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Toronto Sun – Pakistan’s the problem, not Taliban

National Defence Minister Peter MacKay speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 7, 2012. (REUTERS/Blair Gable)

By Peter Worthington

Whatever one thinks of Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s penchant for taking military helicopters on fishing trips, the country should support him chiding elements in Pakistan for helping the Taliban.

While there’s nothing new in NATO leaks that elements of Pakistan’s intelligence service and military are helping co-ordinate Taliban attacks on coalition forces, the fact these reports keep surfacing has to be upsetting.

Pakistani denials ring hollow — nearly 10 years of denials.

Good on MacKay for not brushing the NATO leaks aside. He said if such reports are reliable, and if Pakistan wants western allies to continue working for “peace and security” throughout the region, then Pakistan’s co-operation is not only required, but is demanded. And “demand” is what MacKay is doing. But is anyone listening?

That’s fairly tough talk. Ever since Navy SEALs took out Osama bin Laden at his Pakistani retreat, there’s been substantial evidence Pakistan is playing a double game.

There are even suggestions China hopes to exploit a rift between western allies and Pakistan — a possibility that makes traditional diplomats shudder. But, if true, Pakistan and China cuddling each other seems destined to be an enormous headache for both these hypersensitive, paranoid, nuclear states.

U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has made the curious observation that after next year, U.S. policy in Afghanistan will be one of “advise and assist,” rather than actually fighting. What on earth does that mean? One supposes it means that by 2014, Panetta hopes the Afghan National Army and National Police being trained by coalition troops, including Canadians, will be able to handle Taliban incursions.

Don’t bet on it.

By having a safe haven in Pakistan, and a seemingly endless supply of fighters, the future has got to look encouraging for the Taliban. They can lose battles indefinitely against American forces — and win the war once the Americans have had a bellyful.

Time is on the Taliban’s side. And patience is their virtue.

There’s not much that can be done. Clearly, coalition countries don’t intend to stay in Afghanistan, and the U.S. especially wants out with an election looming in November.

When Barack Obama’s predecessor, George Bush, was president and flailing away in Iraq, Obama made Afghanistan (relatively quiet at the time) the war he’d prosecute. Well, Afghanistan has turned bad for Obama. So he wants out, and has fired those generals who thought they could win the damn thing.

MacKay says he doesn’t give much credence to the so-called secret NATO report that says the Taliban are gaining confidence and are sure they’ll win in the end.

He thinks that’s what the Taliban would say no matter what — “an overly optimistic view of what’s happening on the ground … in battlefield skirmishes they always lose.” But the Taliban leadership is not in disarray — although coalition leadership may be approaching that state.

If the U.S. were realistic, it would consider cutting aid to Pakistan — $12 billion in military aid, $7 billion in economic aid over the last 10 years.

That may be the only way to get the attention of those who rule Pakistan.

Like hitting a mule on the head with a two-by-four.

The problem is not the Taliban, but the Pakistan leadership which seems hell-bent on wrecking relations with western allies, and gambling we are too timid to do anything about it.

Courtesy: Toronto sun

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Are we wrong about Pakistan?

When Peter Oborne first arrived in Pakistan, he expected a ‘savage’ backwater scarred by terrorism.

Years later, he describes the Pakistan that is barely documented – and that he came to fall in love with

It was my first evening in Pakistan. My hosts, a Lahore banker and his charming wife, wanted to show me the sights, so they took me to a restaurant on the roof of a town house in the Old City.

My food was delicious, the conversation sparky – and from our vantage point we enjoyed a perfect view of the Badshahi Mosque, which was commissioned by the emperor Aurangzeb in 1671.

It was my first inkling of a problem. I had been dispatched to write a report reflecting the common perception that Pakistan is one of the most backward and savage countries in the world. This attitude has been hard-wired into Western reporting for years and is best summed up by the writing of the iconic journalist Christopher Hitchens. Shortly before he died last December, Hitchens wrote a piece in Vanity Fair that bordered on racism.

Pakistan, he said, was “humourless, paranoid, insecure, eager to take offence and suffering from self-righteousness, self-pity and self-hatred”. In summary, asserted Hitchens, Pakistan was one of the “vilest and most dangerous regions on Earth”.

Since my first night in that Lahore restaurant I have travelled through most of Pakistan, got to know its cities, its remote rural regions and even parts of the lawless north. Of course there is some truth in Hitchens’s brash assertions. Since 2006 alone, more than 14,000 Pakistani civilians have been killed in terrorist attacks. The Pakistan political elite is corrupt, self-serving, hypocritical and cowardly – as Pakistanis themselves are well aware. And a cruel intolerance is entering public discourse, as the appalling murder last year of minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti after he spoke out for Christians so graphically proves. Parts of the country have become impassable except at risk of kidnap or attack.

Yet the reality is far more complex. Indeed, the Pakistan that is barely documented in the West – and that I have come to know and love – is a wonderful, warm and fabulously hospitable country. And every writer who (unlike Hitchens), has ventured out of the prism of received opinion and the suffocating five-star hotels, has ended up celebrating rather than denigrating Pakistan.

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