Why lose sleep over a few thousand tribesmen

The Talibanisation of Pakistan does not necessarily need the Taliban to take over

Over at Informed Comment, Juan Cole argues that fears of the Taliban taking over Pakistan are overblown (via Chapati Mystery):

The Pakistani Taliban are not going to take over the Pakistani government. That worry doesn’t keep me up at night. They are small, and operate in a rugged, remote area of the country. They can set off bombs and be a destabilizing force. But a few thousand tribesmen can’t take over a country of 165 million with a large urban middle class that has a highly organized and professional army. [Juan Cole]

Coming from a professor of history, no less, that is a shocking statement. A few thousand violent individuals can well take over a country if the general population is supine and the security apparatus sympathetic. So how many violent individuals did it take on October 12, 1999 when General Musharraf seized power? Next door in Iran, Wikipedia tells us, “the final collapse of the Pahlavi dynasty occurred shortly after on February 11 (1979) when Iran’s military declared itself “neutral” after guerrillas and rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting.”

The political crisis triggered by the Supreme Court’s disqualification of the Sharif brothers does threaten to destabilise Pakistan further. Though unlikely at this point, it might even result in yet another military coup. This does not make the threat of a ‘Taliban takeover’ any less serious. That’s because ‘Taliban takeover’ does not necessarily mean a regime that places Baitullah Mehsud or a similar character in power. It could well place the army chief or even a politician at the helm, leave the civil bureaucracy largely intact, but replace the tattered 1973 constitution with the sharia. It won’t take long for the assorted jihadi groups in Pakistan’s cities and the countryside to start moral policing and dispense Taliban justice. The few thousand tribesmen are not alone—there are several tens of thousands of jihadis and jihadi sympathisers who can be mobilised for consolidating the revolution. Don’t forget their organisational capabilities were recognised to be superior to that of the Pakistani government in the aftermath of the earthquake in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in 2005.

To be sure, it is possible that developments in recent weeks have caused excessive panic in Washington. As Matthew Yglesias points out “Pakistan’s been a troubled place for a long time and Americans shouldn’t confuse a rapid increase in our level of interest in Pakistan’s troubles with a rapid escalation in the scale of the troubles.” It is possible that the military-jihadi complex wants to signal by actions what Musharraf did with words (“after me, the Taliban”). Even so, it is undeniable that Pakistan has never quite rolled back the first creeping then marching fundamentalism that has affected the state and society…since 1947. This at once creates militants with an agenda to overturn the political order, and also legitimises their cause in the minds of the people. A revolution is not only possible, it can be swift. Wikipedia also says that the Iranian revolution was “unique for the surprise it created throughout the world.” There’s no excuse to be surprised another time.

34 thoughts on “Why lose sleep over a few thousand tribesmen”

  1. Prof. Cole’s arguement isn’t that outlandish, I don’t think the Taliban can take over Pakistan. They don’t have the political mass support outside the NWFP; religious parties got what something like 4%-5% of the popular vote in the last general elections. This doesn’t exactly indicate a widepsread mass support base.

    The Iranian example is a poor one; the Shah have institutionalised a terror regime that persecuted any major opposition group and lots of constituencies were opposed to him by the end from the trade unions, students, Islamists, religious leaders, key sections of the bazaar etc. As you note the military effectively refused to intervene which enabled the rebels to oust the Shah, his security apparatus collapsed. Pakistan’s elites are nowhere near as compromised and the military will not stand by nor is it inter-penetrated yet by Islamist elements. Both the middle class and many sections of the elite will not be favourably inclined towards an Islamist takeover.

    Pakistan is also more hetereogenous than Iran; there are a number of ethnic groups which contend for power and are disatisfied with the existing status quo. It is debatable whether the ISlamists can unify them; we shouldn’t project too much from a movement whose support base is almost entirely Pashtun to a state which is more dominated by Punjabis.

