Rasul Bakhsh Rais has sent his excellent article, "Pakistan's Elections: Troubled Legacy."
Also: excellent article on Benazir Bhutto by Mahnaz Ispahani in Slate.
Delayed elections are the latest effort by the Musharraf government to limit the power of civilian political parties in Pakistan. In this context, the lessons of Benazir Bhutto's life and her ghastly death must be a wake-up call to the Bush administration and certainly to its successor: Accepting a garrison state, however disguised, over a legitimately elected civilian government, is an acknowledgment of terror's emerging triumph in Pakistan. It has always been a short-term, tactical, and doomed solution to the long-term, incendiary problem of security of governance in a nuclear-armed state. The lesson of Benazir Bhutto is that without a long-term and significant investment in civilian political institutions, especially political parties, Pakistan, and with it the "global war on terror," will be lost. The task is frustrating, requires a significant financial commitment, and is not without risks, but the potential rewards are far greater than a continuing alliance with President Pervez Musharraf.Finish it here.
To the main theme:
This week I received a query from someone writing an article for a magazine:
To what extent should popular support of the Taliban/militants in the FATA and NWFP be understood simply as an expression of Pathan solidarity? And to the extent that that's the case, do the locals perceive the Pakistani army operations as a Punjabi assault on their territory?The idea that Taliban are Pashtuns fighting against foreign invaders is a common one. It is the official position of the Government of Pakistan. When I was in Pakistan in November, one of my Pashtun nationalist friends asked, "If Taliban are Pashtuns fighting against foreigners, who are the foreigners in Swat?"
This week I received a copy of a letter dated December 29, 2007, written by Dr. Abid Ali Shah, a Pashtun from Kurram Agency, to Ali Mohammed Jan Orakzai, a Pashtun ex-general also from Kurram Agency, who was at that time Governor of the Northwest Frontier Province. Since that time Governor Orakzai has resigned. Orakzai originated the policy of seeking negotiated truces with the Pakistan Taliban in the tribal agencies and reportedly opposed plans for the use of force there in the wake of Benazir Bhutto's assassination.
Here is what Dr. Shah had to say (facsimile of letter here):
While the populations of Upper and Lower Kurram are Pashtun, the Aurakzai tribe of lower Kurram is Sunni, while the Turi tribe of upper Kurram is Shi'a, as presumably is Dr. Abid Ali Shah. Dr. Shah claims that the militants in Lower Kurram are Pashtun (from Waziristan), Uzbeks (from Uzbekistan), and Punjabis (from Jhang, home of the Deobandi extremist group Lashkar-i Jhangvi). He does not see them as expressions of his ethnic identity. Instead he asks the Governor (also a Pashtun) to restore the authority of the Government.
With due respect I just remind that today is the 44th day of clashes and unrest in Kurram Agency. . . . Your Excellency knows the number of killed, injured, suffered, and displaced. The over all views is misery, blood shed and anarchy.
There are sick, elder, women and innocent children in need of immediate attention. There are families starving and if you look from top of Parachinar till lower end at Chappary gate, each house or family has suffered in one or other way. Every body is not fighting but in fact the whole zone is under the anarchy of known wanted militants.
Your Excellency just imagines, the respectable commander Kurram militia was requested to intervene but he proudly answered that, I do not want my jawans [soldiers] to be killed. I ask your Excellency, if the national security is under threat, is the soldier has right to say that I don’t want to be killed? Who is then responsible to implement Govt writ?
Your Excellency, this is very interesting that security forces have vacated their positions for militants and each person is fighting for his own sect. If this becomes the trend, then what will be the end result and who will do justice?
Your Excellency, this is undeniable fact that all wanted militants from Waziristan, Uzbeks and outlawed Lashkar e jahangwi are encamped in lower Kurram and fighting so called jehad. Why they have such free and easy access and no one is in position to tackle them?
I hope and request your Excellency to act immediately to implement Govt writ and restore Peace in the beautiful valley.
As a result of these clashes, according to UNHCR, about 6,000 Pakistani Pashtuns, mostly women and children from Kurram Agency have fled to Afghanistan in the past week. Pashtuns are fleeing the Pakistani Taliban to seek refuge in the most insecure parts of Afghanistan.
Perhaps this is an exception, since these Pashtuns are Shi'a, unlike the majority. But elsewhere in the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies:
Gunmen in Pakistan have shot dead eight pro-government tribal leaders in the troubled South Waziristan region on Afghanistan's border, officials say. . . .That is the official story: Uzbek militants affiliated with al-Qaida killed former Taliban Pashtun elders who sided with the government. Another story circulating is that the pro-government elders were assassinated by the Pakistani Taliban themselves, who then blamed Uzbeks. In neither case is Islamic militancy an expression of Pashtun identity.
Officials say they suspect the attackers to be Uzbek militants, who are opposed to Mullah Nazir. Although a Taleban commander, Mullah Nazir recently fought foreign militants with the backing of Pakistani government troops.
Taliban are not an expression of Pashtun identity or Pashtun or Afghan nationalism, though some people are fighting the foreign troops in Afghanistan with such motives. The Taliban make effective use of Pashtun tribalism and cross-border ties. Al-Qaida has even exploited the tribal code by portraying Bin Laden and his companions as persecuted Muslims seeking refuge (nanawati in Pashto), who must be protected. But the Pakistani government and the British Indian government before them also used Pashtun tribalism for political purposes. The Taliban use transnational commerce or ethnic ties as they serve their goals; but those goals are not ethnic or nationalist. Pashtun nationalists see the Taliban as a threat to, not an expression of, Pashtun identity.