Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Podur in Pakistan

Justin Podur, longtime ZNet/Z Magazine author and anti-Imperialist wunderkind from Toronto, is currently visiting Pakistan. He writes from Islamabad:
The writ of the state: Is Pakistan's insurgency fueled by too little state, too much, or the wrong kind?
Justin Podur

ISLAMABAD, July 8, 2008 - Another couple of days of bombings in Pakistan and Afghanistan, each with its own message and each by a different group. A couple of days ago the Americans hit a wedding party and killed over 20 people in Afghanistan. In Kabul yesterday the Indian embassy was struck by a suicide bomber killing over 40 people. The next day a series of bombings in Karachi - six blasts in an hour, wounding dozens. These bombs were low intensity, and not suicide blasts. After the bombing of the Indian embassy, an Afghan official said something like: "we believe an intelligence agency from the region was involved" - a clear allusion to Pakistan's ISI. A friend speculated that the bombings in Karachi were India's response - a warning in this world where governments send messages to each other by bombing people...

[In his new bok, Descent into Chaos, author Ahmed] Rashid offers an analysis that is at its core a statement to the US: if you really want to get rid of al Qaeda, you have to do something about the Taliban; if you want to stop the Taliban, you have to rebuild Afghanistan and allow Pakistan to democratize (ie., stop supporting the military exclusively). For the US, though, the questions are different. From the US point of view there are costs and benefits to al Qaeda's existence as a low-level insurgency capable of doing occasional terror attacks on US civilians, and that there are benefits to having US troops in the region, but are the costs of following Rashid's advice and doing what it would take to really stop al Qaeda and the Taliban really worth it? Would paying those costs bring the US increased control over the region or the world?

Probably not. The Taliban would wither away if Afghanistan and Pakistan had the type of sovereignty where the direction of government and economy were determined by their people...

Unfortunately, a dream of a world of sovereign countries is a nightmare for the US. In that sense, I disagree with Rashid: I don't think the US will act in ways that would bring its citizens safety from terrorism, because the rewards of domination of the region, for those in charge, outweigh the risks of terrorism against US citizens...

Without addressing [the absence of the Pakistani state and its undemocratic character], it is hard to see how the current problems could be solved. A hard-nosed analyst might say "yes, but we live in the world we live in, and neither NATO nor Pakistan's government are perfect but they are the only tools to deal with the Taliban." That would be true if they were tools that were capable of fixing, rather than further breaking, the situation. It might actually be less realistic to expect the US or Pakistan's establishment to solve these problems.

... The maximal scenario, it seems to me, is that when NATO leaves, if NATO leaves irresponsibly as they are likely to, the Taliban could take over Afghanistan and Pakistan's NWFP. That would be a terrible outcome, but I believe the counterinsurgency underway makes that outcome more likely as time goes on...

Where does that leave the writ of the state? The writ of the US should not be over Afghanistan or Pakistan, and it is creating more problems than it is solving. Withdrawal is necessary, and the sooner the better. One can recognize that there are more and less responsible ways to withdraw without supporting an imperial power's claim that it needs to be there to prevent things from getting worse. As for the writ of Pakistan's state and its transformation, that's a project for the people, but one that would also be made easier without destructive US interference. (link)
Note that Podur's piece nicely complements a recent article by Pervez Hoodbhoy.
Anti-Americanism & Taliban
By Pervez Hoodbhoy

... American hypocrisy has played into the hands of Islamic militants. They have been vigorously promoting the notion that this is a bipolar conflict of Islam, which they claim to represent, versus imperialism. Many Pakistanis, who desperately want someone to stand up to the Americans, buy into this.

This is a fatal mistake. The militants are using America as a smokescreen for their real agenda. Created by poverty, a war-culture, and the macabre manipulations of Pakistan's intelligence services, the militants want more than just to fight an aggressor from across the oceans. Their goal is to establish their writ over that of the Pakistani state. For this, they have been attacking and killing people in Pakistan through the 1990s, well before 9/11. Remember also that the 4,000-plus victims of jihad in Pakistan over the last year have been Muslims with no connection at all to America. In fact, the Taliban are waging an armed struggle to remake society. They will keep fighting this war even if America were to miraculously evaporate into space.

A Taliban victory would transport us into the darkest of dark ages...

The Taliban agenda has no place for social justice and economic development...

Pakistanis tolerate these narrow-minded, unforgiving men because they claim to fight for Islam. But the Baitullahs and Fazlullahs know nothing of the diversity, and creative richness of Muslims, whether today or in the past... Today's self-declared amir-ul-momineen, like Mullah Omar, would gladly behead great Islamic scholars like Ibn Sina and Al-Razi for heresy and burn their books.

Pakistan must find the will to fight the Taliban. The state, at both the national and provincial level, must assert its responsibility to protect life and law rather than simply make deals...

Pakistanis must not be deceived. This is no clash of civilisations. To the Americans, Pakistan is an instrument to be used for their strategic ends. It is necessary and possible to say no. But the Taliban seek to capture and bind the soul and future of Pakistan in the dark prison fashioned by their ignorance. As they now set their sights on Peshawar and beyond, they must be resisted by all possible means, including adequate military force. (link)
See all of Podur's recent writings from ZNet here.
See Podur's excellent blog, The Killing Train, here.
For a selection of Hoodbhoy's writings at ZNet, see here.

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