    At the same time there is a main problem if Pakistan can exert control over its outlying regions as this is a basic state function. Secondly, the real threat isn’t a Taliban style takeover but an Afghanistan-type collapse of the state where nobody holds power. This is infinitely more worrying and dangerous imo. So I do agree that Prof. Cole is maybe a little bit too sanguine about current developments if a broader view is taken.

  2. @conrad,

    Dude I’m constantly getting lost in your comments. They are far too lengthy and far too beating around the bush and conclude both ways. Please help lesser mortals like me grok the gyan, by being brief. Good day.

  3. Nitin
    “It could well place the army chief or even a politician at the helm, leave the civil bureaucracy largely intact, but replace the tattered 1973 constitution with the sharia.”

    —If this is what’s gonna happen, then Pakistan would stabilize…

  4. oh, Taliban don’t have to takeover whole of Pakistan. talibanizing Pakhtunkhwa will be good enough.

  5. @Udayan,

    These are complex issues and we are not in primary school where we can learn simple answers by rote and be satisfied with the solutions. However, for the sake of brevity/simplicity; my point is that I think Cole is correct in saying that the Taliban do not have the support necessary to take over a country the size of Pakistan. This is because they are very few in number, ie only a several thousand and confined almost entirely to a single region and ethnic group. It will need support from many other sectors of Pakistani society as well as the passive acquisecence of the military for any such Taliban takeover. None of these conditions seem to be present at the moment. There are serious problems which Cole doesn’t address but they don’t relate to Talibanisation.

  6. @conrad,

    Thanks. I get your point now.

    Like the Cole dude you say:

    1. They are only a few thousand in number
    2. The other sections of society will not oppose
    3. The military will not acquiesce

    But the facts are:

    1. There are a lot more jihadists in Pakistan who will back the vanguard. Number runs into several tens of thousands, may even be hundreds of thousands.

    2. Society does not actively oppose them.

    3. Military may even be conniving with them. Nitin seems to be hinting that that military might ‘acquiesce’. We don’t know..it’s a billion dollar question. Maybe both are right. Some will connive and others will oppose.

    Based on this, the prudent thing to do is go support the view that a Islamist take over can happen. Wasn’t Malakand a microcosm of Pakistan anyway?

  7. Udayan,
    I dont think that the Pakistan military will let go off power when the very existence of the state is threatened. As Nitin pointed out, they have no problems whining about the jihadist “threat” to the military and trying to use that to blackmail the US into looking the other way about the double dealings of some of its senior most military personnel.

    After all Kiyani is the kind of person who has been openly heard saying that the Haqqani network can be used as a bargaining chip when it comes to America. Do you think he would allow the jihadists to take over permanently ? He may do so if he thinks that the US is pushing Pakistan too hard in their “fight” with the Taliban. But the military will simply not let ANYONE take over the state on a permanent basis.

    The military has a controlling stake in a large part of all major civilian assets, in addition to being in charge of the defense industry – they are not going to simply roll over.

    I disagree with Juan Cole when he says that the “moderates” in Pakistan will never allow jihadists to take over – they will have no problem accquiesing with the jihadis – does any one really think they will stand up to these terrorists and “resist” them ?? Any one who does so will be openly beheaded by these sickos.

    But i do agree with him when he says that the military is not going to roll over and let the jihadis take over. How ever as a few people have pointed out, they would have no problems faking a jihadi takeover temporarily if it is something they think will help them in the short run.

  8. Lest it be forgotten that Shri Nawaz Sharif, Saud’s candidate just as surely as Benazir was America’s was all set to ram through the sharia bill in the Pak Senate circa 1999 when fate intervened and Gen Musharraf invited himself to power.

    Talibanization doesn’t have to mean Pushtu tribesmen ruling the roost. Talibanization means quran==constitution and Sharia==civil and penal code, IMHO.

    As for the fond hope that the urban middle class or some such apparition will ride to the rescue, perish the thought. If and when the Pak Army acquisces in sharia implementation, duly announced from the offices of what passes for a legitimate govt in Islumabad, the game, set and match are well and nigh over.

  9. Amidst all the hair splitting, i am constantly wondering about one question:

    Are the ISI, taliban and the pakistan army really as distinct as everyone believes?

