November 13, 2007

The Paradox in Pakistan

The Washington Post today highlights what has been, for Abu Muqawama, the central paradox of this crisis in Pakistan: Pervez Musharraf has tried to sell this introduction of emergency law as necessary to bring fight insurgents in the northwest. But it has been difficult to see how this helps him at all if units in the army -- upon whom he now depends to stay in power -- are reluctant to fight a never-ending war against other Pakistanis. The only "crackdown" we have seen thus far has been against secular lawyers and activists in Islamabad, not Islamist insurgents in Swat.

For the past 10 days, some Pakistan-watchers (including Abu Muqawama's Pashtun flatmate*) have been saying the real story is in the north, not in Islamabad. That's partly why Abu Muqawama (and his flatmate) were so happy to see Martha Raddatz's brave reporting over the weekend from Swat. Here, in essence, is the problem Musharraf faces:

Throughout the northwest, the war against the insurgents is unpopular. Many Pakistanis consider it America's war, though on either side, it's Pakistani blood that is spilled.

Analysts say they fear that while emergency rule may give Musharraf more power to use the army to put down the insurgency, it will backfire when it comes to changing minds.

"The mullahs' main slogan is enforcing sharia, and that is popular with the populace," said Ghulam Cheema, a retired army colonel. "The army, in their heart of hearts, can't fight such a slogan."

Read the rest of this important article here.

*Abu Muqawama's flatmate likes to tell all the local jihadi wannabes that Abu Muqawama is a former Chechen guerrilla fighter. So now Abu Muqawama has to walk around his neighborhood like he's some tough religious fundamentalist one second away from erupting into violence ... which, actually, for a kid from East Tennessee, is second nature anyway, so he's not sure why he's complaining.

P.S. Abu Muqawama wouldn't mind Taliban-style Islamist insurgents as much if they shared the same sense of humor as our good-natured American anarchists: