Pakistan: The Beginning of the Storm

Pakistan: The Beginning of the Storm

There has been much analysis and discussion of what is happening in the global war between Islam and the West. Clear analysis somehow seems missing in the mainstream media, or even amongst well regarded analysts and think tanks. For one, we can only see the views and propaganda of one side of the battle taking place in Pakistan. Further, the issues run so deep and touch us so close, that it becomes hard to think and discuss them without being emotionally involved.

At GrandeStrategy, we believe that the fundamental battle taking place in Pakistan is between the secular and western-based educated pro-American elites, against the Islam-championing hard core religious types. The former we shall here on refer to as the Secular Pakistanis, while the latter we shall represent as the Islamist Pakistanis, merely to ease the writing of this article, not to imply any deeper meaning, as to what “Islamists” are or what represents “Secular”.

To get deeper into this problem, let us start by looking at the fundamentals within a Marxist analysis. The constituencies that the Secular Pakistanis are rooted in are the upper classes and the upper middle class, and represent the Bourgeoisie. This class has strong roots in Pakistan with the landed classes. At the risk of going-off at a tangent, I”ll go deeper into the origins of this landed class. The landed classes in Pakistan go back in history to when the British Raj took over India. To exert control over the vast Subcontinent, the British came up with a plan to divide and rule India by creating a class of landowners, that would owe their position to the British. Thus they went about granting land and setting rules and guidelines to create this petite bourgeoisie. While in other parts of the Subcontinent, the power and influence of this class greatly diminished after partition, in Pakistan, this class not only managed to maintain its power base but to expand it, to the point that they became the new bourgeoisie. While new power groups emerged, such as the industrial class, expatriate Pakistanis, corrupt wealth accumulators and the elite of the armed forces, these groups soon became assimilated to this now thriving elite “melting pot”.

These families together represent the heart of Pakistan”s ruling class. It may be instructive to paint a typical picture of such a family – education begins at English language schools, graduating with British qualifications such as O Levels and A Levels. Thereafter, one can go off to college abroad or at a top local university. Families usually have at least some relatives living abroad. Career choices include the armed forces, good civilian jobs at top organizations (gotten through family connections), running the family business or pursuing almost any career abroad. Marriage is typically arranged and one favorable choice is within the extended family. Often they marry their own cousins. However, other families of a similar status are also common matchmaker potential.

The Islamist Pakistanis have their roots in the lower and lower middle class of Pakistan. With Pakistan”s rapid Malthusian population growth, these classes have expanded faster than it has been possible for the government to adequately support them. These people live hard working lives, at best being able to afford motorcycles. They live from day to day and find life to be an endless struggle. These people by and large do not care about political parties, instinctively knowing that these are but instruments of the elite. They know that their is no real rule of law, that police are their to rob them and that any member of the elite can easily get away by paying off a judge or the policeman. When they manage to go abroad, typically to the Gulf states, they go as modern indentured servants.

These classes typically come from disadvantaged families that either get their eduction through Islamic schools called madrassas or through government run schools. Those that make it, can hope to reach financial advantage either through business, through joining the civil service and gaining wealth through corruption, going abroad (but here as low cost slave-labor, particularly to Arab states) and joining the military.

With the hard economic conditions of the 1990s and the radicalization of the madrassas, these classes have been a steady source of men, materials and financing for the extremists. Many amongst these classes have their sympathies and loyalties with these extremists. Many revere OBL as a savior, and this is reflected in the name Ossama becoming the most popular baby name in Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks. Success of the Islamist Pakistanis thus far is a direct result of being able to channel their anger against the elite, linking the latter to the West”s anti-Islam crusade. With no real political channel to bring their boiling anger out, their only channel becomes the Islamist Pakistanis.

Further, the open pro-western stance of the establishment, clampdown on any form of serious dissent, the black and white manner in which the US has come out against Islam, all have colluded to bring matters to a boiling point.

The Secular Pakistanis have not had this level of success with their constituency. Many of their own children, particularly those in their 20s, and a good portion of all ages that have lived abroad, have become increasingly pro-Islam and anti-West. This is the critical problem that could eventually lead to the collapse of the established elite in Pakistan. Within them, the two groups mentioned, the local college-aged pro-Islamist group and the expatriate pro-Islamists need to be analyzed more closely.

