Counter-Terrorism: Earthquakes, Terrorists and Politics

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October 17, 2005: The devastating earthquake that struck northern Pakistan, and nearby regions of Afghanistan and India recently, may have an important effect on the Islamic underground in that country, and its tentacles into Afghanistan and the Indian area of Kashmir. Reportedly, some Islamic base camps in remote areas were heavily damaged, which might led to a lessening of radical support for the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Kashmir, particularly as large numbers of Pakistani troops – two full divisions from Peshawar -- have flooded into the affected region. While these troops will be focused on humanitarian relief operations, their very presence is likely to have a deterrent effect on Islamic radicals or their tribal supporters, which may ease some of the resistance faced by Pakistani forces already committed to anti-terrorist operations along the Afghan frontier, to the southwest of the most heavily devastated area.

In addition to helping the war on terror, the prompt response of the Pakistani government and the international community, including India, could greatly strengthen the position of president Pervez Musharraf, already on a roll since recent local elections produced a substantial improvement in political support for his government.


But there is also a danger here. Corruption is a way of life in Pakistan, and if relief funds and supplies are mismanaged or even siphoned off by venal officials, a serious backlash could occur. In the aftermath of the devastating 1972 earthquake that leveled Managua, the capitol of Nicaragua, an enormous outpouring of international assistance largely disappeared into the pockets of Dictator Anastasio Somoza and his henchmen, a development that led directly to a significant increase in poplar support for what had been a largely ineffective insurgency by the Marxist Sandinista movement.

 


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