الاثنين، أبريل 27، 2009

If Pakistan Falls

If Pakistan Falls

Wael Nawara

The recent events in Pakistan force me to contemplate a theoretical question: What happens if Pakistan falls into the hands of Taliban or other extremist factions? This 173-million-people country possesses nuclear capability but the nation is largely divided between seculars and extremists. Taliban raised fears in Pakistan by seizing control of the Buner district close to the capital Islamabad and imposed what they consider as “Sharia’a Law”. Scenes of a public flogging of a 17-year old girl on the hands of Taliban early this month alerted the world to the threat. A Washington Post editorial on Sunday said that the Obama administration’s public warnings of Pakistan’s collapse caused panic. Clinton had used the term “existential threat” describing the situation perhaps to urge the Pakistani government to take action. “In the course of three days, the US secretaries of state and defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the commanding general of American forces in the Middle East all publicly warned, in blunt and dire language, that Pakistan was facing an existential threat – and that its government and Army were not facing it,” the newspaper said.

President Asif Zardari’s government officials tried to play down the threat. But it seems that they are afraid that massive confrontation could spark off a wide civil war which the Pakistani army maybe unable to win. “The Threat is certainly real,” it said, however, and the Pakistan Army – “untrained in counterinsurgency and rigidly focused on India” – is either “reluctant to take on” the Taliban or “mostly ineffective”. But as Taliban forces expanded from Swat into the adjacent district of Buner, 100 kms from the capital, the United States made clear that it would attack Taliban forces in their Swat valley stronghold unless the Pakistan government stopped the militants’ advance towards Islamabad. But the key to this war is not the army. It is the divided nation of Pakistan. Like most other “Islamic” countries, Pakistan is divided between the modern and the old. Between the moderates and the fanatics. The seculars and the extremists. The key is how to develop a new cultural balance which will allow both to co-exist peacefully, before a de facto civil war erupts in all of these “Islamic” countries.

In 1947 there were only 189 madrassas or Islamic Schools in Pakistan. By 2002 the country had 10,000-13,000 unregistered madrassas with an estimated 1.7 to 1.9 million students. A 2008 estimate puts this figure at "over 40,000". So, these schools have collectively produced millions of Pakistani graduates who were taught in these “Islamic” schools which mostly teach extremist versions of Islam. Many of those “graduates” become radicalizing elements within their local societies. They command respect and influence people around them. Although you may meet many moderate Pakistanis, I have to admit that I was shocked to observe that some Pakistanis have developed some of the most extremist Islamic interpretations present today. Many of these extremist Pakistanis now live in Britain or other European countries where they teach or preach in local mosques and Islamic centers. Many others mingle with the population and spread their message amongst immigrant communities or Muslim minorities often feeling socially or economically excluded in their new societies.

If Pakistan falls, could this event trigger the official start of a formal World War III? I think the War or skirmishes of such had already started some time in 2001. But if Pakistan falls, knowing the situation in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Gaza, Sudan and Yemen, then we have a very unstable position stretching on a potential battlefront covering many thousands of kilometers. Many other countries, Arab, European and otherwise, have large populations of Muslims ranging from moderates to fanatics. Which side are they going to take? And if more wars are to break out, will this trigger internal stability and radicalization in countries such as Egypt which are still dominated by “Moderates”, such that extremists will take control or gain increasing power? Has the self-fulfilling prophecy of Armageddon finally come to fateful realization? Extremists on both sides have the Armageddon “promise” in their mythology. Each believing that their “own God” will come to their rescue and guide their troops to the path of victory. But what the rest of us can see, is a trail of blood and destruction. Is there an end to this madness?

How does a right-wing-governed Israel fit into this picture? Israel and its atrocities in Palestine is often seen as “the” most potent fuel for radicalization and a major cause of the rise of extremism amongst Muslims around the world. But will the new US administration be able to talk the right-wing Israeli government into a peaceful settlement of a century-long conflict? A settlement with whom, when the Palestinian house is divided? Will such a solution come in time? What pressure can the US exercise over Israel? What is the impact on the internal US political scene?

Meanwhile, the needle of the radicameter in Pakistan as well as in many other places is pushing into the red. And the clock is ticking.





Related Stories:

From The Times
April 27, 2009
The threat that forced a fight


Taliban bar Pakistan army convoy as tension grows

From The Sunday Times
April 26, 2009
Stop the Taliban now – or we will’
The US got tough with Pakistan as terrorists moved to within 60 miles of the capital

Pakistan Daily Times
US public warning of Pakistan collapse has risks

Pakistan Daily Times
PML-N asks Sufi Muhammad to disarm Taliban

هناك تعليق واحد:

fake consultant يقول...

i have also been thinking about this, and my suspicion is that us forces will try to grab the nuclear weapons in the event of a loss of command and control authority.

while that might make tactical sense, the strategic outcome will likely be severe, with nearly all sunni countries --except saudi--probably going nuts over such a move.

iran, ironically, might be supportive of such a move.

all of this is going to drive pakistanis nuts as well--particularly as they will see themselves as defenseless against india.

could this become a problem that stretches from chechnya to ?casablanca

i hope not.

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