A Parallel Taliban Administration Emerging in Pakistan

On Thursday, there were a number of stories in the media and on the blogs addressing the question of whether Pakistan is collapsing or not. I have largely argued that Pakistan is not a failing state but already a failed state. Let's not kid ourselves here but instead ask the question what has Pakistan's governing elite accomplished over the course of sixty plus years to actually build an edifice of state? There is an army and an all powerful intelligence service but is there a school system? A health care system?  Are there jobs? A transportation infrastructure? Modern ports? Pakistan isn't as much a country with an army but an army with a country. That that army also holds about a hundred nuclear devices does complicate matters to say the least.

What does collapse mean is I think another fair question to ask. To some it may mean the day the Taliban march into Islamabad and take control. I don't take that view. To me it meant the day Pakistan couldn't provide a viable future for its myriad peoples. Pakistan is a net importer of food and a net exporter of people. Pakistan has failed not just because the Islamists seem to stand on the verge of taking power but rather because its economy is in shambles and can't be repaired by waving a magic wand of economic aid. Too many are seemingly focused on the army's retreat across the Northwest Frontier but it seems to me that too many are ignoring an economy that has failed to provide a sustainable and viable future for 170 million Pakistanis.

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The Theatre of US-Pakistani Relations - A Tragic Comedy

In Islamabad last week, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, gave his American visitors, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and the special envoy, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, quite the tongue lashing. "The terms of engagement are very clear," Qureshi said. "We will engage with mutual trust and mutual respect, and that is the bottom line."

He added: "We can only work together if we respect each other and trust each other. There is no other way and nothing else will work."

The New York Times offers some analysis of the chilly reception and icy demeanor that has come to characterize US-Pakistani relations:

In fact, both sides have grown accustomed to an unusual diplomatic dance around the drones. For all their public protests, behind the scenes, Pakistani officials may countenance the drones more than Mr. Qureshi's reprimand would suggest, Pakistan and American analysts and officials say.

Why else would Pakistani military officials be requesting that the United States give them the drones to operate, asked Prof. Riffat Hussain, of the defense studies department at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad.

His answer is that senior Pakistani officials consider the drones one of their only effective tools against the militants. Moreover, using the drones takes pressure off the Pakistani Army, which has proved reluctant to fight the militants, or incapable of doing so, in the rugged mountains along the Afghan border.

"If the government of Pakistan was not convinced of the efficacy of the drone attacks, why would they be asking for the technology?" asked Professor Hussain, who also lectures at the National Defense University, the main scholarly institution for the military.

Most of the aircraft, about the size of a Cessna, take off with Pakistani assent from a base inside Pakistan, American and Pakistani officials acknowledge. A small group of Pakistani intelligence operatives assigned to the tribal areas help choose targets, while the drones, armed with Hellfire missiles, are remotely piloted from the United States, they said.

On the one hand, Pakistan claims the drone attacks are destabilizing the country but on the other they can't wait to get their hands on them. Given that 70% of the military aid given to Pakistan to combat Islamic militancy by the Bush Adminstration was diverted instead to buy equipment that is more suited for attacking or repelling an attack from India, it is hard to trust the Pakistanis.

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Pakistan Fails Another Test

If Pakistan has a national passion, it is cricket. This week, Pakistan was to host in Lahore the Sri Lankan national cricket team in a test, as international cricket matches are called. This was the first test to be held on Pakistani soil in 14 months. The cricket test didn't happen because Pakistan has failed yet another national security test. An attack on the Sri Lankan team bus left six policemen and two bystanders dead. Incredibly, all of the attackers escaped.

From the New York Times:

This happened in the heart of Lahore, the cultural capital of the country," said Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, a former interior minister and a member of the Pakistan Peoples Party of President Asif Ali Zardari. "None of the attackers were shot or caught, and they were coming to the scene with big bags. That's absurd."

Mr. Sherpao called the attack a "total security lapse."

The police said the gunmen -- using assault rifles, grenades and even antitank missiles -- assaulted the bus with the Sri Lankan team at a grassy traffic circle near the city's main Qaddafi Stadium during a five day-match. Six police officers in an escort van were killed, and six cricketers were injured, the police said. Two bystanders were also killed.

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