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Friday, February 6, 2015

Why Is Pakistan So Welcoming To Islamic Extremists?

Links: A. Pakistan Wikipedia
           B. Pakistan Bans Terror Groups In Word Only
           C. Al-Qaeda Active And Influential In Pakistan
           D. Pakistani Support For Extremists Persists

(Quick personal comment: I am so grateful to all of you who come to this blog to read my commentaries.  I do my very best to include as much substance and fact as I do opinion, but by the end of the post, I will express my perspective on whatever issue I am discussing.  I welcome opposing viewpoints; most of the opinions I have today are variations of what they once were.  We have to learn to evolve our opinions in the face of presented facts that were previously unknown to us.  It is a sign of maturity and goodwill.  Also, if you do enjoy my posts, please recommend the blog to other persons who you believe might also find it interesting.  An unavoidable reality is that growth is essential in this medium, especially given the number of like-minded commentaries.)

I always find myself battling the need to keep my posts at a reasonable length.  I don't like to split a commentary into "Part I" and "Part II", because the uninterrupted flow of the conversation is essential.  But occasionally I give myself no choice.  Writing about Pakistan is a huge challenge.  As a nation, Pakistan has existed less than sixty years.  But it feels like an old soul, with many grievances to be addressed.  Please forgive me for this unworthy and inadequate review of Pakistani history, but a respectable effort would require a Part I, Part II, Part III, Part get the picture.  What we know as Pakistan today was originally part of India.  When Great Britain decided to grant independence to India, it was decided that the Predominantly Muslim North Western and Eastern Provinces would be partitioned to create the nation of Pakistan.  Oddly enough, the British partition of India created two pieces of Muslim Pakistan separated by a giant India with a huge Hindu majority.  Twenty-four years following the partition, Eastern Pakistan suffered a bloody Civil War, with the opposition openly supported by India. Without the possibility of reinforcements and supplies, the Pakistani forces eventually surrendered, and the nation of Bangladesh is the result.  Given that relations between Pakistan and India were already less-than-friendly, India's interference in what Pakistan considered to be an internal rebellion, caused even more difficulties for the two nations.  Eventually, Islamabad and New Delhi might very well have healed the right, if it weren't for the Province of Punjab.  The far-north, mountainous area is almost equally divided in population between Muslims and Hindus (depending on whose census you believe), and Pakistan has always believed that it should have been included in the original partition.  India is just as adamant that it belongs to India.  This beautiful but almost inaccessible land has been a bone of contention ever since, and has come close to igniting a war between two nuclear powers.

I'm not writing this post to sink myself into the quick-sand of Pakistani-Indian history, so I will move on from the issue of relations with India.  Suffice to say that the two nations have never been friends, although a few times in the last decade, serious diplomatic efforts resulting in face-to-face meetings between the two Prime Ministers, have given rise to optimism.  Frankly speaking I find it hard to believe, and a bit disgusting that both of these nations have nuclear weapons.  In order to reach that level of technology, a huge amount of resources must have been expended, by two countries who still have trouble feeding their people.  That makes no sense to me. The huge defense expenditures allocated by both governments, compared to funds set aside for housing, education and social welfare programs, is astonishing and should be a national embarrassment.  And the real tragedy is that both countries are armed to the teeth because of the threat posed by their neighbor.  The fact the Pakistan has nuclear weapons is more disturbing because of the unstable nature of Pakistani politics.  People get assassinated in Pakistan (also in India) and governments fall.  I am forced to look at Pakistan through red, white and blue glasses.  I can't allow myself to be distracted by the sorry state of affairs with India, and the complete lack of opportunity and hope for the young people of Pakistan.  For one reason and another, this nation has become the world's largest safe house for Al-Qaeda and probably a bunch of other nasty groups as well.  The pillars that constitute the government of Pakistan have been infiltrated for decades by the bad guys, and I'm not referring to the bribes the average Pakistani has to pay to get a license to wipe his ass and water his yard.  The Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI) is rotten to the core with Al-Qaeda sympathizers, as are all branches of the military.  The civilian government is not nearly as corrupted by extremists, but it certainly has its share of thieves.  In fact, the presence of the corruption is what allowed the extremists in to begin with.  The people of Pakistan are only being reasonable.  They voted for the party of capitalism and it failed them.  They elected a bunch of socialists, who also robbed them blind.  So who can blame them for looking towards the traditional, religious answer, especially when it delivers food?

If anyone has any question regarding the depth of extremist influence in the Pakistani military and security service, just remind yourself that Osama Bin-Laden's compound in Abbottabad was located across the street from the Pakistani Military Academy.  That juxtaposition was not accidental, it was meant to discourage any raids like the one that occurred.  Zawahiri is in Pakistan as well.  he is probably closing in on ninety yrs. old, and not many sick, whiny, spoiled Egyptian intellectuals will choose a cave in Afghanistan over a house.  Why do the people of Pakistan provide safe haven to terrorists?  The answer is not as complicated as some people want it to be.  Because of the economic situation in Pakistan ($3,100 per capita income) and the lack of employment opportunities (officially unemployment is 5.1 percent, but in reality its closer to 30 percent), the younger generation, which continues to grow, has little hope or opportunity for the future.  When I was in Pakistan, I was always taken aback by the number of young men walking the streets during the day, every day.  From habit, I said to myself, "shouldn't they be at college or at work?"  These young men are the perfect targets for groups like Al-Qaeda, who will blame the west, and Israel, and India, and their complacent government, for all the ills of Pakistani society.  And when Al-Qaeda hosts a blame party, they do it right.  whoever is on the receiving end isn't just the trouble maker, they are the enemy, THE DEVIL, and they will never allow you to better your condition or improve the lives of your relatives.  The crusade to blame the west and Israel (even more so than India, who is only a seasonal bad guy) has been so successful, that the terrorists and their support network can find sympathizers on every street, on every block, and in every city.  There is an entire segment of Pakistani society that is vehemently opposed to the message of Islamic extremism; they have my support and admiration but I fear that they are fighting a losing battle.

Pakistan continues to give the appearance of a politically moderate Muslim nation.  In the United Nations, it votes with the anti-Israel bloc, but on other issues, Pakistan is known to support the United States, especially regarding Russia.  On the other hand, Pakistan has developed a warm relationship with China, a development which originated with the ignorant decision on the part of the United States to accept payment from Pakistan for some F16s, and then decide not to deliver them.  Its my understanding that diplomatic efforts were made to address and rectify that particular insult, thank goodness.  The Pakistani government has given the U.S. military a surprisingly free hand to deal with the Taliban, especially on the border.  The U.S. military continues to train and equip the Pakistani Army and Air Force (what they don't get from China), and the United States can rely on some internal support, especially from the military High Command.  But the issue isn't limited to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban moving back-and-forth across the border, or with the activities of extremist groups in Waziristan.  The United States must address the alarming fact that Al-Qaeda militants likely have safe-houses in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.  If this tumor living within Pakistani society becomes a cancer, and extremists take control of the Pakistani government, then we have a real problem.  A nuclear Iran and a nuclear Pakistan, both controlled by Islamic extremists.  I don't believe we have reached that point just yet.  I would like to believe that secular Pakistan will win the day, but the battle is for the hearts and minds of the young, not the middle-aged and old.  Those who love a secular and peaceful Pakistan must find a way to end corruption and provide opportunities for this generation and the one coming up right behind.  Otherwise they won't hesitate to listen to another message.

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