Once More With Feelings

Posted by sepoy on December 08, 2009 · 3 mins read

"Yet the Army leadership is refusing to strike at the heart of the Taliban command in Baluchistan Province." declares another editorial from NYT today. If only these Pakistanis would realize - why won't they just realize - that this is their wars, not ours.

Think back to March 2009. Then, the Taliban were on a march to Islamabad - mere 60 miles away - and the editorial chided the Pakistani army and civilian elite of not understanding their mortal threat. Invade Swat, became a mantra of pundits and editorials alike. After hemming and hawing - and filling up its coffers - the Pakistani Army did. It went in with guns blazing from every hill-top. It watched the million walk out of the valley with their houses gone and their livelihoods vanished. Never did the NYT or the Administration pause to even consider what were the local histories, the local demands, the causes which would have allowed the Taliban any foothold at all in Swat. Not once was Swat's precarious constitutional structure discussed or attention paid to the Swati demands for expedient justice, equal opportunities and resource sharing. Not once. The drums of war drown out any other voice. All the Empire seeks is immediate action. In the here and in the now.

Then, in August 2009 came the second wave. The real battle is in Waziristan, not Swat where the Taliban's real base exists. Why won't the Pakistani army move in there already? Why are the wasting time in Swat? The timing was also good for a Pakistani "invasion" since Baitullah Mehsud had just been killed. Once again, the Army dithered until just long enough before finally launching an operation into N. Waziristan. Once again, the local population fled - but this time there were no IDP camps and no relief efforts. Apparently "most had relatives in the region". Go figure that one out.

And because frontiers are "always empty", the Taliban are now going to Baluchistan. So, let us send the Pakistani Army after them. It is fun, no? This chasing. Like a global game of tag. Get serious, Pakistan Army! Get into Baluchistan and crush those Taliban. Once again, who cares if the reality matches any of our discourse. Who cares that Baluchistan is not empty, and that it already has a war.

All clear?

Step 1: NYT (representing the Administration, of course) decries Pakistani Army needs to get serious on Taliban.
Step 2: Pakistani Army provides a suitable window of dithering, during which time a number of prominent pundits add their voice to the enfolding crisis.
Step 3: Pakistani Army gets more $ and then moves in to the "central area" in order to combat the Talibothra.
Step 4-40: Ignore any local issues; ignore the blowback of drones; ignore the constant bomb blasts in Peshawer, Lahore, Multan; ignore any political realities. Enjoy!


Jonathan Dresner | December 08, 2009

The refugee/DP issue is going to make life harder for everyone (especially the DPs, of course) for a generation or three, if we don't get sane pretty damn quick. But what are the odds?

A. | December 08, 2009

Manam you are somewhat exaggerating the issue in my view. What the paper is suggesting is to outsource more of the war to Pakistan - more action against Afghan Taliban and in return more aid, better trade relations, efforts to improve Indo-Pak relations and commitment to Afghanistan for the long haul. Seems rational from their perspective: much cheaper (economically and politically) to get Pakistan to fight than get into the business yourself. And really. What makes you think Pakistan is somehow better off with not taking action against the Taliban? Local grievances are legitimate but they do not justify taking the law in your hands. If I think I should be allowed to drink and get laid before marriage, it doesn't mean I can take up weapons against the state. The Americans are not in Pakistan for state building or nation building and they shouldn't be. That's our job.

Sophia Spring | December 08, 2009

To A., your blind faith in the state or law is a glaring example of the brainwashing success. How does one equate law and state to be moral or right? Tell your more aid as an incentive to the millions of families that have lost their homes, thousands who are losing families or limbs, perhaps they can be soothed by the prospect of more aid to pakistani military who did this to them or improved indo-pak relationship as it means a lot to them while they are living for a few generations in tents, their women more likely to be raped, their kids instead of going to school learning to beg, perhaps some of those people who got the aid every now and then can spare a few coins when these children beg from them but mostly likely ignore them or better curse at them for making their new car dirty with their hands touching it. Certainly seems rational from the imperialistic perspective to get the "salves" to do the dirty work but even if you and those benefiting from the aid and better trade etc. don't see themselves in the same category as the ones getting bombed out of their homes and thus can arrogantly dismissive their grievances as national building for you, maybe it will help to realize as Harry Belafonte compared Colin Powers and Condi Rice to being "house niggers" who gets to enjoy the inside of the masters house as long as they do what the master wants but that you are still a "nigger (i am assuming he meant enslaved to master's game plan for you)" as is the plantation one. Alas, the British leaving our region did not end our enslaved mentality.

