India-Pakistan: September 14, 2001

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Pakistan is caught in crises partially of its own making as American presses it to provide access to Afghanistan through Pakistani ports and border crossings into Afghanistan (particularly the Khyber Pass.) It was Pakistan that provided aid for millions of  Afghan refugees and bases for Afghan fighters resisting the Russian occupation. America and Saudi Arabia provided billions of dollars of support, as well as weapons and equipment. When the Russians left, Afghan factions fought each other. Pakistani army intelligence encouraged the formation of the Taliban and supported that organizations conquest of most of Afghanistan. Since then, this Pakistani support has backfired. First, there are still two million Afghans remaining in northwest Afghanistan. This is a problem for several reasons. First, northwest and southwest Pakistan are what the Pakistani's call "tribal areas." Here, local government is based on tribe and clan loyalty, and the central government has little control. The Afghan refugees came over to Pakistan as families and clans and reestablished their tribal organization. This was fine when Pakistan was controlling (and taking a cut of) Saudi and American aid into the area. But now the Pakistanis have found that the Afghan refugees control the Pakistani territory they occupy. Pakistan has tried to maintain some control by continuing to support the Taliban. But it gets worse. Pakistan also has it's own Islamic radicals. And it gets still worse, Pakistan has several flavors of Islamic radicals (Sunni and Shia are the major ones), as well as divisions between native Pakistani Islamic radicals and those Moslems that came from Indian when India and Pakistan were partitioned in 1948. And then there are the Islamic radicals who take the lead in fighting to conquer Indian controlled Kashmir. This gets more complicated because some Islamic radicals in Kashmir want to join the Pakistani and Indian controlled portions in a Kashmiri Islamic state. Still further complications arise from Pakistan's inability to build a democratic state  (like India has), eliminate corruption and build a robust economy (which India has been more successful at.) Pakistan is currently ruled by a general who overthrew an elected president last year. The current government has been cracking down on Islamic radicals over the last few months and is finally talking with India over settling the Kashmir dispute. This is promising, as the half century Kashmir problem has grown to be a low level war, including frequent artillery duels across the Line of Control that separates the Indian and Pakistan portions of Kashmir. And now America is moving to go into Afghanistan to take out Bin Laden and his terrorist organization. Pakistan president (and former general) Musharraf has said he would cooperate. This would allow American forces to use Pakistani ports to bring in troops, and cross Pakistani territory to reach Afghanistan and use Pakistani air bases. Pakistan is also asked to provide information on Bin Laden and the Taliban, But the cost may be high. The western tribes in Pakistan contain a lot of Islamic fundamentalists and none of the tribes like foreigners, especially non-Moslem foreigners. Cynics (or realists) say that Musharraf  is letting the Americans in for two reasons. First, this will make American beholden to Pakistan and result in more aid. Secondly, the Americans may have to fight the pro-Taliban Afghan refugees in the northwest and save Pakistan the trouble. As complicated as the situation inside Afghanistan is, America will find Pakistan even more inscrutable.

 

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