Stimson in the News

Michael Krepon publishes Op Ed in The Tribune: “Reclaiming Pakistan”

in Program


By:  Michael


hyphenated word has hung like a shroud over Pakistan ever since its founding
father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, vocalized what Great Britain produced in its hasty
retreat from empire: a moth-eaten state. 
In 1947, a British barrister, new to the subcontinent, drew artificial
lines on a map that carved up the Punjab, Bengal and Kashmir, producing a
hopelessly divided independent state of Pakistan. Pakistan remains a moth-eaten
country, only now, the spaces beyond the writ of the state are home to
extremist groups. They can be found in Pakistan’s heartland as well as on its
periphery.  Pakistan’s military and
intelligence services nurtured them with the expectation of gaining leverage
against India and within Afghanistan. Now, these quasi-independent fiefdoms
fill the spaces vacated by poor governance, economic stagnation, corruption,
flimsy social services, and a deteriorating educational system.

these groups, the Lashkar-e-Taiba has focused primarily on Indian targets – so
far.  The Afghan Taliban fire primarily
at U.S. and NATO forces – so far. 
Currently, the biggest threat to Pakistan’s military and intelligence
services is the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella group of tribal fighters
mobilized after President Pervez Musharraf ordered commando units to seize
control of the “Red Mosque” in Islamabad, whose clerics were openly defying the
state. A ten-day siege resulted in approximately 100 deaths, prompting a war of

war regularly takes a toll of innocent bystanders in shops and bazaars. Music shops
and girls’ school are regular targets. The latest targeted victim of violence,
a 14-year old school girl riding in a bus — has generated a moment of national
introspection. Malala Yousufzai gained global attention as a champion of education
for girls, which is considered a crime by obscurantists with guns in Pakistan.
She wanted to be a doctor.  Now she is in
a hospital bed in Rawalpindi, fighting to recover from bullet wound to her head.   

TTP’s home base is in the tribal lands of Waziristan, but its reach extends all
over Pakistan. Whenever Pakistan’s military forces turn up the heat, the TTP
reacts by carrying out mass-casualty acts of violence.  No city in Pakistan is exempt.  Prosecutions and judicial findings are hard
to come by in Pakistan, but the TTP may have been behind the December, 2007
assassination of Benazir in Rawalpindi, the September, 2008 truck bombing of
the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, and the failed New York City Times Square
bombing in May 2010. 

TTP has also been implicated in brazen suicide missions directed at Pakistani
military installations. Three are of particular note: the October, 2009 attack
on Army headquarters in Rawalpindi, the May 2010 Mehran Navy base attack in
Karachi, soon after the Osama bin Laden raid, and the August 2012 Kamra Air
Force base attack in the Punjab. Local security forces, reinforced by commando
units, repulsed these attacks. 
Additional strikes have been directed at soft targets, such as buses
outside defense production compounds and military facilities.  Regional ISI offices have also been hit.

attacks are likely, especially if Pakistan’s armed forces ratchet up their
operations against the TTP in North Waziristan. 
Those who demand that the Pakistan Army confront without further delay
the LeT, the Afghan Taliban, as well as the TTP, might bear this in mind. The
process of reclaiming Pakistan’s moth-eaten spaces will be painfully slow, and
the results will be uncertain. Malala was shot in Swat, where the Pakistan Army
is very much present, after carrying out a campaign to push back the Taliban. Even
if Pakistan’s military carry out intensified campaigns to reclaim territory,
they are unlikely to succeed if governance and economics remain hamstrung.

plight has been magnified by misconceived regional ambitions, especially
efforts to place India on the back foot in Kashmir and to limit Indian inroads
into Afghanistan. Rawalpindi’s calculation that every addition to Indian
strength would make Pakistan weaker has become true – less by Indian design
than by Pakistani missteps. To become whole again, Pakistan requires many
remedies, one of which is normal relations with its neighbors. Movement in this
direction, however, is likely to spark new explosions.

is no quick or easy way out of this vicious circle.  Every explosion that originates in Pakistan’s
moth-eaten parts works at cross-purposes with Pakistan’s interests – regardless
of where it occurs and who is victimized. 
Because of prior links to the perpetrators by Pakistan’s intelligence
services, complicity is assumed whenever attacks occur in India or Afghanistan
– even when this conclusion is unjustified. With each mass-casualty attack,
Pakistan’s standing and its economy are further damaged.  Pakistan loses without a single shot being
fired in retaliation. If these realizations take hold, Pakistan and India will
eventually have fewer explosions to deal with. In the meantime, Pakistan has no
choice but to methodically reclaim its moth-eaten parts, one step at a

only way out of this morass is to keep moving forward. Pakistan cannot repair
its economy, international standing, and sovereignty until its military and
intelligence services change their posture toward India and Afghanistan. Intelligence
cooperation is one way to help repair ties, but this requires trust where it is
most lacking. And even if progress can be made, it won’t stop the explosions,
at least in the near term. Direct cross-border trade between Pakistan and India
also won’t prevent explosions, but it could be a harbinger of Rawalpindi’s
revised security calculus. Is this a tactical or a strategic move?  Time will tell.  In the meantime, New Delhi has a choice to
make: whether to reciprocate Pakistan’s trade initiatives haltingly, or in full


Krepon is the co-founder of the Stimson Center. 
A version of this essay appeared in the October 13th issue of
The Tribune.



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