YS_1 | December 08, 2009

Voicing your disgust at the NYTimes is probably right, but nobody's going to do anything against Quetta. I read the responses; nearly half were Americans unhappy about Pakistan and its government's duplicitious nature. The other half were self-important Indians. Very Self-Important Indians. There was maybe one person from Pakistan itself. And going back historically, the real reason for going into Swat and Waziristan can be summed up in three letters. T.T.P. There is no TTP in Quetta. And war is wrong unless the state is threatened.

A. | December 08, 2009

First I am not saying that we should accept what they are offering. I am simply suggesting that the editorial is calling for a grand bargain whereby both the US and Pakistan govts. make efforts. It is more than the usual "bomb balochistan" crap. And the tone of the first quote of this post is typical of the normative nature of the times editorials. It is also misleading when presented out of context. It is asking for the US to show a long term commitment to Afghanistan and make efforts to improve Indo-Pak talks. What they are saying is that enough needs to be done so that the US and its allies can be on the right side of Pakistan's strategic calculation. Read again. I am not saying its rational from our perspective. I am saying it is rational from their perspective. Second, are you suggesting that people in Swat were somehow happy living under the Taliban? You choose: 1.5 Million Pakistani under Taliban rule or 1.5 Million Pakistani IDPs most of whom go back to their hometown within 4 to 6 months. And lastly who do you think will benefit from Special Economic Zones in FATA?

omar | December 08, 2009

Professor, this is written in common man language, so please translate into proper terms in your head as you read it: The problem is this: the GREAT SATAN (I am not being sarcastic) America was attacked by Islamist terrorists. These terrorists were headquartered in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Their whole network was protected and nurtured by Jihadi officers in the Pak army. When one part of this network attacked America, probably without the knowledge of the ISI, there was a violent response ...which is what the jihdadis wanted...these are cold blooded killers whose aims stretch out to generations. They WANTED a war with America and they got it, they are not unhappy with the situation, they are reveling in it. At that point, the morons who lead the Pak army suddenly realized that this terrorism game (which they were really playing against low quality players like India and Uzbekistan) was not "khala ji ka ghar". It was deadly serious, with the emphasis on "deadly". So the head moron, Musharraf, had the bare minimum common sense to switch sides. But being a moron, he still hoped that one day Amrika will leave and we and the good taliban and "good jihadis" like Lashkar Tayaba will go back to playing our little games with India. Well, that has not happened. Even a peace loving nice guy like Obama is not willing to just leave and give everything back to the jihadis. So the choice is this: 1. take a stand for jihad and face whatever the infidels (USA, NATO, India, Afghanistan, Iran and Russia, with even China sympathizing with them) can throw at you. OR 2. Really switch sides, and help the infidels isolate the terrorist network till its a police problem and there is no chance of their capturing a state or using the resources of a state. Both options involve pain. But then, that is what we have been saying for 30 years. This is not "bachon kee duniya", this is nasty business. The best choice would have been to never get into this dirty game. Now, you have to get out kicking and screaming, or beat everyone else at it. Take your pick...

YS_1 | December 08, 2009

help the infidels isolate the terrorist network till its a police problem and there is no chance of their capturing a state or using the resources of a state First off, who the fuck in Pakistan uses the word infidel? Second, isolating the buggers is/was never a problem in Sindh (I'm in Karachi); it's doing the same in Punjab, Balochistan and especially NWFP that is the real challenge. And Azad Kashmir as well. If you just stick to Punjab, there's Jhang, a festering hole of sectarian hate (thats coming from a Karachi-ite, LOL). Then theres the various support networks offered by the legitimate Islamist parties. Add to that sympathisers in the educated classes linked to the political Islamist parties. And most importantly the madrassas and a lack of real education options to travel around in for poor people. Then there's the bigotry within the official education system as well. And multiple ungoverned areas within NWFP, Sindh and Balochistan. Should I go on?

YS_1 | December 08, 2009

The point is, its a fucking tall order, and now that at least those buggers who loved Mullah Umar have been retired from the Pakistan military, and a new generation blooded against the TTP has come around, the fundamentalism is still swirling around Pakistan. Its a casual part of Pakistani society anyway. And I don't know if India is interested in lowering tensions so that one section of Pakistani society can force out of strength the parts of Pakistani society that thrive on hatred. And yes, add to that the fact that the fanatical element is trying rouse the lower classes to carry out an Islamic Revolution alà Khomeini, with Mullah Omar playing the part of their Khomeini. So yeah. Interesting

AG | December 08, 2009

The best way to disprove NYT's assertion is to check the hospital logs in Quetta for the period (1995-97). If there is a sudden spike in shrapnel wounds, then our enterprising historian will attempt to find who paid for the treatment. He/she also love archives and hates to bend facts to the service of narrow ideological schemes, so he/she will proceed to the obituary sections for the local newspapers and/or ask the natives for the number of dead during that period. The intrepid historian will also find out the few large tent and party supply businesses in Quetta and ask to see business records for the period, or simply ask the owners to recollect whether they did cater to funerals and fundraisers, and if so, who for. Just to make sure, may be she can check the archives for the Guardian too (circa. 2003). Then we will know that the Taliban were just "discovered" in Quetta, and not there all along, and we will all laugh so hard at NYT! It will be a riot. Pakistan has done quite a lot in fighting the Taliban, for example shutting down Afghan refugee camps and throwing them over the border (http://www.chapatimystery.com/archives/1060936.html). So No! Just as Mexico has no right in demanding that the US control its arms market, the US has no right to ask Pakistan to control entities within its territory that threaten the sovereignty of its neighbor that is just emerging from conflict. (P.S. I am not defending the "striking at the heart" business. Not everything can and should be reduced to war.)

omar ali | December 08, 2009

I probably shouldnt use the word infidel. In these times, its not good to be flippant. But I write in a hurry and infidel is such a fine word, it does slip through. Just filter it out. Imagine any other term that fits the bill. Did i say its going to be easy? it took our blessed hasaas idara 30 years to get here, its going to take a generation to get back to more innocent times. But do you see another way out? can you keep your jihad and eat it too? I dont think so. That is my only disagreement with professor sahib and his learned friends. The rest is intellectchawal masturbation. Middle ages were great. middle ages were so horrible. America was founded on slavery and genocide. Aryan invasion is a myth. You are a native informant. You are a stooge of the jihadis. Just good clean fun. Once the bombs stop and we are back to cricket and bollywood, salman sahib and I will throw these terms at each other and maybe we will start splinter groups of the trotskyite Tariq Ali fan club and argue all night and smoke gold leafs and drink whisky and soda and all will be well. What our Bengali brothers call an "adda". What a life. I miss it so much. Sorry, being flippant again. Seriously, is there any other way out? (without fighting the jihadis or the Americans/Indians/Iranians/Russians/Chinese and other assorted anti-jihadi imperialists?)

Conrad Barwa | December 08, 2009

Hey, there is a lot to be said for the adda lifestyle!

Salman | December 08, 2009

"The most common American complaint one now hears about Pakistan's security establishment—expressed yet again by Hillary Clinton at a congressional hearing on Thursday—is that it is “obsessed” with India. Her exasperated tone makes this obsession seem purely irrational, an unnecessary diversion from the urgent task of combating anti-American extremists in the region. But Pakistan is growing ever more fearful of an economically stronger India and its new intimacy with the United States. Convinced that America will turn away from Islamabad just as it did after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, Pakistan's military leaders will be increasingly reluctant to fall in line with Obama's announced objectives. They may well launch a few token crackdowns on militants, but they are unlikely to abandon the possibility of allowing some of them to remain in reserve in order to unleash them, at a later date, upon India-ruled Kashmir. As always, the road to stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan runs through the valley of Kashmir, and Obama's failure to even mention a likely solution to the subcontinent's primary conflict will doom his new strategy just as surely as his other decision to continue assassinating suspected militants with drone missiles." Pankaj Mishra http://blogs.nybooks.com/post/274777081/afghanistan-the-forgotten-conflict-in-kashmir PS - By the way, Omar, I have never, as best as I can recall, thrown any terms at you and I don't believe in "loyalty pledges" either (with us or with the terrorists, with us or with the Infidel/Kuffar/AmericanHinjews etc. etc.). “Can you keep your militarism and eat it too?” is a valid question one needs to keep in mind while fulminating about the jihadis of Jamia Qadsia. Hannah Arendt talks about the boomerang effect and about the means deployed against "them" coming around to be used on "us" eventually. Aimé Césaire: [Hitler] "applied to Europe the Colonial practices that had previously been applied only to the Arabs of Algeria, the coolies of India and the Negros of Africa." Other than "The Duel" and a few articles, I haven't read much of what Tariq Ali has written, so I'll welcome the opportunity to read/hear an assessment of him. May be we won't have to wait for the arrival of the Trotskyite utopia, for you to shed some light on your fascination with Tariq Ali or at least why you incessantly refer to him.

