|HOME | NEWS | COLUMNISTS | T V R SHENOY|
|September 18, 2001||
T V R Shenoy
Pakistan in a bind
There is nothing that unites America more swiftly or happily,' said an article in The New Yorker, 'than bad news in Gotham or a losing New York team.'
There is bad news in plenty from Gotham today, and it has united the United States -- not in glee, but in sorrow, rapidly turning to anger. Where will that wrath find an outlet?
The president of the United States and his secretary of state have fingered Osama bin Laden. But I question whether even the most technologically advanced military machine on earth can find a single man in the wilds of Asia.
Some claim bin Laden isn't guilty because he couldn't pull off an attack on such a scale. This is nonsense. I have been talking to security experts in Britain (where I was at the time of the attacks) and in India. They unanimously stated the destruction did not require any advanced technology.
What did bin Laden need to pull off such a coup? First, men who possessed some rudimentary skill in piloting a plane. Second, they would have to be men who were not afraid to die for their cause. Third, the chosen ones would be men who had no qualms about the death of innocents. The outlay would have been under US $ 100,000. (Less than one-third of one per cent of Osama bin Laden's fortune!)
There were no fancy weapons. The damage was done by the planes themselves, Boeing jets with tanks loaded for a six-hour flight. All that was needed was a fourth, final ingredient -- the planning to ensure that the attacks were completed in the space of about an hour. (Any longer, and there was a danger of the US Air Force shooting down the hijacked jets.)
So much for the attacks, let us now turn to the consequences. I am reminded of Napoleon's famous warning: 'China is a sleeping giant. Let him sleep, for when he wakes he shall shake the world.' Substitute 'China' for 'the United States', and you sum up the situation.
It is tough to think of the mighty United States as a 'sleeping giant', but when it came to internal security that is the case. Violent deaths on the current scale has been unknown since the Civil War that ended in 1865. There has been no attack on Washington since the British invaded in 1812.
(I can testify to the utter laxity of security in American domestic flights. People who came to see me off would calmly accompany me right up to the steps of the plane. This was an accident almost waiting to happen.)
If bin Laden and his Taleban colleagues survive long enough to ponder, they might well wish that President Bush had lost his temper as Clinton did a few years ago, firing off a few Cruise missiles. George Bush has chosen to wait and plan; the longer he waits, the greater the pressure on him to deliver the goods.
The Americans will pass on the pressure to others, and Pakistan will be the first to feel it. Take a look at the map of Asia, and you will see why.
To the west of Afghanistan lies Iran, which dislikes the Afghans enough to consider cooperating with the United States. (It has already closed its borders.) To the north lie the Russian satellite states -- Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and so on -- which are no less hostile. Afghanistan's only friend is Pakistan. It is no secret that Pakistan fostered the Taleban. (Mullah Muhammad Omar, amir of the Taleban, is himself an alumnus of Karachi's mosques.)
Today, the Pakistanis are being asked to choose between their patron and their protege. Strictly speaking, the Pakistani establishment is being asked to do so; the man on the street is standing firmly behind bin Laden. The Musharraf regime has indicated that it shall stand with the United States. It will be an unwilling partnership.
Pakistan has agreed to give its airspace. This is meaningless. Islamabad couldn't prevent American missiles from flying over Pakistan, not anyhow without risking war. It has already protested that closing the borders is impossible because of the terrain -- to which America responds nastily that the Iranians and Russians have managed the feat. Pakistan says it won't allow ground troops unless they are from Islamic nations working under the United Nations flag. To which the United States says the list of demands on Pakistan made so far is just the beginning...
There is grim satisfaction in Delhi on seeing the bind in which Pakistan finds itself. For 20 years, Pakistan has sponsored militancy in India. Today, as the American vise tightens its grip, Pakistan has effectively become a colony of the United States. Fifty-four years after the Union Jack was lowered, a Western power is again determining Pakistan's foreign policy, internal security decisions, and economic policy.
Pakistan's problem is the extent to which its entire political, military, and bureaucratic establishment has been corrupted since General Zia's day. Militancy, money-laundering, and the narcotics trade have become highly profitable for Pakistan. A war on terrorism on the scale proposed by President Bush will overthrow the ruling powers in Pakistan.
For two decades, Pakistanis were told by their leaders they had to make sacrifices to support their brethren across the eastern and western borders. Now, they are still being asked to make sacrifices -- but those same brethren must now be sacrificed. In effect, the Pakistani elite must either suffer a huge loss of face or share the fate of their Taleban colleagues.
The Pakistani elite will, I predict, choose the more cowardly option. The 5,000 terrorists currently in Pakistani camps will be ordered out -- to face American bombs or Indian guns across the borders.
It is an interesting question: Who will be the first to overthrow the Pakistani establishment -- crusading Americans, a vengeful Taleban, or its own long-suffering citizens?
|Tell us what you think of this column|
ASTROLOGY | NEWSLINKS | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEDDING | ROMANCE | WEATHER | WOMEN | E-CARDS | SEARCH
HOMEPAGES | FREE MESSENGER | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK