Monday, August 20, 2007

waziristan watch

I’m supposed to start every piece with a quote – what I promised ages ago. Today I want to commemorate David McComb and Born Sandy Devotional. The whole shebang really, but particularly the coda, Tender Is The Night – lyrics here under T , but it really needs to be heard, and then heard within the whole context…

Even depressed and immovable I can switch on the remote, and recently enjoyed, if that’s the word, the 60th anniversary presentation of a political history of beleaguered Pakistan on SBS. Very lengthy, wrapped around the 9.30 news.

A couple of years back in my dilettantish fashion I considered reading histories of every nation or people, never being able to get enough of complexity, duplicity and tragedy apparently, and I did read histories of Iran, Afghanistan, the Serbs and Israel, having presumably a taste for troubled parts.

Pakistan might now be added to the list. Like so many Moslem nations, it seems to find democracy elusive, and with so many Arabian wahhabists brought in to fight the mujahideen fight over the border in Afghanistan, the prospects for democracy there are looking more precarious than ever. I’ve heard that the USA is pressuring Musharraf to make common cause with Benazir Bhutto, presumably to head off any possibility of a takeover of the country by the mullahs, but it seems that Musharraf is still trying to go it alone. This piece in Pakistan’s Daily Times suggests that he has at least this newspaper well and truly in his pocket.

My great fear of and overwhelming contempt for theocratic power gives my interest in Pakistan’s future something of an edge. Of course the Americans are, or claim to be, overwhelmingly concerned that nuclear weapons might fall into the hands of Islamists. I’m more concerned about the plight of the people themselves under Islamism, whether they want it or not.

Apparently Al Qaeda is very much resurgent in Pakistan, and presumably Afghanistan – another massive failure of the Bush administration’s ‘strategy’, if you can call it that. According to this Newsweek piece, Osama’s main man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is behind a series of recent attacks and suicide bombings in Pakistan. Al-Zawahiri has also been cropping up on videos taunting and condemning the Musharraf regime. Some are even saying that his obsession with toppling Musharraf is having detrimental effects on the wider Al Qaeda organization.

The area to watch in Pakistan is the so-called ‘tribal region’ of Waziristan, suspected by many to be Osama’s hiding place – assuming he’s still alive. This area is wedged between Afghanistan and the Punjab. It’s very mountainous, and it has been much radicalized in recent years. Clearly, Musharraf has little control, and the Americans are loath to venture there from Afghanistan for fear of infringing Musharraf’s sovereignty.

Though the north has been radicalized, it seems that Islamism is still a long way from sweeping the nation. The Islamists could well assassinate Musharraf, but they wouldn’t be able to take over the country without a massive struggle, and they must know that the US would never allow Pakistan to fall into Islamist hands. The future looks grimly intriguing for that part of the world.



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