Michael Waldron: Pakistan kahan he? (Where is Pakistan?)Published 12:22am Thursday, April 14, 2011
I wonder how many Americans can find Pakistan on the map. It’s located a long way from the United States. In fact, it’s 10 time zones from the East Coast—just about the other side of the earth. I have a personal reason to know about Pakistan because I lived there twice with my family in the 1980s. We lived there for 3.5 years in Quetta and Islamabad. Why should you know or be concerned about Pakistan?
First, Pakistan is the only Muslim country with nuclear weapons—at least for the near future. Most analysts estimate that Pakistan possesses over 100 warheads. On Pakistan’s eastern border is India, its mortal enemy and also armed with nuclear weapons. Those two countries have fought three wars since independence in 1947. Pakistan lost all three so it may be tempted to preempt an Indian attack. Probably there is a greater chance of nuclear warfare on their 1000 mile shared border than anywhere else in the world except possibly on the Korean peninsula.
Second, Pakistan has been a major proliferator of nuclear technology. A.Q. Khan, a prominent Pakistani scientist, disseminated Pakistani nuclear technology to some very bad international actors. Since the Pakistani government only kept him under house arrest and then freed him in 2009, many believe Khan has high level support in the Pakistani government.
Third, even if Pakistan does not go to war with India, it’s still a very unstable country, and Americans are not very welcome in Pakistan at present because of our war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and our Predator drone attacks inside Pakistan. The Taliban are mostly Pathans, who reside inside Pakistan as well as Afghanistan. Pakistan’s military has ruled the country for about half of its history. There is doubt that the current president, Asif Ali Zardari, has the talent to maintain civilian rule while the country suffers from terrorist attacks and other challenges.
Fourth, there has been a gradual Islamization of the culture. When I was there in 1983, I spoke with a Pakistani army major about Pakistan’s development. I asked him if he thought women were as intelligent as men. He said yes, which surprised me. Then I asked him how Pakistan could ever catch up with developed countries if half the country was kept at home by strict Islamic custom and unable to help develop the economy. He answer was brutally frank, “We’ll just remain undeveloped.” I’m sure that 28 years later, there are even more Pakistanis like him who distrust the West and want to become more Islamic regardless of the consequences. Pakistan has an odd mixture of residual British colonial law and Sharia law. You can be executed for blaspheming (insulting) Allah or Mohammad. The governor of Punjab recently defended a Christian Pakistani against a charge of blasphemy. For that, he was assassinated by his bodyguard.
Last, many experts believe that success in Afghanistan depends on what happens in Pakistan. The InterServices Intelligence Directorate (ISID), the Pakistan equivalent to our Defense Intelligence Agency, has many agents who were sympathetic to the mujahideen and now are sympathetic to the modern Taliban. Americans are killed and wounded by the Afghan Taliban, who are supported by some in the Pakistani ISID. The last Pakistani general, who staged a coup, Pervez Musharraf, defended the ISID at the Economic Club of Southwest Michigan, but he was either self-deluded or merely defending something indefensible to an American audience.
There isn’t much that individual Americans can do to change things in Pakistan. However, pay attention to American politicians when they discuss foreign policy. If they can’t find Pakistan on the map, don’t vote for them because they have too much to learn on the job. I predict that in the near future the provinces of Pakistan: Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, Azad Kashmir, or the Northwest Frontier Province will become as familiar to Americans as Kosovo, Chechnya, Somalia, Libya, and Iraq are now.