« Giraldi on Harman | Main | Out of Town »

28 April 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

It was not Pakistan and Bangladesh that were mistakes – it was Hindu nationalism that seduced the Hindu leaders of Congress Party into sidelining Jinnah and causing the break-up of British India. And I would like to take to task that fantasist called M. K. Gandhi without whom there would not have been any partition.

Babak Makkinejad


Can someone please explain to me the reason for all this hand-wringing about Pakistan?

My understanding has been that the Army of Pakistan, from its inception, has been based on Punjabi ethnicity. As far as I can tell, the Taliban are a Pashtun-based movement.

Am I to understand that the Punjabis, who have contempt for the members of every other ethnicity in Pakistan, are – all of a sudden – amenable to the ravings of those ignorant tribesmen and peasants? That the Pakistani officer corps is about to line-up pray behind Mullah Omar?

I cannot believe that the internal organization of the state and polity in Pakistan is as bad as immediately after the Partition. Am I wrong?

And I fail to see how another Punjabi dictator could address the real source of instability in that country – the absence of land-reform.


Col. Isn't the military allowing the Taliban to run loose just to show the new civilian govt. who really runs things?

Patrick Lang


That is what I said. Now the Punjabi army must rally behind one of its natural leaders to kick the crazies in the tail.

"Land Reform?" We have been down that road a hundred times all over the world. The truth is that if the locals can't mange it, then it can't be done.

What makes this situation unique are the nuclear weapons. pl


Babak & Col. PL:

FWIW, Juan Cole agrees with you. Perhaps a least worst objective is that the Pashtun areas of eastern Afganistan and northwestern Pakistan coalesce into a "Pashtunistan?" Of course, few states voluntarily undergoe a peaceful fission (Czechosolvakia is the only example that comes to mind), but you asked us to think outside the box, no? The challenge is to convince the Punjabs that they'll be better off separating themselves from the Pashtuns. I guess one of the questions this raises is whether this would make the rivalry between India and Punjab Pakistan better or worse than it is now.

Mad Dogs

Pat wrote: "Now the Punjabi army must rally behind one of its natural leaders to kick the crazies in the tail."

And over at the National Journal this: "We should pray that Musharraf or someone remarkably like him has sufficient support from the Pakistan Army to return to power and save the situation before it is too late."

I can't say that I have any political affinity for military coups and military dictatorships.

Having thus "staked out" my political leanings, now I don my political analyst chapeau where the only thing that counts is sober, unblinkered realism:

Pakistan will likely again return to governance by military dictatorship.

Some would argue that this is the lesser evil.

I, and my liberal-realist brethren, will grasp our noses firmly, and make the point that yes, another bandage will likely stop the bleeding, but someday, the patient better get some real treatment for the underlying ailment.

Decades of Saudi funding in Pakistan for schools/madrassas based on a Wahhabi extremism needs to be changed.

And yes Pat, even land reform is required.

But my political analyst unblinkered realism says not to expect this anytime soon.

Instead, continued re-application of bandaids, over and over again.

Patrick Lang

Mad Dogs

I, too, grieve for the peasant farmers of Sind, etc. I know that I am not a sensitve enough person. Peccavi.

Seriously, I first worked on land reform projects in El Salvador and Honduras in the '60s. You can't do it for them. They have to do it for themselves.

Kaboom!!! (The sound of a low air burst 50 Kt. weapon somewhere...) pl

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

US initiated (limited) land reform in Iran in early 1960s.

By the time of the Iranin Revolution land (reform) was not a major issue although it persisted as a source of political and social tension for another decade.

I expect that without land reform in Pakistan there will be a very bloody peasant war that will cause the collapse of Pakistan.

How this potential peasant war will interact with the Pashtun War and the Shia-Sunni War I cannot phatom.

But I think it will be a good idea to remove the land as an issue solely for the purpose of ameliorating the political conditions of Pakistan.



Kaboom!!! (The sound of a low air burst 50 Kt. weapon somewhere...)

We need to work out, rationally and as a nation, what an appropriate U.S. response to such an act should be. Said response should be openly and candidly discussed well beforehand, so we don't see the kind of rank stupidity that characterized the Bush administration's response to 9/11.

I would suggest that if that 50KT you mention were detonated somewhere in the U.S., then the proper response would be along the lines of 5 MT or so distributed at various points around the sources of the offense, and I'm not suggesting that response for anything beyond the purely pragmatic realization that the current political principle that "bad actions don't need to have bad consequences visited upon the bad actors" is just not something that is going to work well when the bad actors are using nukes.

That is, the world has only seen WMD's deployed twice against a populated target, and that was at the end of a world war where lots of other woes were visited on the world. But if nukes start getting thrown around by tinpot dictators or ill-disciplined militaries or paranoid theocrats, then we can kiss our notions of what "civilization" means good-bye, hence the need for some appropriate accountability noted up front.

In my estimation, the biggest mistake that the Bush administration made in the AfPak region was doing a half-assed job of responding to a brazen terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Their perfunctory response to Al Qaeda and the Taliban is a big part of why nations now think they can rattle the nuclear sabre (including our "allies", e.g., Israel). It didn't have to be so...

We need to make it clear that the school of U.S. international relations is now under new management, and that accountability will be the order of the day. Or else we'll likely see another ill-considered political response to a 50KT burst someplace, which will lead to a 100KT event someplace else, and so it goes...

Sorry to be a wet blanket, but your "Kaboom" raises a very serious point which requires some very serious consideration, and preferably before the event might ever take place. An ounce of prevention and all that...


Babak Makkinejad, the fact that you speak of a Punjabi-based army only serves to underscore the weakness of Pakistan as nation.

So long as there are different ethnic groups who resent the Punjabi's, there will be resistance.

The Indians will exploit this weakness to their advantage, I sure the Russian and Iranians also have interests to exploit.

IMHO, America can not fix Pakistan unless they act in the interest of the Pakistani, not Punjabi interest.

Look to Indonesia as an example...

Cold War Zoomie

Pakistan, like Belgium was a bad idea.

But would we have those wonderful chocolates without a Belgium?

Seriously, I first worked on land reform projects in El Salvador and Honduras in the '60s.

Hmmm. I've got a soft spot for that part of the world. Sounds interesting to say the least. I didn't know we were tromping around down there before the 1970s.

As for Pakistan, can't we just find some other heartless schmuck who can control the country via the Army and make him an offer he can't refuse - boatloads of money - until this all blows over in a few decades? What can the Taleban offer in return? Nothing.

I'm still a firm believer in bribing foreign governments to get what we want.

And that's said only half jokingly.

Patrick Lang


Think so, eh? Hmm...



Babak, why the hand-wringing? One word, ignorance. The US is media is in hog-hell over 68 cases of swine flu in a week yet on average hand gun deaths in the US are 83 per day. Land reform? I hope for media reform here first, but hopefully nothing like the stockmarket reform we had for the past few years, or past few weeks.
As Pat and others point out, a 50KT weapon makes a big bang. (Of course the current population of Hiroshima is ~1.6 million.)



Think so, eh? Hmm...

Just trying to stimulate a little discussion, sir!

Actually, I think the hard problem is deciding the appropriate stance for non-American targets. A doctrine against attacks on the US seems pretty easy compared to the complexities of the various actors and their potential targets, e.g., Pakistan on India, Israel on Iran, etc, etc.

That problem is one I would enjoy seeing discussed by those myriad minds more capable than my own. It's a natural question to ask.

And don't forget: you're the one who said "Kaboom!"


"Are the disparate militant groups that are loosely united under the Taliban umbrella really capable of formulating and executing a coherent and ambitious strategy to seize power?"

Have you ever seen a cartoon where the barrel of a gun gets bent into a U-shape directed back at the shooter? Well this question is the equivalent of that.


The sidelining of Jinnah? What mythology are you reading? I get my mythology from (the sources mentioned in) here:

If I say Jinnah was a megalomaniac, that would be polite.