    I for one think they’re all the same force. The only difference is some of them wear fatigues, some civvie clothing and others loose baggy pants.

    The security implication of this, for india, is grave. The trickle of terrorists will become a flood (nothing like a billion kafirs that need to be staved to unite the fundies). Will we have the guts to hold our own?

  10. Udayan,

    1. Thousands yes, hundreds of thousands?! Not sure where you get this fantastical figure from. Only people who beleive this will be some right wing think tanks and some of the more deluded extremists.

    2. Surely my point is that there is no unitary “Pakistani society” to speak of. Elements are already resisting the state and have been so for some time; there is little reason to beleive that they will suddenly fall into line just because the state becomes Islamist. “society” as a whole has expressed very little direct support for the Islamists when it comes down to it.

    3. Connving is different from letting an external body just walk in and take over the whole security structure. I just can’t see this happening. The military has tried to use the Islamists in the NWFP for their own ends and fought them when these ends have conflicted.

  11. @Conrad Barwa
    You actually do not need 100,000 people for revolution/or whatever you may call it. Not more than 5% of the population was active during India’s independence movement.
    And finally its the perception that matters…… little OT but…I found a amazing level of journalism in India. Following article on the main page of CNN-IBN states we have a famous 49-O law of “no voting option”(we don’t have such law).
    One needs to click thrice to get to article 49 of our constitution which actually talks about conservation of historical monument. (link)
    But I’m sure soon we will have a “we the people” debating non existent options without anyone bothering to do the three clicks….so perception is everything…. not realty.

  12. So what if pakistan does an Iran and imposes the sharia? Iran isnt exactly troubling anyone. Everyone is entitled to their own laws. Why should india bother about it?

  13. Revathi
    “Why should india bother about it?”

    —Iran doesn’t fantasizes GHAZWATUL HIND nor reinstating of Khilafah.

  14. A part of the equation that is missed when talking about Pakistan is the drug mafia. The Taliban elements of the north west have certain alternative means of funding, now that they have become more tolerant of the poppy cultivators. The international illegal drug trade is worth 8 billion dollars, and most of the illegal poppies come from the frontier areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    The global drug mafia has no organized presence to carry out a wholesome war, but it can very much inflict terrorist attacks and hold a country for ransom. This has happened in Mexico, Colombia and certain other South American countries in the past. To prevent his extradition to the USA, a drug mafia-lord in Colombia has conducted a series of regular bomb explosions to terrorize the population.

    The way these fundamentalists in NWFP of Pakistan inflict terror : murdering artists, politicians and bombing girls schools, and most pertinently : murdering journalists who are taking a neutral position and are just providing a coverage of events : indicate they have links to the underworld. Some of the acts of these fundamentalists are even against hardline Islam : digging up graves and hoisting the dead-bodies in public is not in Islamic custom. However, such gruesome acts were done by the drug mafia to terrorize the locals in other areas of the world.

  15. Excerpts from:
    My country is bleeding to death-Nadira Naipaul

    “Gulbuddin Hekmatyar predicted this event, quivering with rage when he was ordered to leave Pakistan.
    I was then a journalist covering these events and sensed his desperation. He had sent thousands to their deaths, for a jihad funded by the US, and was now trapped like a rat, along with rival mujahideen groups now fighting each other for power in Afghanistan.
    “Pakistan has played the whore,” he said on his expulsion. “It took the money while we gave our blood. We rid Afghanistan of the Russians and one day we will descend from the mountains and put you right.”

    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/a rticle-23658496-details/My+country+is+bl eeding+to+death/article.do

  16. Revathi,

    Iran funds, arms and sponsors the Hezbollah in Lebanon. Pak sponsored the razakars in Bangladesh likewise.

    Radical islam getting a state to use for its purposes isn’t something anyone ought to take lightly, IMHO.

    Iran is shia, hence the true geopolitical effects of an islamic state haven’t been felt yet. A Saud backed N-armed Pak getting itself a pure islamic state (just like its founding mission states) won’t be something to dismiss so easily.

  17. Vakibs, I think that is a very good point about the drug mafia. The smuggling trade apparently is even bigger in terms of money and people involved than the drug trade.

  18. How many did it take to engineer the Russian revolution? The history professor doesn’t seem to have too much history recently.

  19. How many did it take to engineer the Russian revolution? The history professor doesn’t seem to have too much history recently.

    That is a really poor example; the Tsarist state was already near collapse due to the strains of WWI had already weathered an earlier popular revolution in 1905 and was facing mass discontent across the board. The Bolshevik ‘revolution’ itself was a minority act that hinged on being able to exploit the earlier February revolution. Timing and location played an important role. It is also perhaps not the most suitable comparison to argue that a group of middle class, highly educated and motivated, urban based revolutionaries can be compared a looser, more disaorgnisaed group of armed tribesmen. Never mind other factors such as the fact that the Imperial Russian army effectively refused to intervene en masse to defend the Tsar.

    IF it was so easy or if such small revolutionary sectos posed such a threat to established regimes, we would be seeing revolutions every 10 years or so across the globe. Of course the reason we don’t is becase such events happen when the social conditions are receptive and where there are real strains that undermine the established order. These are rare occasions whose repetition on a suitable scale are hardly present in this instance. These guys couldn’t even capture Afghnistan in its weakened state (Even then they never managed to control most of it directly) without substanial Pakistani backing and you think they will be able to take over a much more numerous and powerful adversary, which has foreign backing?! Yeah, right!

    I think it is you that has a lack of historical understanding here, not the professor.

  20. Conrad,

    “the Pakistani state was already near collapse due to the strains of the GWOT and the anti-Soviet jihad had already weathered an earlier popular revolution in 2006-7 and was facing mass discontent across the board. The Islamist ‘revolution’ itself was a minority act that hinged on being able to exploit the earlier political upheaval led by PML-N and the lawyers. Timing and location played an important role. Never mind other factors such as the fact that the Pakistani army effectively refused to intervene en masse to defend the republic.”

    Your words, suitably transplanted for a history student 100 years from now. The problem is that you are refusing to get the central point in my argument—that it’s not the tribesmen who will/need to take over. In 1998-99 Nawaz Sharif—now thumping tubs for democracy—was this close to implementing Sharia laws across the country.

    The problem with getting caught up with analogies and parallels is that you expect all those conditions to be fulfilled today. And then you conclude that because not all of them are valid, the revolution won’t happen. And then you are surprised when it does.

    Another error you make is to assume is that this is some kind of an emprical rule, that wherever such conditions are fulfilled, there has to be a revolution, and because this has not been the case, therefore it won’t be the case in Pakistan. But politics is not physics. We can’t generalise with certainty. We can make reasonable guesses. Some guesses are more reasonable than others.

    I’d say that the guess that an Islamic revolution ‘won’t happen’ because tribesmen are few in number arrives at a wrong conclusion because it doesn’t consider other causal factors.

  21. Nobody denies that revolutionary situations have to exist. I did not say that such revolutions can be engineered overnight. But if the time is right they certainly can, in diverse ways. And as Nitin says, the tribesmen don’t have to necessarily engineer it in this case.

  22. hey,

    one thing i don’t get, why the goras wants Pakis to concentrate on their western borders?

    Oil outlet country? Curbs on china & india? Stop rival pipelines? What’s the real reason(s)

  23. I am not sure how Cole came to the conclusion that existence of a large middle class might not be favourable to a Taliban take-over of power or implementation of sharia. Knowing only what they’re taught in their schools, I wouldn’t be surprised if they provide tacit support.

  24. Nitin/Ashutosh,

    A few thousand violent individuals can well take over a country if the general population is supine and the security apparatus sympathetic.

