Akbar Ahmed: Lose lawless tribal areas and you lose Pakistan itself

Share
Related Topics

The "existential threat" that Pakistan now faces, according to Hillary Clinton, is overstated. There is a functioning political, civil and military structure in Pakistan that will prevent any total collapse of the state. The impulse for democracy is deep and goes back to the creation of the state in 1947. Pakistan's founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had a vision of a modern Muslim nation with a strong emphasis on womens' rights and civil liberties for minorities, but this vision is under greater threat than ever. Successive Pakistani leaders have, over the decades, failed to translate Jinnah's spirit into reality, while the structures he put in place have been weakened and corrupted. The emergence of the Taliban is one consequence of this.

The Taliban's spread from the Swat Valley into the neighbouring district of Buner is not entirely surprising: geographically, it is an appendix of Swat. The fact that Buner is close, as the crow flies, to Islamabad has set off alarm bells. But the bigger danger is what happens in Mardan. The most fertile and heavily populated part of the North-West Frontier Province is vital because it opens the gate to Peshawar. And if Pakistan loses control of Peshawar, the gateway for US supply lines to its troops in Afghanistan, it would be checkmate for the Western troops there.

Pakistan's government capitulated to the Taliban over Swat and must now re-take the territory, re-impose the writ of the state and the rule of law. It can have no legitimacy if it does not impose its authority on Swat, but a military solution is not enough. Pakistan must establish a civil service structure and an independent judiciary in Swat and back it with full police authority.

The US, meanwhile, must stop hammering Pakistan, its ally, in public, as Mrs Clinton has been doing. This merely fuels anti-Americanism in Pakistan. Barack Obama has said the most dangerous place in the world is Pakistan's tribal areas. Why? Because if you lose them, then you lose Pakistan, followed by Afghanistan. So, Mr Obama, in private, should sit down with Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani President, and demand that in exchange for all the US aid he is promising ($5bn a year), Mr Zardari immediately imposes law and order in the Swat Valley, along with a genuine reform of the madrassa system. America has to understand that Pakistan requires a long-term comitment and a drastic change of strategy. The present hit or missapproach will not do. The stakes are just too high.



The writer holds the chair in Islamic Studies at the American University in Washington and was Pakistan's High Commissioner to the UK

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has reiterated his pre-election promise to radically improve the NHS  

How can we save the NHS? Rediscover the stiff upper lip

Jeremy Laurance
 

Thanks to Harriet Harman, Labour is holding its own against the Tory legislative assault

Isabel Hardman
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor