Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Frontier Watch

There are mixed reports emanating from Khurram Agency/Parachinar: on one hand, there has been a peace deal between different tribes to establish a ceasefire. What the long-term effects of such a deal are going to be is anyone's guess. At least one report suggests that things are still quite bad there, with kidnappings of prominent Shias continuing. Having seen how the Taliban have treated some of their previous captives, one can only pray fervently for the safety of all such captives.

What is truly atrocious is the lack of government action in the region. It is one thing for the state to be unaware of ground realities, or to be ineffectual in its action, but to not respond militarily when the Parachinar issue has been in the news so much is criminal. I don't know the strategic imperatives of the Army, which might not want to open up too many fronts against an unconventional enemy, but regular supplies and a skeletal defense unit surely isn't asking too much for the people of the Khurram Agency.

This whole situation does shed ugly light on the modus operandi of the Talib and Al-Qaeda. If they're fanatical enough to go after the Shia, surely Sunnis of a different shade aren't too much of a stretch for them either? The strategic response of the Pakistani state depends in part on how well Sunnis realize that it is in their interest to participate fully in intercepting this Taliban threat against the Shia. Unfortunately, the Pakistani state has a track record for only the most half-hearted of responses to the sectarian threat, which is as great today than ever.

Finally, if anyone in Pakistan needs any convincing that we need the strongest resolve against the Taliban et. al., notice that they had no problem sending suicide bombers to blow up tribal leaders opposed to them. Crucially, there is no evidence to suggest that these attacks were sectarian or ideological in any way; they were simply tactically expedient. If these people have no compunctions sending suicide bombers against any of their enemies, it takes away from any scraps of a claim they had to be ideologically motivated. Moreover, it truly boggles the mind to think that a young boy can be convinced to carry out such an attack. What sort of brain-washing goes on in these camps? What are the incentives given? Conversely, is it the case that a bomber who fails to carry the bombing out is punished so severely (torture etc) that he prefers to blow himself up?

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