omar ali | December 08, 2009

Salman sahib, this is the internet. I dont know you, I have no idea what you have read or not read. Like you, I am arguing with imaginary persons. Allow some leeway. Tariq Ali comes up a lot in many of my arguments because some of my Pakistani liberal/leftist friends used to quote him a lot. As we get to know each other, our arguments can become more specific. I will stop using his name to you. About using "those terms". No need to get offended. Did I say you used any of those terms? I was imagining our adda in lahore ten years down the road and flippantly throwing in some terms that get used in such addas. You dont use any of them, good for you. Dont take it too personally. "Can i keep my militarism and eat it too"? I dont think so. Or at least not to some infinite extent. On the other hand, "I" have been keeping it and eating it for a hundred years, so it seems it takes a while to run out, especially if you are rich and are doing it on behalf of a whole slew of rich countries that will sort of help out with expenses. If you are a near bankrupt small country, then its much harder to have your jihad and eat it too..... This is not a "my dick is bigger than yours" argument. I just mean that there is such a thing as punching above your weight. I think the ISI has figured that out by now (which is probably why they are getting bombed every day). Someday, maybe they will tell Ahmed Qureshi to let the rest of the country know... The world is not fair. I am not approving of its unfairness. Like Bill Clinton, I feel your pain. I just think that in this particular case, push has come to shove and I think its best to give in on this issue and drop the jihadi dream. In fact, i think that is being done already, but in Pak army fashion, they have managed get the hundred onions as well as the hundred slaps. But, it is what it is. You and I are both out of the loop, so lets not fight. Baqi aap kee marzi.

Salman | December 08, 2009

Bhaijan, I don't care about Tariq Ali, so feel free to use his name whenever you want. I am only interested in discussion and information here, since this is the internet, and hence was wondering if there is a specific argument of Tariq Ali that you had a problem with and if so, what was it. The mention of what Tariq Ali I have read was intended to state how little of Tariq Ali I have read (Not that I have anything against reading tariq Ali) and hence asking for a specific argument that you have against him that I am unaware of. From your response I gather that your apparent dislike for him relates to the people that quote him and not with Tariq Ali himself. Once again, I'm not a Tariq Ali worshipper, so feel free to use his name. Peace

tsk | December 08, 2009

i'm confused by your wording. is step 3 still "Profit!"?

AIG | December 09, 2009

This thread is stirring alot of emotions. What can one say? Poor leadership ultimately brings bad consequences. Pakistan has suffered decades of poor leadership, mismanagement and pathetic posturing. Now it has cornered itself and has chosen the least worst path (siding with the US). Islamabad and Lahore will continue to be bombed. More of the non-punjabi, non-elite will continue to be alienated by government aggression. Islamist and national sentiment will intertwine in response to continual drone attacks. THe Future looks bleak. The lesson? Poor leadership has consequences. Pakistan should have produced better ruling elites.

Know Code | December 09, 2009

What a terribly simplistic post. Take Swat, for example: please tell us what should have been done with Fazlullah and his senile father-in-law?

Salman | December 09, 2009

"Do people understand that Balochistan is an entire problem unto itself? Newsflash, brainiacs at the NYT editorial board: there has been a low level civil war simmering in Balochistan since 2004. This follows the medium level civil war in Balochistan in the mid 1970s. Both times, the military went in, and both times, as the Pakistani military is wont to do, there wasn't a great deal of demonstrated concern for collateral damage. The people of Balochistan have been denied basic political and economic rights, both by the central government and their nationalist so-called leaders for fifty years now. The last month has seen significant developments in this conflict, with the center -- in the hands of the PPP -- presenting a reform package aimed at placating Balochi nationalism, without much success (at least at this early juncture). If you opened a Pakistani newspaper in the last thirty days, you would know this. It has dominated the news, even more so than the Taliban war. Why do I bring this up? Because launching drone strikes in Balochistan, and the inevitable civilian casualties that will result, will exacerbate this problem in very serious and predictable ways. I feel stupid even writing this. But apparently it is needed. Here's how it will play out: Balochi grievances will congeal into both an anti-Pakistan narrative and an anti-anti-Taliban one. The storyline will be that the state has sold out Balochi land to foreign forces, when it wasn't even theirs to sell. Balochistan has long chafed under the hard-nosed attitude of Pakistani central governments, both military and civilian, toward provincial autonomy and federalism. Can you imagine how it will react if and when Pakistan gives the go-ahead for American drones to strike in Quetta? Or even less ambitiously, can you imagine the military making a foray into Balochistan again? At this time? Get a clue, NYT." http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/12/08/strategy_and_war_in_pakistan_and_afghanistan

Faiza | December 10, 2009

Shouldn't we bother to understand what's going on in Balochistan before standing up in defense of "the people of Balochistan"? The Baloch nationalist groups fighting the Pakistani state are hardly happy with the presence of the pro-Taliban jihadi networks. The Pak. army patronized and helped establish these in Quetta since the 1980s, partly as a counter-weight to the secular nationalist insurgency. After 9/11, of course, things became even messier with the Taliban turning against the army as well. The point is: why assume that the Baloch resistance will be unhappy with drone strikes against the Taliban leadership or with limited action by the Pakistani state against militant (religious) groups??

Akbar | December 10, 2009

The point is: why assume that the Baloch resistance will be unhappy with drone strikes against the Taliban leadership or with limited action by the Pakistani state against militant (religious) groups?? Indeed why? " Whether the Taliban or al-Qaida are welcomed in Balochistan under a "my enemy's enemy is my friend" way of thinking or not does not alter the desperate need to prevent bombs raining down. Given the battles being fought between province and centre, how could the Baloch fail to see a tacit complicity of the Pakistan military behind every drone? " http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/08/pakistan-cia-unmanned-drones-balochistan

tequila | December 10, 2009

Would the Balochi nationalists really be that upset at drone strikes aimed at Pashtun radicals emplaced and enabled by the Pakistani Army? If JUI's presence in Balochistan is weakened because of said strikes, I'd imagine the Bugtis and their allies would be quite pleased. That said, I don't think we will see drone strikes in Quetta despite what Seth Jones would like. A major metropolitan area like Quetta is a big difference from a small town in FATA. Note the complete absence of any drone strike anywhere near such a major city even in Afghanistan.

omarali50 | December 10, 2009

Given how accurate the drone attacks have become, I dont see why the Baloch nationalists would feel precision strikes against the jihadi network are in any way harmful to them. The people scared of drone attacks are the jihadis and their supporters, not the Baloch nationalists (and yes, I have asked some of them and they would like nothing better. How many have you checked with before you came up with your theory?)

anan | December 10, 2009

Akbar, might the Baloch rebels be trying to reach out to GIRoA, ISAF and India against the Taliban? Might they not be the ones providing intelligence on where the drones should hit? Does anyone know what is happening in Baluchistan? What would be the Balochi and Pakistani response if for example the ANA conducted operations in Quetta? Is a Pakistani Army operation better than this?

Akbar | December 10, 2009

Akbar, might the Baloch rebels be trying to reach out to GIRoA, ISAF and India against the Taliban? Certainly, but against Talibothra! Lot of confusion there, not clear who is fighting whom and supporting whom agaist whom?

Conrad Barwa | December 10, 2009

Does anyone know what is happening in Baluchistan? LOL, basically, if we are honest, no we don't!

omar ali | December 11, 2009

"LOL, basically, if we are honest, no we don't!" Aah, Conrad sahib, as if that would ever stop any of us from commenting with great authority on the subject! Enjoy.

A. | March 28, 2010

I just wanted to say that your criticism was justified. I was wrong. I wasn't able to comprehend the situation, and for the most part still haven't. PS. I really wish you could give a comment or two on the views of thomas barnett.