Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pakistan Is Approaching A Crisis

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Pakistan is approaching a crisis and America is more or less powerless to influence the outcome.  It also appears that few Americans care. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign country with a population of over 180 million people. What makes Pakistan so important is the fact that it has nuclear weapons and is politically unstable. Trouble has been brewing in our relationship with Pakistan for years even though America has poured billions of dollars in aid into the country, it could be argued that we were buying their cooperation rather than we had a strong interest in being their friend. When the Pakistan government failed to control extremist elements in the country, America began to use drones to attack inside the country's border, this has stirred outrage and protest against America.
Protest Are Growing In The Unstable Nuclear Power

What should alarm Americans after all the other recent problems in the region is that tens of thousands of protesters armed with sticks and wire cutters have swarmed into the fortified red zone in the center of Islamabad calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's resignation and the dissolution of parliament. The week-long protests in the capital are around the parliament building, the prime minister’s official residence and many Western embassies. The government said that security forces had been deployed to protect the area which includes the United States Embassy. The protesters, who have camped in the capital since Friday, are led by Imran Khan, the former cricketer, and a charismatic cleric named Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, who run separate campaigns but are united in their opposition to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Mr. Khan’s crusade received a major lift on Tuesday when his supporters merged with Mr. Qadri’s, forming a crowd that the police estimated at more than 40,000. In a speech, Mr. Khan repeatedly attacked Mr. Sharif, whom he accuses of stealing the 2013 election through vote rigging. He has even challenged him to a duel. He described the prime minister as a thief and a corrupt politician and vowed to turn the space outside the Parliament building into “a Tahrir Square,” a reference to the site of the 2011 uprising in Egypt. While instructing his supporters to remain peaceful, he warned of the possibility of violence. This is widely seen as a final effort by Mr. Khan to rally his supporters after days of threats and political speech. Despite the festive atmosphere, the demonstrations are causing problems such as an increased demand for food, water, and toilets to accommodate the thousands of people many who are sleeping in the streets.

Mr. Sharif’s government, which came to power in June 2013, has struggled to quell the escalating political crisis, partly as a result of Mr. Sharif’s tense relationship with the Pakistani Army leadership. In recent days. Mr. Sharif’s administration failed to engage Mr. Khan and Mr. Qadri in negotiations to end the standoff and appeared to be hoping that the protests would simply fade. Yet, there was little sign of that Tuesday evening, as Mr. Khan and Mr. Qadri both gave impassioned speeches before sending their followers toward the city’s protected area, which was ringed by shipping containers and thousands of police and paramilitary officers.

Many reasons exist to be concerned about Pakistan going forward, for years the country has experienced internal violence and attacks from extremist groups within the country. With the government sometimes struggling to maintain order, and a military that sometimes threatens to take control over the country the political stability of Pakistan is often questioned. The fact that Pakistan, and India it's neighbor to the south both possess nuclear weapons and a long history of problems and tensions is a huge worry and concern for the region. It would not be good to see more instability in this region that is already being rocked by ISIS.

Pakistan's motive for pursuing a nuclear weapons program was to counter the threat posed by its principal rival, India, which has superior conventional forces. This is what makes Pakistan so important, at any time an unstable Pakistan could be sucked into, or be the one to start a nuclear war. Adding to this concern is that Pakistan is an obvious place for a jihadi organization to seek a nuclear weapon or fissile material, both the military and security services have been infiltrated by a number of jihadi sympathizers. Three key threats exist, a terrorist theft of a nuclear weapon, transfer of a nuclear weapon to another state like Iran and a takeover of nuclear weapons by a militant group during a period of instability. 

Pakistan is home to some of the harshest variants of Muslim fundamentalism, and headquarters of organizations that espouse extremist ideologies, these include Al Qaeda, the Haqqani network, and Lashkar-e-Tayiba. Nuclear bombs capable of destroying entire cities are transported in delivery vans on congested and dangerous roads. And sources say that since the American raid to kill Osama bin Laden, the Pakistanis have provoked anxiety inside the Pentagon by increasing the pace of these movements. Ironically the Pakistani government makes its nuclear weapons more vulnerable to theft by jihadis in an attempt to hide them from the United States, the country that funds much of its military budget. 

Adding to the current woes within Pakistan on Saturday they traded gunfire with India in the disputed Kashmir region. Officials said the exchange killed two villagers on each side and wounding several others. A top official with India's paramilitary force said Indian forces retaliated after Pakistani troops fired guns and mortar rounds on more than a dozen Indian border posts and several villages. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and the rival neighbors claim the disputed Himalayan region in its entirety. Pakistan and India have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir. 

Pakistan and India have largely followed a 2003 cease-fire accord, but sporadic violations have occurred. Tensions escalated in Kashmir since earlier in the week India called off diplomatic talks with Pakistan because the Pakistani ambassador in New Delhi met with separatist leaders from the disputed region. India said the meeting undermined efforts to thaw relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors. India has tolerated such meetings in the past, this suggests the new government may be taking a harder line. While this all seems distant and irrelevant to most Americans it is important we remember Pakistan is in a position to start World War III. As of now Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been assured by the country's military there will be no coup, but in return, he must "share space with the army", according to a government source.

Footnote; This post dovetails with many of my recent writings. Other related articles may be found in my blog archive, thanks for reading, your comments are encouraged. Below is an article that was written a while back giving more background on Pakistan and detailing why the country is so important.

1 comment:

  1. You omit mentioning that Pakistan's top scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, admitted flogging nuclear secrets to the highest bidder, including Libya, North Korea and Iran. He probably did it with the Pakistan government's knowledge and the matter only came to light because Uncle Sam was aware of the situation and brought the matter up.