Pakistan's Pashtun 'problem'?

Pakistan's Pashtun 'problem'
By Haroun Mir Jul 26, 2007; Asia Times

At least since September 11, 2001, most of the perpetrators of terrorist actions in the West have been Arabs or Pakistanis, yet the victims of the West's military reactions have been Afghans and the Pashtun tribes living in Pakistan.

The majority of Pashtuns have fallen prey to Arab and Pakistani propaganda against the West. The continued insurgency in Afghanistan and the sudden deterioration of the situation in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province make the Pashtun tribes the prime target in the "war against terror".

They have lived in poverty and become the proxy soldiers in the confrontation between the West and the Islamic extremists. The radicalization of young Pashtuns in madrassas (seminaries), generously financed by Saudi Arabia, menaces the cohesion of Pashtun tribal structure.

About 30 million to 35 million Pashtuns live in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, but they are divided and engaged in internal feuds. Only once - and for a short period - have they stood united. This was under the rule of Ahmad Shah Durani (1747-73), who created modern Afghanistan and conquered significant territories in India and Iran. Ever since British rule in India, Pashtun tribes have been in conflict either against foreign intruders or among themselves.

They have deliberately been kept away from modern education and economic development. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, they were tools in the hands of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. And today they are the direct victims of the "war on terror".

In the years of conflict in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and other major Persian Gulf countries have financed thousands of madrassas for Afghan refugees in Pakistan, which resulted in a massive radicalization of young Pashtuns. In addition, the influx of Wahhabi Arab fighters and madrassa teachers transformed the dominant moderate Hanafi school of jurisprudence into a new breed of religious extremism, which resulted in the creation of the Taliban-type movement.

For instance, during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, not a single act of suicide bombing was committed against the Soviet military or their family members in Kabul. The first suicide bombing in Afghanistan was committed by two Arabs against the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, Afghanistan's former defense minister, on September 9, 2001. At least since 2003, young Pashtuns have become involved in suicide bombings, which go against their tribal and religious values.

A new breed of extremist Islamic sect is taking shape in the Pashtun heartland. Only a limited number of the 15 million to 20 million Pashtuns who live in Pakistan enjoy modern education. Sadly, secular and modern schools are being burned down by the Taliban in Afghanistan's Pashtun-dominated provinces. Each year, thousands of young Pashtuns are trained in the madrassas, and only a limited number of them have access to secular education.

Pakistan's military rulers have an interest in keeping the masses of Pashtun people ignorant. They need the support of Pashtuns to dominate other minority groups. Until now the Pakistani authorities have used the old British system of divide-and-rule to play off local Pashtun leaders and in exchange require their loyalty.

This colonial system has kept the masses of Pashtuns illiterate and uneducated, and only selected families have received quality education to fill senior positions in the military. The presence of Pashtuns in the Pakistani military is used to dominate Balochs, who have been struggling to gain their autonomy since the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Without the support of the Pashtun tribes, the Pakistan Army would be unable to control a widespread Baloch insurgency.

President General Pervez Musharraf is keen to keep the truce with Pashtun tribes and save his tacit alliance with extremist religious parties. He knows well that the expansion of conflict with Pashtun tribes in Pakistan not only forces them to unite against Pakistani authorities, but also could incite Balochs to side with the Pashtuns.

Pakistani military authorities want to keep the status quo in the tribal regions. They are more interested in the integrity of their territory than in the global fight on terror. Musharraf has always sought the cooperation of radical religious leaders instead of the main secular leaders because only the religious leaders are capable of reaching out to the radicalized Pashtuns tribes.

Pakistan's military interests are in the interests neither of the West nor of Pashtuns. Keeping Pashtun tribes divided and backward might serve the short-term militaristic interests of Pakistan. But it is already backfiring against the long-term interests of the West.

The Pashtun-dominated territories have become a de facto sanctuary for international terrorism. North Atlantic Treaty Organization and US forces are fighting and bombing those who have nothing to do with terrorist acts in the West. Al-Qaeda and other international terrorists are taking advantage of the religiously devoted and fiercely independent Pashtun tribes.

Indeed, extremist religious groups and local Taliban have become an alibi for Musharraf to continue his military rule in Pakistan, despite the contempt shown by the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis. Pakistan's military authorities have been able to persuade the West to accept their ill-conceived tribal policies of promoting radical extremist leaders to the detriment of more traditional moderate Pashtun leaders.

