SHOULD WE BE WORRIED?

As the days merge into weeks and weeks into months, our problems and difficulties get bigger.  Obviously, there are limits to the capacity of any system to remain within the boundary of its design.  Overburdened natural systems first go into stress.  If it is not relieved, it morphs into trauma.  If the trauma exceeds the design capacity consistently and for a long time, it leads to convulsion and demise.

Social systems and institutions are no different  they can take stress for that much time only.  We are I guess now in the trauma phase; the War on Terror has generated forces that have perhaps exceeded the Pakistani social and institutional system’s ability to respond in a manner consistent with good policy making. Bad decisions will abound because this is a decaying model of governance.

Some of the recent events in this chronicle are:

The War in Waziristan has indicated that the yearning for martyrdom and drive of benefits from war has not ended.  During the period there has been escalation in the fighting both in terms of quzntity and quality.  Although the military held its ground in most cases by defending forts and outposts in Sarrarogha, Ladha and Siplatoi but the nature of the fight should be a point of worry.

This is because the attacks show that Baitullah and company have advanced from snipping and skirmishing to set piece attacks; although the official media reports of attacks by large groups of 400 , 600 men, I would place the numbers much lower than that  not more than 100 men. 

What these attacks prove beyond doubt now is that Baitullah’s forces are better trained and equipped than before.  The Predator attack recently on Mirali in North Waziristan, which killed a very senior Al-Qaeda figure Libby, proves that the radical have the mobility and training capacity. Why do I say that?

Libby came from somewhere to go to another place. How is this movement taking place?  Surely, the al-Qaeda does not have aerial mobility. You guessed it right!  It must be by road.  If Libby was moving by road what does that prove? It proves that we have large security gaps.

            Libby was obviously a dedicated al-Qaeda leader. Why should he be in Waziristan and that too in the Turi Khel tribe’s area.  This is the region stretching from Mirali and west-ward to Razmak, Shawal and Makin which is one of the largest Mahsud settlements. At the same time there has been a spate of attacks on Razmak Camp from all sides and in which missiles were fired.

            It generates two plausible and disturbing hypotheses. Firstly, that now the North Waziristan Turi Khels, which is a large and a strategically located people have joined Baitullah in large enough numbers to form a critical mass. Secondly, Libby’s presence is likely to be related to this fact since the new additions from the Turi Khael would need training, equipment and money.

            What does it mean in the short term? Three things.  Firstly, the Pakistani military forces stretched out in North and South Waziristan will come under more attacks.  After a while the attacks will begin to take their toll.

            Secondly, as the fighting goes on, the tactical ability of the tribal warriors will improve and their attacks will become more widespread and better organized.  Let us not forget that one of the attacks on Ladha Fort was at night.  The implication is that Baitullah has succeeded in getting night fighting ability. Does he possess night vision equipment?

            Thirdly, besides attacks on banks and kidnappings, Turi Khel specialities some attacks on large towns in Bannu District appear a distinct possibility.

             The fighting in Kohat may have ended but with some frightening questions still remaining unanswered. Firstly, the group that had fought against the military did not materialize over night.  I know for a fact that this build up took place over a nine months period or even longer. It is another matter to be investigated why space is given at all for such offensive evil minded groups to gather in the first instance?

            Secondly, all the Kashmiri Jihadi outfits were represented in fighting the military. What does this mean? Firstly, that they are involved in fighting the state. Secondly, these groups were a product of Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir with India for a long time. Obviously their military organizers and runners are now being killed? Why and for what reason? Do they feel betrayed?

            The next question is does no one keep a muster roll of such dangerous individuals?  What will happen if such groups re-enter Kashmir.  If they could congregate within the monitored and policed heartland of Pakistan is getting back into Indian Kashmir difficult? I don’t think so. If that is the case then will we be getting broiled into that sad border anew?

            Another cynical view expressed by some is that since there is more stringent monitoring over the establishment of new Jihadi camps in Pakistan, only live training can be useful to keep the flow going. Either that or the Pakistan military is having its own blow-back problem with its former Jihadi outfits.  Is all that is happening in Swat, Kohat or Waziristan a prologue to something else?

            U.S. Senate was told in recent testimonies that since 2002 Pakistan had received about $ 10.4 billion out of which only $ 745 million were grants for social sectors.  The rest was assistance or payment for war operations.  

            The Pakistani Senate was informed that the country took loans worth more than $ 10 billion during the last five years. The Senate was also informed that grants worth more than $ 2 billion were received over the same period. 

            According to this calculation the total amount transferred during the period comes to more than $ 22 billion!  I am sure I am wrong in my counting somewhere.  For all this money we do not have to show one mega dam or huge project. What has happened to these sums?

            I am not adding the money provided by China and others into the sum  but what have we done with it?  We do not have gas, power or wheat so what is happening  will someone please tell me?

            The Malakand Shariat reform law has been sent to the President for ratification.  It further amends the previous Malakand Shariat Act 1999. What does it mean? It does two institutional bad things. 

            Firstly, it atomises the legal system even more.  Malakand was already being administered differently from the rest of Pakistan including NWFP, with its own provincially administered laws.   Now, an institutional division will be created. Appeals against the judgments will lie not with the NWFP High Court but with the Federal Shariat Court.  Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, a former President during his Islamization drive had created a separate system of law which was meant as the supreme judicial arbiter until challenged by the Supreme Court , which said that only it was entitled to that position.

            Secondly, the judges in Malakand will be guided by a religious Mullah/Muavin in reaching a decision.  As if the judge was a non-Muslim!  Thirdly what prevents Sufi Muhammad’s vigilantes from enforcing their law by armed threats?

            Napoleon will writhe in his grave to note how the writ of a somewhat decent state was being destroyed by expediency. On the other hand Sufi Muhammad will be smiling gleefully from his prison cell.  He has won a big victory! 

Elections are fixed for February 18, 2008 should we expect that the elections will be problem free? What happens in the after math of the result? My projection is that there will be more crisis, mayhem, deaths and another state crisis! 

            I began this piece by questioning the ability of the state to bear pressure over a long period of time.  Since, I think we have reached the limits, the fig leaf of democracy, rule of law and elections will be lifted soon in the post February 18 election period. I also posed a question for the title to this piece; should we be worried? The answer is yes, we should be very worried!

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