In the face of chaos
The Economist, Feb 19th 2009 | ISLAMABAD AND LAHORE
How Pakistan’s army is failing, and what America must do, to crack down on rampant Islamist insurgencies in the region
IN A rooftop restaurant overlooking the old Mughal city of Lahore, Richard Holbrooke dined on February 11th with a group of liberal Pakistani businessmen, human-rights campaigners and journalists. He had come, midway through his inaugural tour as America’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, with a heavy question. Against a rising thrum from the narrow streets of the red-light district below, Mr Holbrooke asked: “What is the crisis of Pakistan?”
Well might he ask. Pakistan, the world’s sixth-most-populous country and second-biggest Muslim one, is violent and divided. A Taliban insurgency is spreading in its north-west frontier region, fuelled partly by a similar Pushtun uprising against NATO and American troops in Afghanistan (see article). Some 120,000 Pakistani troops have been dispatched to contain it, yet they seem hardly able to guard the main road through North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). On February 3rd NATO briefly stopped sending convoys through Pakistan—which carry some 75% of its supplies to Afghanistan—after Pakistani militants blew up a road bridge in NWFP. A related terrorism spree by the Pakistan Taliban and allied Islamists, including al-Qaeda, whose leaders have found refuge in the semi-autonomous tribal areas of the frontier, has spread further. Pakistan has seen some 60 suicide-bomb blasts in each of the past two years.
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COMMENT: Pakistan and prejudice — Karan Thapar