THE WISDOM FUND: News & Views
October 23, 2008
The Independent (UK)

Pakistan Stares Into the Abyss

A spiralling conflict, economic collapse and blackouts threaten anarchy with far-reaching implications

by Andrew Buncombe, Anne Penketh and Omar Waraich

Pakistan was locked in crisis last night, with the government pressed by Washington to deepen its conflict with Islamic militants in the lawless regions on the Afghan border, and obliged to call in the International Monetary Fund to stave off financial catastrophe.

In the rugged north of the country, a major military offensive to root out Taliban militants has created a flood of up to 200,000 refugees and pitched Pakistani against Pakistani, Muslim against Muslim, in a conflict some are beginning to regard as a civil war.

A new US intelligence estimate meanwhile has warned that the renewed insurgency, coupled with energy shortages and political infighting, means that Pakistan, which is the only Muslim nation with nuclear weapons, is "on the edge".

"Pakistan is going through the worst crisis of its history," according to a leaked letter signed by the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the main opposition leader. It is a view shared by Imran Khan, another opposition leader, who says that the political and economic meltdown "is leading to a sort of anarchy in Pakistan".

"How does a country collapse?" the former cricketer asked. "There's increasing uncertainty, economic meltdown, more people on the street, inflation rising between 25 and 30 per cent. Then there's the rupee falling."

Pakistan is experiencing power cuts that have led to hourly blackouts, a doubling of basic food prices and a currency that has lost a third of its value in the past year. "The awful thing is there's no solution in sight neither in the war on terror nor on the economic side," Mr Khan said during a visit to London. Heightening the sense of national emergency, the government yesterday turned to the International Monetary Fund for $15bn (9.3bn) to cope with a balance of payments crisis caused by a flight of capital, after previously saying that applying to the IMF would be a last resort.

Almost every day there are retaliatory attacks against police and soldiers and Western targets. Hundreds of soldiers and an unknown number of civilians are losing their lives. The national parliament rejected the US influence on the government by adopting a resolution last night calling for an "independent" foreign policy and urging dialogue with the extremists.

The military operation against the so-called Pakistan Taliban is concentrated in the largely autonomous tribal areas that border Afghanistan. A total of 120,000 troops and paramilitary forces have been deployed against what senior officers say is a skilled and tenacious enemy. "They do not fight in one place, you cannot fight them in one place. It's basically guerrilla warfare," said Lt Col Haider Baseer, a military spokesman. "The area is mountainous, it's vast. And everybody carries a gun. It's the culture."

Long accused of failing to confront the militants, the military angrily points out that up to 1,500 soldiers and many more civilians have been killed in such operations since 2001. America has triggered national anger by dispatching troops from Afghanistan to attack a Pakistani village. At the same time, Pakistani officials point out that US and Nato forces in Afghanistan are looking to negotiate with the Taliban - something they have previously criticised Islamabad for doing. . . .

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Michael T. Klare, "Energo-fascism: The Global Energy Race and Its Consequences," TomDispatch.com, January 16, 2007

Michel Chossudovsky, "Pakistan and the 'Global War on Terrorism'," Global Research, January 8, 2008

Simon Tisdall, "Bush Secret Order Sends U.S. Into Pakistan," Guardian, September 12, 2008

Tariq Ali, "The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power," Scribner (September 16, 2008)

[If you believe the usually 'western' media, the U.S. is still an ally of Pakistan and India is still a neutral country. In reality the U.S. and India are allied in a war against Pakistan and China.

Foreign policy elements in India and the in U.S. see China as their respective big strategic enemy. But both want - for now - avoid an open conflict. The center of gravity in this silent war against China are the hydrocarbon reserves in Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa and the transport routes for these.

The war in Afghanistan and the war in Pakistan can be seen as proxy wars between these three big powers over the energy issue.--"Who Is Behind the Bombing in Islamabad," Moon of Alabama, September 22, 2008]

[Forty years ago, the United States began to mount raids into Cambodia and to undermine the government of King Sihanouk in order to cut Vietcong supply lines.

As a result, America's war with Vietnamese Communism spread into Cambodia, leading to the triumph of the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian genocide. But these horrors occurred after the U.S. itself had quit Vietnam and after the U.S.-backed regime in South Vietnam had collapsed. Washington's widening of the war benefited neither America nor its local allies.

The U.S. is now making the same mistake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.--Maleeha Lodhi and Anatol Lieven, "Heeding the lessons of another war," International Herald Tribune, October 1, 2008]

[In reality there are four different wars being waged from the tribal areas of Pakistan. . . . .

The pivotal piece in this equation is the fact that the ouster of foreign forces from Afghanistan is not the ultimate aim of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The aim is to control Pakistan and establish a Taliban-style government in the country.--S. Amjad Hussain, "Realities of Pakistan's woes not apparent to all," Toledo Blade, October 20, 2008]

Caroline Wadhams, Brian Katulis, Lawrence J. Korb, Colin Cookman, "< b>Partnership for Progress: Advancing a New Strategy for Prosperity and Stability in Pakistan and the Region," Center for American Progress, November 17, 2008

[The blowback from the Afghan conflict in Pakistan is more serious still. In less than eight months, Asif Ali Zardari's new government has effectively lost control of much of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) to the Taliban's Pakistani counterparts, a loose confederation of nationalists, Islamists, and angry Pashtun tribesmen under the nominal command of Baitullah Mehsud.--William Dalrymple, "Pakistan in Peril," nybooks.com, February 12, 2009]

Carlotta Gall, "Reinstatement of Pakistan's Chief Justice Ends a Crisis, but It Might Lead to Another," nytimes.com, March 17, 2009

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