to Bajaur that are needed. Rather, these regions need state-provided civil services, police forces that will not just direct traffic but also guard schools, military forces that will not just show up in jet bombers but establish a permanent presence on the ground to back up the police and tribal militias. Either the rich elite of urban Pakistan will dig into its pockets to fund the provision of state services to the border populations or the border populations, with the support of the urban poor, will give their support to an insurgency that will make the rich elite very uncomfortable.

March of Taliban and waiting for Allah

Tanvir Orakzai

When a state collapses, it does not happen due to a single factor or a single event as commonly believed; instead it is the combination of economic, political and administrative blunders that accelerates the demise of a nation. The seed of erosion of Pakistan have been sown decades ago; where successive military and political governments miserably failed by pursing self serving policies with little care for its powerless population. US invasion may have triggered the rise of local Taliban but there was a general discontent in Pakistan over the mismanagement of political and economic policies that were pursued for decades. The Algerian insurgency in 1990s took place in similar circumstances where military and political leaders failed to redress the wide spread social discontent. The leadership of Islamic parties in Algeria was hijacked by bands of outrageous militants, who considered everybody infidel except themselves similar to Sufi Muhammad. The result was an indiscriminate killing spree of innocent civilians for years in the name of Islam. Insurgency needs an environment of inequality that allows militant leaders to capitalize on the dissatisfaction of the masses to pursue their own agendas. Militant leaders find followers in situations, where there is little political and economic development and where expectations are met with frustration. For militant leaders, such surroundings are ideal to construct an ideology that is rooted in religion, history or nationalism to glorify the terrorist acts. Pakistan has been suffering from all these symptoms and it was natural for militants to snatch the opportunity and declare war on Pakistan. Looking at the present chaos, our leaders (Army and politicians) seem completely lost without any sense of direction with a strange sense of numbness and inaction. Our leaders believe that by issuing empty statement to media; everything will go back to normal. Such state of mind is immature because every insurgency is aimed to bring down the existing system. The insurgent movement sprouts from country side encircling the cities and finally knocking down the government. This pattern has been consistent in various insurgent movements around the world including Afghanistan, Vietnam, Nepal and Pakistan; where Talibans have successfully established control all over FATA, Swat, Buner except Peshawar and Mardan. Pakistan is an excessively centralized state; where power and wealth is concentrated in one province- unwilling to share it with the smaller provinces; Punjab’s shortsightedness is bound to create resentment in the federation. We have lost half of the country in 1971 due to this approach. Today leaving Punjab aside, the rest of the three provinces lack not only self-esteem but have no hearsay in national affairs. The result is chaos and rebellion not only in NWFP and Balochistan but Sindh is also waiting to explode. Unfortunately the power of militants is augmenting with each passing day. This pattern can be clearly observed in recent Swat deal, where militants forced ANP Government to impose Sharia at their terms and conditions. Similar peace deal was done with Hitler in 1930s to avoid war but WWII started few years later. The unnatural peace deal in Swat may have provided sometime to ANP Government, but any deal done from the position of weakness is a dead deal and Taliban are on the winning spree. Our Army has no will to fight; and our police is trained in harassing innocent public and petty thieves. The politicians are flattering police graciously; nevertheless our police is no match for die-hard followers; whose eyes are fixed on heaven. The gallantry of police has been seen by the whole world during Lahore attack, where 10 militants killed more than 100 policemen and forced 1000 policemen to flee like sheep. The march of Taliban will continue overtaking cities and towns one by one--unless Pakistan’s leadership musters its will to counter them. Our leaders' state of mind is similar to Muhammad Shah Rangeela, who in the wake of (Nadir Shah) invasion used to mutter “Hanooz Dehli Door Ast”. The day is not far, when many of our leaders will be castrated and hung up to the poles in Islamabad like Najibullah.

No comments: