Military chaos spreads to Pakistan

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On 21 September the Marriott hotel in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, was all but gutted by a suicide bomb attack. More than 50 people were killed including US state department officials. Within 48 hours the BBC was reporting that US officials had ‘..vowed to redouble their efforts in fighting extremism..' whilst at the same time noting that this vow had come during heightened tensions between the two, formerly staunch, allies on the so-called war on terror. Just a few days later there was news of two other attacks on the same day "Police said they averted a major attack today on Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, by raiding the hideout of a group suspected of planning an attack on a high-profile target in the area. Three men blew themselves up. The explosions killed a hostage they had been holding for several months, police said. The man is thought to have been a supplier of fuel and goods to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Explosives, suicide jackets, guns and grenades were found, police said. ‘Police definitely averted a big attack from happening in this city,' said Babar Khattak, the head of Sindh police. In a separate incident, a bomb blast derailed a train in Punjab province, killing three people and wounding 15 others." (Guardian 26/9/8)

Pakistan was first described as ‘the most dangerous place in the world' by Bill Clinton, a designation that has stuck - quite something when you look at the map and see that its neighbours include Afghanistan and Iran! Given that the Islamabad government has no control over huge border areas, and the increasing dangerousness of everyday life, we can see the real descent into barbarism. That it has been degenerating into daily violence - bomb attacks, shootings and their subsequent reprisals - should come as no surprise. The ‘war on terror' has, in reality, meant ‘more war and more terror'. Far from combating terrorism the US-led war has greatly exacerbated the situation in this part of the world.

This is now spilling over to Pakistan with an increasing number of cross-border assaults by the US military, much to the anger of the Pakistani bourgeoisie. Just days after jointly vowing to fight terrorism, Pakistani and US troops came into conflict along the Afghan border "Pakistan has warned US troops not to intrude on its territory after US and Pakistani ground forces exchanged fire along the border with Afghanistan. The incident began after Pakistani troops fired on US helicopters they believed had encroached their airspace.... ‘Just as we will not let Pakistan's territory to be used by terrorists for attacks against our people and our neighbours, we cannot allow our territory and our sovereignty to be violated by our friends,' (Pakistani Prime Minister) Zardari said."

Partly in response to this escalating situation Zardari has appointed a new head of the ISI (Pakistani secret service) "The appointment of Lieutenant General Ahmed Shujaa Pasha as head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was part of a leadership shake-up. In his position as director general of military operations, Pasha oversaw offensives in the Taliban and al-Qaida north-western stronghold. Some observers say ISI elements may still be aiding the Taliban to retain them as assets against India" (Guardian 1/10/9).

The problem remains, both for the US and Pakistani bourgeoisie, with different factions having different interests. Within the ISI, as hinted above, there are strong pro-Taliban factions who will do their best to subvert US military operations. Within the US there are factions which distrust Pakistan and want the freedom to chase the Taliban across the Afghan border. For example, Democratic nominee Barack Obama "...has said he would use military force if necessary against al-Qaida in Pakistan even without Pakistan's consent" (BBC news online). Given the tensions between nuclear armed Pakistan and India, over ongoing murderous bombing campaigns and the unresolved disaster of Kashmiri ‘independence', capitalism's perspective for the region is for greater unrest and the spread of chaos.  

Graham 03/10/08