The College-Aged Pro-Islamists represent a thorny quandary for the established elite. The problem results from the clear anti-Islam crusade that the US is conducting, their just isn”t any ambiguity left to argue against. Further, the establishment has done a poor job in its propaganda, in appropriately socializing their own progeny. Open access to information via the internet has also played a role. The main political outlet for this group are college campuses. With the government crackdown (backed by ISI) of the college campuses, it remains to be seen if this group can reinvent itself elsewhere. For the Islamist Pakistanis, if this group builds an active alliance and joins with the hard-core militant extremists, then it could very well spell the end of Pakistan as Secular Pakistan has known it. However, the likelihood of this happening is less, given that these westernized progeny has as little in common with the militant extremists as Shanghai Chinese would have with a Redneck America.

The expatriate community is another important piece in the chess board. One characteristic is that the expat community is truly radicalized: while in Pakistan proper we find the overwhelming majority of the people somewhere inbetween the two wider positions, the expat Pakistani community is either strongly secular or strongly Islamist. The key problem for the establishment however, is that the Secular expats want to distance themselves and assimilate into their Western hosts while the increasing number is Islamists are rallying and going back in large numbers. They are also better organized and better connected, and perhaps even have more resources backing them up. This group has had a huge hand in the economic prosperity Pakistan has seen post 9/11, as they have brought back skills, money and key contacts to establish marketing channels. If ever the Islamist Pakistanis can unite as a whole, it would be under their banner.

The Pakistan Army is the central institution that runs the country, whether there is a democratic government or not. Militarily, the Pakistan army is well trained and seasoned, adequately armed and excellent at smaller unit combat. At full theater combat Pakistan, like India have developed a mental block. This stems (for both Pakistan and India), perhaps to the fact that the generals are not well trained in their art. Since in British India, the British took the higher positions, their is a deep grained mental block in thinking strategically, and going through with wider plans. The comedy of errors during 1965 is an able testament to this. The 1971 strategy of regional commands was a glaring red light. Further, with the involvement of the Pakistan army in politics and country running, these generals have become corrupt and this has further deteriorated their prowess. The Pakistan Army also breeds linear thinkers. Anybody who has been in close association with the Pakistan Army knows the specific setting they have and the manner in which the specific manner in which they think. Hierarchy and rank are also very important.

The Pakistan army further suffers from insidious inside politics, and with Ayub Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and now Musharraf, this level of politicization has only gone up. General Kiyani”s attempt seems to be to somehow rectify this, how far he will be successful in doing so is yet to be seen. Jehangir Karamat”s attempt had for some time really helped stall this slide but with Musharraf this has become much worse.

One of the key mistakes that Musharraf made post 9/11 and after joining the US has been within the Pakistan Army. There was huge outrage within the Pakistan Army, and this included many officers, including General Usmani, the man who saved Musharraf”s life when he took control of the civilian airport he was being denied landing to during the fiasco with Nawaz Sharif. Musharraf chose to eliminate this opposition by removing “Islamic” style officers, stereotypically “officers with beards”. This was a huge move and surprisingly did not receive a lot of media attention, because a significant number of officers where removed. Unfortunately for the Pakistan Army, these were some of the very best men in the Army, some of the most sincere, hardworking and well-trained officers. For many of the other soldiers in the army, this really threw their morale out the window, particularly since they have, ever since joining the army, been told that they have been fighting a “jihad” against India. (This author has literally spent time arguing with a Pakistani soldier who he at length couldn”t convince to the contrary, a few years before 9/11).

What has really gone under the radar is that many of these officers, particularly those from the NWFP, have since leaving the army, found their way to the tribal belts, and have joined the rebellion there. If one analyzes the tactics and organization of the Pakistani Taliban, they seem to be somehow differently organized to the Afghan Taliban, even though they are the same force, literally. This, in our opinion, is as a result of the profusion of these Pakistani officers, who have really helped in taking the Taliban organizationally to the next level. This has been one of the factors why the Pakistani Taliban have faired so well in recent years. The tactical retreat from Swat, while a political loss, was also extremely well executed.

With the death of Benazir, the Secular Pakistanis are in disarray, and their allies in Western capitals are in a state of panic. Benazir was the Queen on the chess board for the Western / Secular side. The Pakistan army is in disarray and fraught with internal issues, with their noses too far into Politics. At the same time, rumors are rife of an internal revolt within the army, under apparently a 3 star general. Desertion to the Pakistani Taliban has also become an increasingly steady flow. At Pakdef, the premier forum to gage the pulse of the establishment, members seem less sure of themselves, and somehow have lost those smug comments about how they will crush the tribal belt.

Yet, even with all this, the sheer power of the Pakistani establishment is hard to match for the aspiring Islamist Pakistanis. And even if all else gives way, they still have to contend with General Kiyani, and this gentleman has the brains and conviction to change the face of the game. What will his next move be? Nobody really knows, but the ball is in his (and Musharraf”s) court.