Ed Note: See here for background reaching back to August 2008, when the CIA commenced bombing Pakistan with drone missiles.
And see comments below to follow events henceforth, including the Peace Talks that turned out to have been attended by a Flim Flam Man in the guise of the Taliban. How long can this travesty go on?
Pakistan today closed off the main Khyber Pass portal that the US and its meagre coalition-of-the-willing use to supply their war efforts in Afghanistan, after the latest of recent US helicopter attacks killed three uniformed Paki servicemen.
Across the three days prior to the latest attack, Islamabad had expressed outrage at the helicopter raids, which at that point had killed many civilians among some sixty dead.
As the border closing was announced,
The Pakistani interior minister, Rehman Malik indicated that NATO strikes in Pakistan were being taken extremely seriously. â€śWe will have to see whether we are allies or enemies,â€ť he said Thursday.
The move to challenge the Americans also comes just two days after Pakistan’s top generals and American officials all expressed loud displeasure with the Islamabad government led by Benazir Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari:
American officials, too, say it has left them increasingly disillusioned with Mr. Zardari, a deeply unpopular president who was elected two and a half years ago on a wave of sympathy after the assassination of his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. …
In a meeting on Monday that was played on the front page of Pakistanâ€™s newspapers, the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, confronted the president and his prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, over incompetence and corruption in the government.
According to the press and Pakistani officials familiar with the conversation, the general demanded that they dismiss at least some ministers in the oversized 60-member cabinet, many of whom face corruption charges.
The civilian government has so far resisted the generalâ€™s demand. But the meeting was widely interpreted by the Pakistani news media, which has grown increasingly hostile to the president, as a rebuke to the civilian politicians and as having pushed the government to the brink.
After the meeting, the presidentâ€™s office issued a statement, approved by all the men, saying they had agreed â€śto protect the democratic process and to resolve all issues in accordance with the constitution.â€ť
A Pakistani official close to the president who was familiar with the conversation but did not want to be identified, said, â€śThe president made it clear that he would not leave, come what may.â€ť
â€śSanity had prevailed,â€ť the official added. …
In his most recent visit to Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, the American special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the international community could not be expected to provide all the billions of dollars needed to repair the flood damage, a warning interpreted here as a rebuke of the civilian government and its mismanagement.
But Washington, not unlike Pakistanâ€™s military, is caught, American officials say, because there is no appetite for a return of military rule. Nor is there desire to see the opposition politician and former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, resume power.
The last is interesting in that Sharif would be popular and even more difficult for Washington to control. But the Times report reports he has no interest in stepping up at the moment given the general chaos.
So it seems that just as Washington has abandoned President Karzai in favor of a perhaps imaginary reprise of Northern Alliance (non-Pashtun) so-called warlords, so across the border it may be looking for a collection of Men We Can Work With.
And as Fletcher Prouty pointed out (while discussing the assassination of President Diem of Vietnam in 1963), when Washington withdraws support of an allied leader, the latter’s native enemies soon swarm and conduct a coup. This may be the week that President Zardari became a walking dead man slated to join his wife in martyrdom. Or perhaps friends in Paris.
Along those lines, note that two weeks ago, September 17, in London, emigre Paki leader Imran Farooq was murdered, leading to great unease in Karachi (the New York of Pakistan), where the MQM party, which he once led and still helped manage, is a major power:
As [Robert Mackey's] colleague Carlotta Gall explained last week, the M.Q.M. represents families who moved to what is today Pakistan when India was partitioned in 1947:
“Political power struggles in the countryâ€™s sprawling port city of Karachi have degenerated into an ethnic turf war between two parties in the governing coalition, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, whose support base is drawn from Urdu-speaking immigrants, and the Awami National Party, whose base is mostly Pashtun. Targeted killings left 165 dead people in August, including some senior political figures.
Now tens of thousands of people displaced by the floods, most of them ethnic Sindhis, are arriving in Karachi, adding a volatile new element to the political dynamic there. While Sindhi nationalists are welcoming them, opponents, like M.Q.M. members, warn that they will create more violence.”
In 2007, the BBC explained that the M.Q.M.â€™s leaders have effectively run large parts of Karachi from London for years. At the time, a party spokesman said it was not necessary for the cityâ€™s leaders to actually be in Pakistan, since, â€śin these days of high-tech communication why not govern Karachi from London? Itâ€™s a new form of outsourcing.â€ť
And note that two days before Farooq was killed, the former Paki president General Pervez Musharraf announced he would return from friendly exile to start a new political party.
Meanwhile the long delayed NATO offensive to cleanse Kandahar of people who don’t side with the Kabul government of Karzai (whom the americans themselves have been steadily defaming for more than a year) seems to have muddled but continues. It began in mid August. Two days ago the American commander Petraeus told the press of peace talks of some sort . between Karzai and that loose coalition of unwilling various Afghans in arms referred to in the press as the Taliban.
All this comes against the great disaster of the summer in Pakistan — flooding of biblical proportions, which the western world reacted to largely with a yawn, but which since beginning in late July has (says the Times) “ruined just about every physical strand that knit this country together â€” roads, bridges, schools, health clinics, electricity and communications.”
Has Pakistan this September, under such pressures, begun to cease to exist as the state we’ve dealt with since the Soviet invasion next door?