A Better List About Pakistan

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Better, that is, than Jon Gold's Big Fat Anti-Muslim Hitlist...

Five things Cameron should know about Pakistan

Some advice for David Cameron before his meeting with Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, this Friday

by Simon Tisdall


David Cameron speaking in Bangalore

David Cameron delivers his controversial speech
in India criticising Pakistan's failure to tackle the Taliban.
Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

In an echo of the celebrated 1983 British movie, Educating Rita, Pakistani officials said this week that President Asif Ali Zardari
will attempt to "educate" David Cameron about their country and region
when the two men meet at a showdown summit at Chequers on Friday. But
the subject is a complex one that a busy prime minister may have little
time to study. And the controversial Zardari is not necessarily the most
objective teacher. So in the interest of "educating Dave", here are
five things Cameron should know about Pakistan:

1. Terror

Cameron
complained, accurately, that elements within Pakistan, including the
military's spy agency, have been complicit in exporting and supporting
terrorism, principally in Afghanistan and Kashmir. But overall, Pakistan
is more victim than perpetrator. Suicide bombings and other outrages in
major cities, fighting with Pakistani Taliban in the tribal areas, US
drone missile attacks on foreign jihadis, and political and religious
feuding caused 12,600 deaths last year alone. The Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies says 3,021 people died
in terrorist attacks in 2009, compared with about 2,000 in Afghanistan.
Since 2001, officials say more than 2,700 Pakistani security force
members have died. When it comes to fighting terror, a bit of the famous
Cameron humility might not be out of place.

2. Af-Pak Border

When discussing ways to "seal" the Afghan-Pakistani frontier, it's important to remember this border is largely imaginary. As Stephen Tanner noted in Afghanistan: A Military History,
"this arbitrary line, drawn through the mountains in 1893 by the
bird-watching Englishman, Mortimer Durand, was meant at the time to
split the Pashtun people, the world's largest remaining tribal-based
society". London also wanted to keep Peshawar, Quetta, and the strategic
Khyber Pass in the territory of the Raj. It succeeded in both aims –
but the partition of "Pashtunistan", heartland of the Taliban, is now a
major complicating factor in the security situation. This problem was
made in Britain.

3. Kashmir

India
routinely blocks international discussion of Kashmir, which it regards
as an internal matter even though much of the territory is controlled by
Pakistan and a bit by China. But as Labour MP Denis MacShane
wrote in today's Guardian, "not mentioning Kashmir is a sensible as not
mentioning Gaza when discussing the Middle East". The UN first proposed
a plebiscite on the territory's future in 1948. Delhi opposes a vote
and accuses the Punjab-based Lashkar-e-Taiba
militant group of fomenting violence. Since 1989 separatist conflict
involving the Muslim majority has killed more than 47,000 people in
Indian-controlled Kashmir; some estimates put the number at 100,000.
Violence has intensified in recent weeks; two anti-government
protesters, including a 16-year-old boy, were shot dead by police around Srinagar
earlier today. Kashmir was once described as the most dangerous place
in the world. It's an issue that a "plain speaking" PM should not try to
dodge.

4. Democracy

Pakistan's
democracy is a fragile creation, deserving of vigorous outside support,
and historically vulnerable to violent overthrow. But Britain's record
is unimpressive. After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979,
western countries including Britain connived with General Zia ul-Haq,
who had led a military coup against the elected prime minister, Zulfikar
Ali Bhutto, in 1977 and subsequently hanged him. Britain and the US
also warmly embraced General Pervez Musharraf, who seized power from an
elected civilian government in 1999, and hugged him close after the 9/11
attacks. Now there are signs that the current army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
may be getting too big for his boots (with Washington's
encouragement). Who d'you want to deal with, Dave? Pakistani democrats,
with all their failings, or another dictator?

5. People

Pakistan's
population is more than three times the size of Britain's – about 180
million – and is growing fast. Although the economy expanded by 4% in
the year to June, most Pakistanis, especially in rural areas, endure
chronic poverty, youth unemployment is high, and corruption is
pervasive. Education is the key. But while educational opportunities
remain limited, the potential for radicalisation of young Muslim men
through madrassas (foreign-funded religious schools) is significant.
Visiting in June, international development secretary Andrew Mitchell
said: "Pakistan is facing an education emergency. The facts are
shocking. Half the adult population – and two-thirds of women – are
illiterate."

Although Mitchell announced an expansion of
bilateral educational assistance, more needs to be done. Doubling
Britain's annual £130m aid to Pakistan would be an audacious move at a
time of domestic financial austerity. But it would serve the British
national interest – and after the bitter arguments of recent days, would
send an overdue, positive message in typical "Cameron Direct" style.

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/aug/03/advice-cameron-pakis...