August 29, 2006
On August 27, an artillery round fired by the Pakistani military found its mark on a cave in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan, bordering both Afghanistan and Iran, and killed an 80-year-old man with a magnificent white beard. His name was Nawab Akbar Bugti, and he was the leader of a popular political movement in Pakistan’s largest geographical province.
Balochistan has only four percent of Pakistan’s population, though it occupies 44% of Pakistan’s land mass. Like its neighbor, Afghanistan, it is populated by religiously conservative ethnic Pashtuns living in extremely rugged and mountainous terrain. Like its neighbor, Iran, it possesses a geologic relic in abundance: fossil fuel, in this case the Sui natural gas field that produces 45% of Pakistan’s supply. It also contains a warm water port — Gwadar — only 70…
February 14, 2009
Pakistan might collapse. It faces regional insurgencies, political failures, rising Islamism (in the public and army alike), and reprisals from India over the Mumbai attacks of last November. The trouble in the US’s principal though duplicitous partner in the war on terror is all the more worrisome because it has nuclear weapons. A great deal of Pakistan’s trouble is the fault of its military, which has thwarted political development, encouraged Islamism, and supported terrorism.
From its inception in 1947, Pakistan was predisposed to military rule. The British colonial army of the subcontinent was drawn predominantly from the Punjab, a region that became part of Pakistan upon independence. From that point on, the Pakistani army was more unified and capable of concerted action than were the political parties. Seeing itself as embodying the nation far more than they did, the army would push aside civilian governments and take the reins of power when it saw fit. There’s no edifying morality play here. Pakistan’s political parties are corrupt, oligarchic patronage networks that bear considerable blame as well for the situation today.
The Pakistani army, more so than the political parties, benefited from Cold War dynamics. India, though more powerful than Pakistan and hostile to China, chose a path of nonalignment and so Pakistan (along with Iran) became the US’s partner in the region. Arms and money and advisors flowed in, adding to the army’s hypertrophy. The military used…