The realities of fighting terror in Pakistan

The article below illustrates why I think Washington demands of Pakistan are often not only unfair, but seriously unrealistic given the challenges the country faces on multiple fronts today.

And world powers looking the other way as conflicts continue to rage in Kashmir and elsewhere doesn’t aid the cause, either.

AP IMPACT: Pakistan police losing terrorism fight – Yahoo! News

BADABER, Pakistan – Brothers Mushtaq and Ishaq Ali left the police force a month ago, terrified of dying as their colleagues had — beheaded by militants on a rutted village road before a shocked crowd.

They went straight to the local Urdu-language newspaper to announce their resignation. They were too poor to pay for a personal ad, so the editor of The Daily Moon, Rasheed Iqbal, published a news story instead. He has run dozens like it.

“They just want to get the word out to the Taliban that they are not with the police anymore so they won’t kill them,” said Iqbal. “They know that no one can protect them, and especially not their fellow policemen.”

Outgunned and out-financed, police in volatile northwestern Pakistan are fighting a losing battle against insurgents, dozens of interviews by The Associated Press show. They are dying in large numbers, and many survivors are leaving the force.

The number of terrorist attacks against police has gone up from 113 in 2005 to 1,820 last year, according to National Police Bureau. The death toll for policemen in that time has increased from nine to 575. In the northwestern area alone, 127 policemen have died so far this year in suicide bombings and assassinations, and another 260 have been wounded.

The crisis means the police cannot do the nuts-and-bolts work needed to stave off an insurgency fueled by the Taliban and al-Qaida. While the military can pound mountain hideouts, analysts and local officials say it is the police who should hunt down insurgents, win over the people, and restore order.

“The only way to save Pakistan is to think of extremism and insurgency in North West Frontier Province as a law enforcement issue,” said Hassan Abbas, a South Asia expert at Harvard University’s Belfer Center Project for Science. “Rather than buying more F-16s, Pakistan should invest in modernizing its police.”

[There's more.]

Speaking of which, we’re off to the Land of the Pure in a mere 6 1/2 hours. A lot of people in Lahore are eagerly awaiting our daughter’s arrival, now aged 2 3/4.

This will be my 5th time. I must hold the world’s record for the least sight-seeing. Sigh…

I think I’ll try to see another Punjabi film in Lahore. That was truly an anthropological adventure.

  • TM Lutas

    Ultimately, if the NWFP become the harbor of a new major strike against the US, the ultimate option is to turn them into a lake of glass. The next worst option is to have an outside power, most likely India, take up a UN mandate to reorganize Pakistan including the NWFP. The next worst option is to have a revitalized Afghanistan take over the NWFP and govern them. The absolute best option is that Pakistan gets its act together and learns to govern its own territory as every country with a UN seat is supposed to be doing.
    Unless one buys into the death of the nation-state and the validity of the modern jihad for the violent establishment of the caliphate, these are the long term options. Somehow I don’t think you’re advocating moving on to one of the less pleasant options after we give up on Pakistan but functionally that’s what you’ve done. I’m not so sure that Pakistan’s done for yet. Maybe that makes me an unrealistic optimist but there I stand.

  • svend

    Thanks for the comment, TM, but with all due respect, this seems typical post-9/11 American myopia and jingoism to me. America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world–and a nation that has not experience war or insurgency on its own soil for over a century–can’t control the Canadian or Mexican borders, yet we expect a country that’s struggling to avoid political and economic meltdown to have complete control of its most inaccessible and restive regions.
    If you think that an occupation of by anybody (let alone the country’s avowed enemy) is doing to succeed in bringing law and order, I think you’re seriously mistaken.
    I’m not saying that Pakistan isn’t to be held responsible for its actions and policies (like any other nation should). But one must have realistic expectations. Unless one is hoping for it to devolve into total anarchy (a scenario a fair segment of Washington pols wouldn’t mind all that much, despite all their rhetoric to the contrary, as it would give us a fig leaf really blowing the place to smithereens and settle a lot of long festering scores).

  • TM Lutas

    Were american terrorists striking into Canada or Mexico, you would find a very different situation than what happens at present. A more relevant border is our interface between Florida and Cuba where we actually do have US irregulars who wish to overthrow a neighboring state and have wanted to for decades. The US does not like Cuba’s regime, obviously wants regime change, yet regularly investigates and has thoroughly infiltrated the radical elements of Cuban-American society so that no successful illegal strikes against Cuba happen. People have been arrested and tried for trying to do what the Taliban is doing to Afghanistan. A little (ok, a lot of) economic migration from Mexico isn’t in the same playing field.
    This action against interest is the US upholding its international responsibilities. That Pakistan’s ISI created this mess by funding all sorts of irregulars to send against Pakistan’s enemies and now they’ve lost control does not change Pakistan’s responsibilities.
    I think that the least likely end result is the lake of glass option but every Pakistani failure makes Pushtun unification with an Afghan mandate or a wholesale Indian mandate for the entirety of Pakistan more likely. The US is likely not a major participant in the latter case and possibly not in the former. How this is US jingoism escapes me.

  • Fighting Games

    This action against interest is the US upholding its international responsibilities. That Pakistan’s ISI created this mess by funding all sorts of irregulars to send against Pakistan’s enemies and now they’ve lost control does not change Pakistan’s responsibilities