The challenge for Pakistan

Challenge for Pakistan

Pakistan’s tumultuous relationship with the West has put the country at the forefront of the so called War on Terror.With violence flaring in the North West Frontier province and the recent attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, many analysts are predicting Pakistan’s future as a failed state.


Since former President Musharraf signed up to America’s so called “War on Terror” the country has been spiralling out of control.The violence in Afghanistan has spread south of the border into Pakistan.The Pakistani military, once respected and admired by Pakistanis, is now engaged in a war against its own citizens, that has resulted in large civilian casualties and thousands of internally displaced refugees from the Bajour Agency ,in the North West Frontier Province, and neighbouring regions.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 thousands of students from religious schools in and around Pakistan and Afghanistan were encouraged to take part in ‘jihad’ against the Russian occupation.These mujahedeen fighters were trained and financed by both the Americans and the Pakistani military to fight off a common enemy.After the withdrawal of the Russian troops however the mujahedeen fighters turned on each other, and a bloody civil war ended with the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan.

Let us think outside the paradigm of the so called war on terror, outside the common narrative that we have just read above. What is really taking place?

War on Terror

The so-called “Pakistani Taliban” have been mounting attacks not only against the Pakistani military but also against ordinary people living in the region.If you ask people in Pakistan including in the provincial capital of the North West Frontier Province, Peshawer, people tell you “these militants are not Taliban”.There is the belief in Pakistan that the so called Pakistani Taliban have no links to the Taliban in Afghanistan. This is in fact supported by a statement from the Afghan Taliban that the so called Pakistani Taliban have nothing to do with them.The ‘militants’ in Pakistan seem to be jumping on the Taliban brand name to gain both religious and political legtimacy.They are well funded, well equipped and trained well enough to battle the Pakistani army.

Possible Balkanisation?

Professor Michel Chossudovsky, director of the centre for research on Globalisation, recently wrote in his article the destabilasation of Pakistan, “Washington’s foreign policy course is to actively promote the political fragmentation and Balkanization of Pakistan as a nation” along ethnic lines.Pakistan faces the breakup of itself as a nation, which could lead to an independent Pashtunistan, made up of the NWFP and border regions and also independence for Baluchistan.Pakistan would be left with just the states of Punjab and Sindh.
Challenge for Pakistan

Far fetched? Well not if you consider the strategic location of Pakistan in the light of American and Chinese interests.China has recently signed a deal to develop the port of Gawadar in Baluchistan; this will be the largest Chinese construction investment outside of China.Chinese access to the Indian Ocean is making both India and the United States uneasy.While America does not want China anywhere near the Straits of Hormuz.India has had a continuous military rivalry with Pakistan, and the presence of China, a close military ally of Pakistan, could be seen as a potential threat to India.

Pakistani Government

The Pakistani government, currently led by the Pakistan Peoples Party, has lurched from one embarrassing incident to another after the end of President Musharraf’s rule in 2008.Apparent splits in the government began to emerge after the attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, with conflicting reports being given regarding the nationality of one of the alleged terrorists.This culminated in the sacking of the National Security Advisor, Mahmud Ali Durrani, by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

However the biggest embarrassment to Pakistan and its people was when the Hilal-i-Quaid-I-Azam was conferred on Richard Boucher, US assistant secretary of State for central and South Asian affairs, by President Asif Ali Zardari for his ‘services to Pakistan’.Zardari has shown he is reluctant to break with the same governments that had favoured Musharraf.He has ignored the will of the Pakistani people and their anger at the war in Afghanistan and the consequences it has for Pakistan.US drone attacks and US troops carrying out operations on Pakistani soil which have resulted in huge civilian casualties have been met not with protest, but with the awarding of Pakistan’s highest civilian award to Boucher. The award was met with shock and criticism by politicians and media alike.