The West, instead of alienating and pushing Pashtun tribes further into the camp of extremists, could reach out and assist moderate Pashtun leaders. But young Pashtuns have undergone almost three decades of radicalization, and it will require much time to reverse the trend.

Haroun Mir was an aide to the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, Afghanistan's former defense minister. He works as a consultant and policy analyst in Kabul.


Anonymous said…
Pakistan should drive all the free loader Afgans and Qabali Luteras(Bandits) from its territories. Once this pest is cleared from we will have peace in Pakisatn. Who the hell are Talibans, They are all Afgans luteras, drug dealers, child molestres and thiefs. Why dont like wise of Mr. Mir take back all the Afgan Pest and trash back to Pakistan, like free food and board and drug monies. All Afgans should be deported from Pakistan immedialy thier terrorist activites infested mosques burn and torn dowm. Pakistan does not need your trash so keep it.
Pakisan for Pakistanis and for Muft Khoor Afaganis.
What you think Hasan?
Anonymous said…
In past USA was paying Pakistan army to defeat Russia, we all saw what led to that ... now USA is paying them to fight what Pakistan created and used against other nations to secure its national interest ... I say goodluck to USA
Please read this...........
WASHINGTON: The US is virtually renting divisions of the Pakistan army, paying around $ 100 million a month for the deployment of 80,000 troops on its border with Afghanistan ostensibly for the war on terrorism, a key US official revealed on Thursday.

The money is meant to be "reimbursements'' to Pakistan "for stationing troops and moving them around, and gasoline, and bullets, and training and other costs that they incur as part of the war on terror,'' US assistant secretary of state Richard Boucher, told a Congressional panel. "That's a lot of money," Boucher admitted before the panel about what amounts to a $ 1.2 billion per year reimbursement. "I don't know if it comes to the whole amount of their expenses, but we support their expenses, yes." In all, US aid to Pakistan is now close to $2 billion a year, according to figures provided by Boucher, the top US diplomat for South Asia.

Besides, the $1.2 billion reimbursements, Washington also gave Pakistan an addition $738 million in 2006 in assistance programmes, including $300 million in separate military aid.

The overall figure would put Pakistan on par with Israel and Egypt — with a higher component ($1.5 billion) in overall military assistance — as the top three recipients of US aid.

The Pakistan allocations are being met with deep misgivings and scepticism in Congress and strategic circles where there are growing demands on the Bush administration to tie aid for Islamabad's military to its performance and delivery in the war on terror.

"There are far more jehadists, extremist madrassas, Al Qaida operatives, Taliban safe havens and international terrorist training camps than Pakistani government officials are willing to admit. Is our current aid package, one in which we are providing at least 10 times more for military aid than for basic education assistance, in the best long-term interest of US national security?" asked Congressman John Tierney, who chaired the hearing that for focused exclusively on the Pakistan question.

"And how do we in Congress justify to the American people writing cheques for billions of dollars to a regime that may not be the partner against terrorism the US needs it to be, but may actually be hurting national security interests of the US and our allies?" added Congressman Christopher Shays, after some of his colleagues pointed out that Pakistan was host to the world's most wanted men like Osama bin Laden and A Q Khan.

Richard Boucher maintained that the money was well spent and there was some accountability involved.

"Some of our money that we give Pakistan is reimbursements and so there is, you know, conditions that we pay for things," he said, later elaborating that "Pentagon is in charge of getting receipts and making sure they know how that money is being spent in the right places."

"If they didn't have the 85,000 troops in the border area, God knows what would be going on out there — not anything we could deal with ourselves, I'm sure," Boucher added.

Still, lawmakers remained sceptical of the Bush administration's Pakistan policy, even as the White House reviewed the situation in a special meeting on Thursday. Tierney urged the administration to ensure that the military support money went towards supplying equipment to fight terrorism, as opposed to bombers and submarines aimed at India.
But Boucher bluntly told the committee "we do try to do both ... help Pakistan with legitimate defensive needs, with its ability to patrol in the Arabian Sea and finance equipment and reimburse expenses for the war on terror."
Anonymous said…
Ineresting book and interesting interview
Interview With Syed Jamaluddin -Truth

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