If the Taliban connect the dots, and institute large scale land reform, then they romp into power.

Cold War Zoomie

It's heating up for the summer...

Yahoo/AP Article


"Peccavi" Ah, General Sir Charles Napier is remembered!

Land Reform in Pakistan? Lead by us? (as in US)

Please, please, no more of that talk. We've seen a century of it. We're not smart enough. Sophisticated enough. Or honest enough.

Babak Makkinejad


Thank you for your comments.

I never claimed that there is a Pakistani Nation only that there is a state.

India, Afghanistan, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia also are in a similar boat. In Europe, Belgium, Austro-Hungary, Yugoslavia, Great Britain, and the Russian Empire were also primarily states but without a corresponding national identify shared among all their subjects . As such, this state of affairs has not been uncommon historically.

But I do not think outsiders can tell what the best interests of Pakistan is going to be.

I certainly would not wish to see a repetition of the common pattern of governance (among Muslim states) – Dictatorship (often based on the Armed Forces) or dictatorship -> democracy -> chaos -> dictatorship every 20 years in Pakistan.

My understanding of Indonesia was that it is structurally similar to Pakistan – a state with the armed forces being the only national institution that works – dominated by the Javanese.

What has US done there that recommends itself to you?

Cold War Zoomie
Yes, I agree. Money & patronage are essential ingredients of politics – domestic or foreign.

Babak Makkinejad


Jinnah was well-respected, entrenched member of the Congress well before Gandhi and his entourage ruined the Congress.

Jinnah, a liberal Muslim lawyer, was not the man who caused the partition; in my opinion .

Nancy K

Fred, an interesting perspective re the comparison of Swine Flu and gun deaths.
We do have an epidemic in this country. It is a good thing that guns don't kill people, or so the NRA tells us.
As a public health nurse, I am concerned about both the gun epidemic and the Swine Flu however.

Babak Makkinejad


Thank you for the reference of Dr. Cole's comments. He has articulated my vague understandings (which I could never have done like him) quite well.

Duncan Kinder

Pakistan, like Belgium was a bad idea

To this day, Brussels sprouts remain a source of profound personal bitterness for me.

According to the Washington Times, the Taliban now pose specific threats:

Pakistani military analysts say militants could bring normal life to a halt in a large part of Pakistan if they move against the Tarbela dam. The world's largest earthen dam, it is located on the Indus River about 30 miles northwest of the capital in the districts of Swabi and Haripur.

The Taliban is already next door in Buner district...
The Tarbela dam is used for irrigation and flood control as well as for generating thousands of megawatts of electricity. Security specialists say the Taliban could threaten to destroy the dam as a bargaining chip to gain more concessions from the government, which agreed to the imposition of Shariah law in the scenic Swat Valleyand the surrounding Malakand region in return for a now-unraveling peace deal. If the dam is destroyed, millions of acres of crops would be flooded.
Only 300 to 350 armed personnel are guarding the Tarbela dam.
Moreover, there is a history of Taliban attacks at Tarbela and on other dams.


Besides the Tarbela dam, another vulnerable target is Attock Bridge. Located in the Swabi district, it crosses the Indus and connects northwestern Pakistan with Punjab province, the most populous in the country.

If the Taliban took control of the bridge, it could cut Pakistan in two.

William R. Cumming

My guess is that this is the first of many posts concerning Pakistan and its future! Actually I do know many posts already have dealt with this "nation-state" and its future. The presence of nuclear weaponary and delivery capability does put this well into the top 10 of international problems. You can rank them I will not.
Nuclear surety is a highly technical arena, witness the disgrace of the USAF recently and its disregard of first principals of nuclear surety. One of couse being that war reserve items and training items are clearly marked and discerable including their containers. US in the past used blue for exercise. Hey isn't that the color of USAF uniforms?

Anyway open source media and intel constantly reports that Pakistan does well on nuclear surety issues! Really? Let's have a NIE on that specfici subject!

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

July 2020

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  
Blog powered by Typepad