The latest crisis to grip Pakistan’s beleaguered government has just ended in a significant climbdown for President Asif Ali Zardari.The crisis began when the Supreme Court barred opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, and his brother, Shahbaz, from elected office. The government of Pakistan’s most populous state, Punjab, led by Shabaz was duly dismissed.Sharif then threw his weight into the lawyers’ movement that has been active for the past two years following the sacking of the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry.Despite a government clampdown on protestors and attempts to place Sharif under house arrest, the protest gathered strength and thousands of supporters, determined to take their grievances to Islamabad.Zardari’s crackdown even went as far as to shut down independent news channels, which lead to the resignation of the Information Minister, Sherry Rehman.In the face of this Zardari was forced to step down, and to reinstate Chaudhry and other judges sacked by Musharraf.He was also forced to order the release of the political activists who have been arrested over the past week.People have been drawing parallels with Musharraf’s rule and have taken to the streets to demand change, and in doing so, they have shaken Zardari’s government.

Regardless of the incompetence and corruption of the government and the emerging threat from ‘militants’ and any future American plans for Pakistan,the Pakistani people seem to be holding together.On the streets of Pakistan, from Lahore to Islamabad, from Karachi to Peshawar, people seem to be in a defiant mood, and have no appetite for a fragmented nation.

On the busy streets of Peshawar lies a memorial for those that fought the British in the early 20th century.The same people will fight any occupier or any one that wills Pakistan harm.The Pakistani people are strong and will fight intellectually, verbally and if need be physically to defend their country against any oppressor.However, Pakistan’s biggest threat may come from within.

Interpal bank account threatened with closure

Interpal, a British charity providing development and relief for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza strip, has been served notification from the Islamic Bank of Britain that the charity’s account will soon be closed.

This comes as a result of Lloyds TSB, the Islamic Bank’s clearing bank serving notice to “cease all dealings with Interpal”, according to a statement released by the charity.

The notice comes into effect as of eighth December, during the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Adha, a time when Muslims are encouraged to give charity.

The charity said: “All transactions into or out of Interpal accounts will be blocked and IBB will be at further risk of all its customer payments being suspended.”
It added: “This is not only an attack on Interpal, a leading British charity, but on all other Muslim charities, all charities working in politically-sensitive regions, all customers of IBB and the Palestinian people, 80% of whom are completely dependent on international aid for survival.”

The decision to close Interpal accounts comes at a time when the United Nations agency assisting Palestinian refugees was forced to suspend food distribution, earlier this week, due to Israel’s continued border closures in Gaza preventing the delivery of vital supplies to Gaza’s 1.5 million residents.

“Fuel pipelines remained closed, leaving Gaza with continued disruptions to its power supplies and adding to the rapid decline of socio-economic conditions” according to the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process.

In September this year a World Bank report warned that the continued restrictions placed on the Palestinians by Israel was severely limiting the Palestinian economy and making Palestinians even more dependent on foreign aid.

When approached the Islamic Bank of Britain said that it would “not comment on individual accounts” and Lloyds TSB offered a similar response stating “we do not comment on our relationship with corporate customers”.

Muslim groups responded with anger. The Muslim public affairs committee (MPACUK) said “Lloyds TSB have shown how much they value their Muslim customers by demanding that IBB terminate Interpal’s banking facilities” and encouraged people to write and phone Lloyds TSB demanding that they “rescind this outrageous, unfair and arbitrary decision”.

The Muslim Council of Britain, a national representative umbrella organisation, said they had written to Lloyds TSB saying the decision was “causing the MCB and the Muslim community tremendous concern and anxiety” and added that they “deplore the pressure that has been placed on IBB to close down the Interpal account”.

The MCB also sent out a warning to Lloyds TSB referring to the “significant number of Muslim account holders” the bank possesses and the fact that Lloyds TSB has been “reaching out for business for its shariah compliant current account” adding “If banking services to Interpal are not reinstated, then this will inevitably influence the actions of its existing and future customer base”. However MCB refrained from stating exactly what action they would take in the event of Interpal’s account being closed.

Interpal has faced numerous accusations since it was established in 1994.
In 2003 the US government designated Interpal a terrorist entity, accusing the charity of funding the Palestinian group HAMAS. However the UK charity commission found no links to terrorism stating “The American authorities were unable to provide evidence to support their allegations”.

In 2007 NATWEST closed the charities account citing pressure from the law suit bought by 14 families of Israeli suicide bomb victims.

The claim was bought against the Royal Bank of Scotland, NATWEST’s parent group, under the US Anti-Terrorism Act.