Pakistan Update

Political Front 

There’s a lot of speculation over Musharraf and whether, how, and when he will lose his uniform. My prediction: He will lose his uniform when he decides, which will be after the campaign in the frontiers that is inevitable now, but before full elections.

Some think he will be re-elected by current assembly in-uniform, and that there will be an interim PM, that remains to be seen. These could be ideas floated to see how popular or unpopular they would be. The Benazir Bhutto / Musharraf deal seems to have dug the holes and inserted the goal posts, but they aren’t quite to pouring the concrete yet.

Meanwhile, Qazi from the MMA is getting grilled by the party for resigning unilaterally over Lal Masjid — this clearly shows their sympathies lie with the terrorists and that they are the political arm of the Taliban and Zawahiri’s front groups. This will lose them votes and popularity, as even the frontiers are souring on the extremism they’ve lived with too long as it’s hitting closer and closer to home. (remember letters from Ayman Al Zawahiri to the Ghazi brothers directing some of Lal Masjid’s actions were found after the storming.)

International Front : Only two things to point out here – this is a good editorial on the effects of US involvement. There is a large percentage of the Pakistani population that thinks Musharraf is either directly controlled by Washington, or heavily influenced. I wish that were true — were it so however, the frontiers would have been cleaned up three years ago. At most we can aid in the frontiers with intel from a distance without impacting the longer term peace in Pakistan. If the insurgency the goverment faces is going to be won, they are going to have to win it themselves along with the tribal leaders they can swing to their side.

The second is the nuclear-capable cruise missile test the past week — it did get some attention from Pakistan’s neighbors, and I’m not referrring to India since they always follow Pakistani military developments closely.

UPDATE: Theres a very lucid article at Foreign Affairs you should; please note that the spellchecker probably got the author, Daniel Markey — where it says “condominium” in reference to the tie between the military and the government in Pakistan, please read instead “CoDominion”.

Terrorism Front:

Counter Terrorism blog details the takeover of a mosque / madrassa in Lakaro by Al Qaida / Taliban in the northwest of Peshawar, painting it red, and renaming it “Lal Masjid”. This is a repeat of the Lal Masjid standoff designed specifically to gain recruits, support and adherents since the Taliban and Al Qaeda are seriously lacking in all of the above. More here. ( I wish Dawn would review their code, and some of their link features, the cricket score thing makes this a slow load, sorry.)

Support for them has diminished as they’ve stayed well past welcome, and now brought terrorism directly home to the frontiers. Now that many have seen what Taliban rule will be like, most do not want anything to do with it. Couple that with killing their neighbors and closing their bazaars, and you see how AQAM is really in trouble with the Pashtun.

A tribal Jirga is examining what to do about the situation now, and although it irritates many of us in the West, it really is necessary to let the jirga play out. During that process it will be determined who is on which side, and who is neutral among the tribes. If Musharraf moves in the army to attack before the Jirga makes it’s decisions, then he will lose support from all tribes, and he’s got to take every chip off the table for AQ that he can before he moves. In the end, the Jirga could decide to do nothing, but even that’s better than going to the support of the Zawahiri Talibs. (Note that in the article they make an insistent point of it being “local”, however like the original, this new Lal Masjid is really directed by an Eqyptian.)

Haji Mujtaba gives a good run-down of the fighting and terrorist incidents around the frontier here; so far it’s light testing and probing, real battle is not yet joined.