Kiran Omar


Unable to squarely confront the US and unable to improve economic situation in the country, the Pakistan government is steadily creating conditions favorable to terrorists , which threatens Pakistan as well. Montreal-based Kiran Omar originally from Pakistan and a keen observer of Pakistani politics analyzes who fundamentalists who in the past recruited mainly the marginalized are now able to draw middle class youth in their sphere.


The hype surrounding Obama’s installation as the first black president in the White House – a historic event in itself, and the incendiary situation in Gaza, understandably, deflected the world’s attention from the  deteriorating security situation in South Asia. The menace and belligerence of the Taliban and other warring factions, has steadily increased in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) area of Northwest Pakistan. The government’s writ is virtually absent here and the Taliban prove their supremacy by blowing up girls schools and threatening government servants and administrators.


NATO supply terminal in Peshawar was destroyed and close to 200 trucks laden with essential supplies, were blown up in early December. It prompted the US to enter into negotiations with  Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and other former Soviet satellites to seek alternative supply routes.


The November attacks on high profile hotels and tourist spots in Mumbai by highly trained and organized militants, effectively stalled the fledgling India/Pakistan Composite Dialogue and the improving relations received a fatal setback. Allegations flew fast and thick, and since then links have been traced connecting them to militant organizations in Pakistan like Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, that actively recruit youth for indoctrination. The Gilani/Zardari government is under immense international pressure, spearheaded by India, to close down these organizations and prosecute them.


All of these events have overshadowed a very real and ominous threat, that of internal insecurity and instability of Pakistan. The government is unable to control or curtail the growing influence of these extremist and militant groups . Suicide bombings, kidnappings of government officials and diplomats are on the rise internally. What is most alarming, and the profiles of the Mumbai bombers illustrate, that militant groups are also actively recruiting from the educated middle class. Hitherto, the ranks of such groups swelled with mostly young men and women from the most marginalized economic segment of society. The incident of the Red Mosque siege in Islamabad in 2007 showed that most of the girls and boys enrolled in the madrasas, were from the poorest of the poor segments of Pakistani society. These institutions offered a much needed way out of the inescapable spiral of poverty that they found themselves trapped in.


This new phenomenon of recruitment from the educated middle class can be seen as a direct link to the downward spiraling economy, caught in both a homemade  and global economic crisis that the world experiences today. The anger and resentment felt in this segment of society stems for the chaos and confusion that the Gilani/Zardari government finds itself in. Its inability to put into place immediate measures to provide much needed economic relief and to formulate quickly a clear, concise and effective economic policy, exacerbates public anger and resentment. Its inability to control and steer its own foreign policy and to effectively de-link itself from US dictates, is perceived as a weakness and betrayal by mainstream Pakistanis. This lends credence to the speculation of a barter arrangement between the deceased Benazir Bhutto to allow the US certain concessions in exchange for restoration of the PPP, and to the removal of corruption charges and cases against herself and her spouse, the now president, Zardari.


Continuous and growing US drone attacks and weak, ineffective token protests by the government fuels public anger and there is a distinct sense of national interests being “sold out” to further the US policy interests in Afghanistan. Pakistani public do not see themselves as having any bone to pick with either the Taliban or with the people of Afghanistan. The man/woman on the street wants a normal life, free of fear and relief from the burdens of inflation. Economic issues today, dominate public discourse. The preoccupation is with finding ways to navigate the increasingly torturous economic times. Sadly, however, the Gilani/Zardari government is unprepared and incapable of providing effective leadership and direction and has all the appearances of a rudderless ship. In-fighting and bickering over political posts, and unwieldy bureaucracy and government and lack of a clear chain of command is dragging down its administrative capacities. The government appears more consumed with placating the US by conciliatory rhetoric and hosting an unending stream of big-wigs from the Washington.


The situation of Pakistan is at a critical juncture. It is caught between a rock and a hard place, with India’s growing impatience and ire at its inability to deal decisively and firmly with homegrown, state and non-state insurgents. It can be safely said that it is waging an “informal” war on two fronts; the Taliban/Al Qaida nexus towards the North West and India’s growing distrust on its Eastern flank.


The choices for the government are narrow, and it must act now and move out of its catatonic state and be pro-active if the situation has any hope of stabilization. It must look inwards and face up to the fact that there is definite homegrown insurgency that has spun out of hand, and has to be decisively addressed with measures other than rhetoric. The pressing and long neglected economic woes of Baluchistan and the Frontier must be addressed. The contentious issue of the inequitable sharing of inter-provincial resources and their allocation must be tackled. The economic engine must be kick started with real reforms on the ground, not bolstered up by hand-outs from the IMF that strangulate democratic institutions and government policies.


Immediate measures have to be in place and the many headed hydra of insurgency has to be tackled by both actions and dialogue. The government must be perceived by the public to de-link itself from the US initiated “war on terror”. Most mainstream Pakistanis see greater terror in the fast encroaching poverty and economic malaise. The internal instability and breakdown of public security is seen as a direct result of toeing the US line.


Finally, the Gilani/Zardari government must be ever mindful that they rule because of the will of the Pakistani people and the historic civil society movement. They are ultimately accountable to their population and not some distant super-power who wishes to rearrange the geopolitiks of the Region to further their own expansionist agendas. Internal security, restoration and supremacy of the Rule of Law has to be front and centre of the agenda if this government is to remain in power and maintain the federation.


 (Kiran Omar can be reached at:

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