May 4, 2009
The armed opposition in Pakistan is growing. It has spread out from the Northwest Frontier Province, the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, through the Swat Valley, to the province of Buner, just 60 miles away from the capital of Islamabad.
At the same time, battles continue to blaze in Karachi, a city of 14 million people on the southwest coast of the country, and its economic center. Bombing attacks have even hit the capital of Islamabad.
It’s no accident that Pakistan is blowing up now. Pakistan has long had huge income disparities and grinding poverty, especially in the countryside, where backward feudal structures have continued to rule. Since the beginning of 2008, as the global economic crisis has deepened, the conditions in Pakistan have only gotten worse. Inflation is at 20%, affecting especially the prices of food and fuel. Unemployment is skyrocketing in the cities. The rural areas are being even more cut off economically from the rest of the country and the world.
This poverty and desperation have fueled a growing opposition in both the cities and the countryside – which sometimes has taken the form of riots, sometimes of armed groupings that attack government outposts.
The governments of Pakistan and the U.S. call this the “Pakistani Taliban.” It’s a fiction, since what exists is not a single, unified insurgency but a varied set of forces in various areas of the countries. These range from out-and-out insurgencies in areas like the tribal areas that the central government has never really controlled, to bombings and armed attacks in cities like Karachi and Islamabad. The central government has all but ceded control to insurgents in areas like the Swat Valley, where they’ve declared a truce “allowing” those insurgents to establish Sharia law.
Into this situation, the U.S., already unable to control an insurgency in Afghanistan, has increased its attacks into the border areas of neighboring Pakistan.
These U.S. attacks started as rocket attacks from unmanned drones, and have expanded into armed Special Forces incursions and stepped-up CIA activity over the Afghani border into the tribal region of Pakistan, killing civilians indiscriminately. The U.S. has also pushed the Pakistani government to send its army into these areas to do the same.
Most recently, in the Buner town of Pulo Dand, the Pakistani military claimed to have killed 50 members of what they called the Taliban. But residents of the town said that the military had simply fired indiscriminately into houses. In one house, two children died, one man was nearly killed, and a woman lost both her legs. Three men drove toward the army to get them to stop; they were all killed by rockets fired from helicopters.
Is it any wonder the anger and the insurgency grow – toward the Pakistani government and the U.S. military? Is it any wonder the government is more and more discredited and stands on more and more shaky ground?
Indiscriminate killing and growing anger are all part of the package when the U.S. tries to impose its will on other regions of the globe. It happened in Iraq, and in Afghanistan – and now in Pakistan.