Why Zawahiri didn’t turn up for dinner

The unsurprising non-appearance of an unsurprising dinner guest

It should come as no surprise to anyone that one of the terms of American support for Gen Musharraf after 9/11 (the deal that propelled him from dictator to FATWAT) was that he would allow US forces to operate on Pakistani territory when required. It should also come as no surprise that Musharraf himself would deny that this is so.

It should come as no surprise that Musharraf would claim credit whenever ‘high-ranking’ al-Qaeda operatives (variously called No. 3’s, or high-value targets) are arrested in Pakistan. It should also come as no surprise that Pakistan would vehemently condemn (what’s that civilian government for anyway?) those attacks that actually fail to capture anyone.

It should come as no surprise that credible intelligence reports actually suggested that Ayman al-Zawahiri would be expected at dinner at Damadola in Pakistan’s Bajaur Agency last week. It should also come as no surprise that since Pakistani authorities knew of the attack in advance, he wouldn’t turn up as expected.

It should also come as no surprise that Pakistani opposition groups of various types, whether Islamic fundamentalist or otherwise, would protest against such a blatant violation of sovereignty. It should come as no surprise that political commentators will now point out that this will be bad for America’s image in Pakistan.

All this is par for the course.

11 thoughts on “Why Zawahiri didn’t turn up for dinner”

  1. George Perkovich (along with another) has an op-ed in WSJ today on Baluch war. It’s pretty damning and in line with comments posted on Acorn.

  2. the perkovich piece from the journal.
    January 16, 2006; Page A15

    If you can’t find Baluchistan on a map, you’re not alone.

    Here are some clues: It’s next to Iran and Afghanistan. It’s the biggest province in Pakistan, the one where most of the oil and gas rigs are. Lots of Chinese can be found there, because they are building an enormous commercial and military port in Gwadar, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. There are two military bases from which U.S. forces fight the war on terrorism.

    Don’t plan a trip to Baluchistan any time soon, though. It’s recently come under fire from troops, helicopter gunships and fighter bombers — sent by the West’s favorite military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

    Baluchistan, which has a literacy rate of 25% (3% for women), has never been integrated into Pakistan. Neither Baluchistan’s rough tribal leaders nor the Punjabi-dominated elites of Pakistan have been able to rise beyond an uneasy colonial relationship. The current Baluch insurgency is the fourth in 67 years.

    Since 9/11, the U.S. government has downplayed the importance of democratic reform in Pakistan, and Baluchistan shows why this is a dangerous mistake. Repression by the military-dominated central government will only exacerbate Pakistan’s instability and economic problems. The two U.S. bases in Baluchistan — and other cooperation needed in combating terrorism in Afghanistan — could be compromised. Chaos in Baluchistan also could aggravate competitive Sino-U.S. relations in the region.

    The Baluch have three main grievances that all reflect a general sense of being exploited as a colony by Punjab, the most powerful and populated province of Pakistan.

    They demand a fairer share of royalties generated by the production of natural gas in their province. The federal government pays a much lower price for each unit of gas produced in Baluchistan than it does for gas produced in other provinces. Moreover, Baluchistan receives no more than 12.4% of the royalties generated for supplying gas.

    The people of Baluchistan want to be included, rather than marginalized, in the huge development projects the central government has brought to the coast, particularly the Gwadar port. There is no technical school or college in the area to train locals for future participation in the development projects. Those employed so far have been only daily wage laborers.

    They also reject the Punjabi-dominated army’s establishment of new military cantonments in their province, and the selling at nominal prices by the central government of choice coastal property to out-of-province developers.

    In other words, the Baluch want Baluchistan for Baluchis, not for others.

    The government replies that Baluchistan’s resources are national property and has made only nominal concessions. The conflict, it says, is the fault of a few greedy obscurantist tribal leaders opposed to the development of the province.

    This argument resembles that which the Punjabi-dominated central government made in the early 1970s toward East Pakistanis before massive violence and war with India erupted, leading to the creation of Bangladesh. Similarly the Musharraf regime has responded with military force, air strikes, and — according to some reports — the use of napalm.

    The military rulers of Pakistan are more fearful of the situation than they admit, and have tried to conceal the real nature of the conflict in different ways. Baluchistan is an anti-clerical province whose tribes have nothing to do with the sort of Islamism of the Taliban or al Qaeda. Yet the Pakistani government has tried to tar the Baluch with the Islamist brush, in part to keep the international community from paying more attention to the real problems in the province.

    The central government in Islamabad also has sought to blame the unrest on “foreign hands,” with the main culprits being India, Iran and the U.S., depending on who the audience is. Lately, the government says “criminal elements” lay behind the insurgency.

    The truth is that the development level is abysmal throughout the province. Many of the Baluchis’ claims could have been satisfied without jeopardizing the country’s territorial integrity. The leaders of the Baluch nationalist movement have made it known that they would be satisfied with a generous version of autonomy. Instead, the conflict is now spreading.

    Reconciling conflicting interests and seeking fair allocations of the costs and benefits of development is what governments are supposed to do. And history suggests that democratic governments, for all their drawbacks, tend to produce fairer allocations than dictatorships do.

    By contrast, the manipulation of the 2002 elections, which gave the provincial government to a coalition of conservatives and Islamists, deprived the Baluch nationalists of any say in the allocation of resources.

    Baluchistan is yet another example of the risks of postponing democratization in Pakistan. The outcome could be a major civil war, whose consequences on regional stability and the war against terrorism are likely to be unpredictable — and anything but positive.

    Mr. Grare is a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Studies, where Mr. Perkovich is vice-president for Studies.
    URL for this article:

  3. Nitin your comments are all right on. As for commenter number 2.. its obvious they have not read the Geneva Contentions or understand them. The ridiculous hypothetical situation they paint is even sillier.

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