February 16, 2009
The Pakistani government has caved into the demands of the Pakistani Taleban (PT) and will allow Sharia Law as defined by the PT to be introduced and enforced in the Swat Valley region of Pakistan in return for the laying down of their arms by militants who have been fighting Government forces.
While Taleban interpreted Sharia Law has been in low level use in this region for many years, this is the first time the Government has given its approval and backing of its extension under the auspices of the PT and in particular Taleban hardliner Sufi Mohammed, formerly of Jamaat-e-Islami and head of the outlawed Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM – the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law) and his son in law Maulana Fazlullah.
This is an enormously dangerous and backward step and is an acceptance that the Pakistani army has lost its battle in this region, and that the overspill from the battles in Afghanistan have had a direct impact on the decision making of the Pakistani Government. Sufi Mohammed it should be noted, arranged for thousands of his fighters to go to Afghanistan to fight coalition forces in 2001.
The Government’s decision is also evidence if any was needed that the current leadership of Pakistan simply does not have the stomach for a fight with extremists on the borders with Afghanistan and neither will they take preventative action to prevent supplies from reaching Taleban fighters in Afghanistan. It also gives the message to other groups in Pakistan, that if you fight hard and long enough, your goals will be realised.
If past actions are anything to go by, the education of all girls in the Swat region will be stopped as there are reports of 400 private schools enrolling 40,000 girls having already been shut down with ten schools for girls that tried to open after a 15 January 2009 deadline blown up by TNSM supporters. The TSNM will interpret Sharia Law how they see it – a severe and hardline version of Wahhabism, enforce and administer it, operate the courts themselves and carry out whatever punishment they deem is necessary. Pakistan has become a more dangerous and even more volatile country.
January 20, 2009
Barack Obama will be sworn in as America’s 44th president later today. He is the first African-American to become President and expectations of him are monstrously high not just in America but around the world which is reflected in the astonishing fact that 2 million people are expected in Washington and millions more will watch the inauguration ceremony around the world. Not since the release of Nelson Mandela has there been such expectations placed on a politician and managing these will be Obama’s first challenge. And after today’s pomp and pageantry, Obama will have to deal with a bulging domestic and international in tray with the US economy, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East and Iran needing urgent attention.
Today also marks the end of the Bush Presidency which to say the least has been tumultuous. He leaves the US economy in a mess and also leaves several outstanding foreign policy issues that have defined his presidency including his ‘war on terror.’ Leaving the merits or otherwise of Bush’s foreign policy to one side, Obama has a great deal of work to do to ensure the US is viewed in a positive light around the world after Bush’s unmitigated PR disaster during his eight years in charge. If Obama succeeds in dealing with this one goal, he’ll have done remarkable well.
December 2, 2008
The increased tensions between India and Pakistan following the Mumbai attacks is precisely what the terrorists set out to achieve.
India is under huge domestic pressure to provide a swift and proper response to Pakistan not least to jolt Zardari’s Government into taking action against cross border terror raids and to rein in the ISI who India accuses of supporting Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group being blamed for the attacks.
Doing nothing would make India look weak, leave the ruling Congress Party open to the charge of being soft on terrorists denting its electoral chances next year and worse, invite further attacks.
But would any military action against Pakistan prove counter productive and actually increase militancy? Look at this potential scenario and the risks associated with an attack on Pakistan:
- India increases the number of its troops on the border with Pakistan or launches a pre-emptive strike against specified targets in Pakistan.
- Pakistan retaliates and moves its troops to the border with India and there is a tense stand off at best, or worse, a full scale battle.
- As a result Pakistan reduces troops from its border with Afghanistan giving greater freedom of movement to various militant groups to launch attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan.
- Militant groups increase their activities and are able to recruit more people to their cause especially against the ‘Hindu enemy.’
- Even a minor skirmish gives oxygen to militants everywhere and increases the risks of further terror attacks in India not least from home grown terrorists. The Kashmir situation is exacerbated by militant activity.
- The freedom of movement between Pakistan and Afghanistan gives groups such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda a chance to re-group and launch more audacious attacks in Afghanistan destabilising the country further.
- The US responds to the increased attacks with raids into Pakistan with fighting on two fronts of Pakistan which leads to the fall of the civilian Government with either the military or Islamist backed rulers coming to power.
- The confrontation between India and Pakistan ends with no discernible outcome except the strengthening of militant groups in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan and further destabilising of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- Militant groups are strengthened and are in a stronger position to launch attacks not only in Asia but the Middle East and the West.
India will take action, its people will demand it but will it show restraint and avoid steps leading to the above scenario or punish Pakistan and take a risk? India is standing between a very hard rock and a rock hard place.