Militarization of Pakistan

Pakistani society was ‘militarised’ with ‘active US support’: Khattak
* ANP leader says Talibanisation an extension of Pakistani society’s militarisation
By Iqbal Khattak, Daily Times, May 15, 2008

PESHAWAR: Pakistani society was ‘militarised’ with ‘active support’ from the United States as part of the ‘critical evolution’ of the ‘big powers’’ policy for the region, the Awami National Party (ANP)’s Afrasiab Khattak said on Wednesday.

"Militarisation of state and society [has taken place] with active US support," he told the participants of a workshop titled Regional Aspects of Militancy in Pakistan at the University of Peshawar’s Area Study Centre.

"Talibanisation is an extension of the militarisation of this [Pakistani] society," said Khattak. The US "supports [the] military" in Pakistan, he added. Former Pakistan ambassador to Afghanistan Rustam Shah Mohmand and US and Pakistani scholars Barnett Rubin and Ahmed Rashid, respectively, also addressed the workshop. The speakers offered varying views on who had ‘brutalised’ Pakistan and Afghan societies, and why. Shah said the US could be held responsible, while Rashid underscored that the Taliban were ‘displaying [a] brutality’ that was not part of Pashtun culture.

"Big powers inducted brutalisation [as] the US trained young brains about jihad," said Khattak -- who was part of a government delegation negotiating peace with the Swat-based Taliban on Tuesday. The negotiations process, he said, was working. "It is working here, it can work in FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] and Afghanistan [too]. There is no alternative to negotiations," he added.

Khattak said what was required was fresh talks with Afghanistan. He said Pakistan needed to "close down all Taliban sanctuaries," while Kabul needed to "address Pakistan's concerns about Indian [involvement in anti-Pakistan activities using Afghan soil]."

In what appears to be a shift in the ANP policy on the Tribal Areas, Afrasiab asked Afghan President Hamid Karzai to support the Pakistan government’s efforts of instituting reforms in FATA. Kabul exploits the situation while Islamabad intends to regulate life there, he added. Rashid did not agree that India was using Afghanistan as a platform against Pakistan. However, he supported the idea of joint Indo-Pak dialogue on Afghanistan to reconcile differences. He said Pakistan was experiencing a "home-grown threat," but one that it could not deal with "in isolation of Afghanistan."

The solution to Pakistan's economic and political crises "absolutely depends on improving relations with Afghanistan,” he added. "It is very frightening for me to be in Peshawar and to realise how close the militants are infiltrating into settled areas," commented Rashid, who has authored many books on the Taliban, militancy and Afghanistan.

Rashid also said Pakistan’s economic crisis was inextricably linked to the "lack of stability" in the Balochistan and NWFP provinces. "We desperately need energy, we are going to be running out of gas. We need these pipelines. But the bottom line for these pipelines remains peace and stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Nobody is going to build the pipeline across war zones," he said.

Rashid alleged that the military "has misconceptions about relations with Afghanistan". Pakistan needs to "wake up to new realities" in the neighbouring country, he added. Rubin said that in a hypothetical scenario of the US and NATO withdrawing from Afghanistan under a deal, with the Taliban guaranteeing that Afghanistan would not be used for international terrorism, Russia, Iran and India "might see it as realignment rather than a peace process, and [could] see the US going back to aligning itself with Pakistan, and they might respond in their own way".

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