Friday, July 03, 2009

Pakistan's War

Since April, the tide of Pakistani opinion has turned:
"The Pakistani media had lost both its fear and its illusions about extremists, who had once been portrayed as ‘Robin Hood’ figures" link
In contrast with earlier operations, the Pakistani Army is working very aggressively. link The turning point in Pakistani public opinion was the widely-circulated video of a teenage girl in Swat being punished for khulwa, being seen by a man not her family. Pakistanis decided that such punishment wasn't what they wanted.

True to form, the Taliban's leaders have resorted to increasingly brutal and intimidating methods to maintain their rule over their forces and their captive population:
Baitullah Mehsud ordered 18 of his wounded men slaughtered before retreating in the face of the army operation going on against him. The men lost their lives because they were no longer fit to keep up with the rest as they made good their escape. Seeing the operation unfolding effectively against the TTP, the parents of the boys he had shanghaied into his suicide-bomber training camps begged him to release their offspring. He refused. Baitullah is showing signs of being under pressure by employing savage tactics of retaliation too. Anyone who speaks against him inside the vast tracts occupied by the various warlords is liable to get killed. As he moves from one safe place to another safe place to avoid being hit by the Pakistan jets, he is carefully monitoring his rivals within the Taliban and eliminating them.

Unfortunately the government's success in winning over the populace by the technique of letting the Talibs show how bad they can be rather than fighting the Talibs in the first place means they can continue to be corrupt, rather than face popular pressure to reduce corruption and improve governance.

Luckily, some newspapers realize that: Practical Democracy

Even as the Taliban find themselves caught between the American hammer and the Pakistani forge, even as Pakistan and the U.S. now share a common enemy, Pakistanis themselves do not see the U.S. as a friend link. I consider this a sure measure of the failure of America's current Public Diplomacy efforts - cooperation is quiet, rather than overt and celebrated. Even under Obama, Pakistanis still feel that the goal of the U.S. president is "to impose American culture on the Islamic world, and 90 percent supported the notion that he wanted to weaken and divide the Muslim world". In IDP camps the Americans are told to work quietly, while Islamists preach jihad openly - as a condition for refugees to receive their aid. (Reminds me of the folks who tried to sell me a time-share during my honeymoon in exchange for a lift.)

I wonder what the next generation of Pakistanis will think - both of their elders and of the U.S.

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