    My view is that the ‘general’ population’ is not as supine as you think and that the security apparatus might be sympathetic but will hardly cave in and relinquish power. I think the analogy with Tsarist Russia is just wrong; the pressures created by WWI and the severe polarisations that occurred in that society are not present imo in contemporary Pakistan.

    there is also the question of political differences and contending power groups. One of the main faultlines, if not the THE main faultine in Pakistani politics imo is ethnicity – in the rush to see the Islamist bogey everywhere people always conveniently forget this. the Islamists by large are heavily based in Pashtun areas and have weak support outside it; other violent conflicts which engulf the Pakistani state such as that in the Mohajir separatism in Karachi and Baluchi irredentism have little to do with Islamism directly and will not be quelled by any Islamist takeover. The overdomination of the state by Punjabis with a lesser role for some Pashtuns has created this problem and will not be solved by any attempted Islamist takeover.

    Secondly what are the social basis for these groups; the tribesmen have little power/influence outside the NWFP; Nitin says there are “tens of thousands” of jihadis outside who will ally with them. I don’t know where this number comes from but electoral results in the few free and fair elections Pakistan has had indicates that Islamist parties have very weak support from the rest of civil society. The army and the bureacrtic-political elite that have ruled Pakistan since independence have made concessions to Islamists for their own ends but are not Islamist themselves are unwilling to share power with others of the same class never mind sharing it with Islamists like the Jamaat which come from a very different strata of society from them.

    Comparisons with Iran are poor also in my mind; the Shah had alienated absolutely everybody and faced a wide number of assorted interest groups. there were not well institutionalised political parties or movements, as in Pakistan which could channel much of this resentment. The army was more compromised as were the security services; and Iran was much more homogenous ethnically speaking that Pakistan – not to mention being much smaller in terms of population. Lastly, there is no single unfiying figure like Khomeini to provide a rallying point for the Islamists and unlike in Egypt and Lebanon the Islamist netoworks and social base is much narrower in Pakistan and won’t be able to act as a substitute.

    Yes, I agree in politics there can be no exact predictions but I am sceptical as to the possibility of a succesful take over by a small group of Islamist radicals in Pakistan. My arguement doesn’t just rest on the small number of such radicals – as you both pointed out small numbers have seized power in the past – but the necessary conditions to make this successful don’t exist. In particular, the other fissiparous differences and divides in Pakistan, the coherence of large parts of the elite and the weak social base of the Islamists at the national level make such an occurence unlikely in my opinion.

  25. Conrad Barwa
    Your gabble makes it sound as if present Pakistan’s ‘general’ population’ is the most advanced, reasonable & evolved society on planet earth.

  26. Your gabble makes it sound as if present Pakistan’s ‘general’ population’ is the most advanced, reasonable & evolved society on planet earth.

    I don’t think you understand my arguement. My point was that violent conflict along a number of axis has plagued Pakistani state and society. The weak level of support any one group/cause has is the reason for this and the Islamist will suffer from this problem as well.

  27. “I don’t think you understand my arguement. My point was that violent conflict along a number of axis has plagued Pakistani state and society. The weak level of support any one group/cause has is the reason for this and the Islamist will suffer from this problem as well.”

    — Point taken – but then don’t these ‘violent conflict along a number of axis’ translates as polarization- your contention that ‘severe polarisations that occurred in that society are not present imo in contemporary Pakistan.’ whereas the required ingredients are identical, all you gotta do is substitute monolithic Bolshevism with Wahabbism, revolutionaries – jihadi’s, state of dictatorship of the proletariat – Sharia, proletarian internationalism – Islamic brotherhood.
    The ‘not as supine as you think’ “Mensheviks” would be absorbed/persecuted in/by the whole.
    Do you really bite the bait that all these jihadi’s in SWAT are Pashtuns & not the punjabi’s well infiltrated & secretly planted personnel’s by the Pak Army? Can the Mohajir’s or Baluchi’s or for that matter even the Sindhi’s stand-up against the Army? The Islamization of Pakistan was done by the Army – Zia-Ul-Haq , had he not then regionalism would have divided Pakistan & this inherent ethnicity would have turned into a divisive force & led to a mass separatist movement & the present political fall-out is moving in that direction, if the army doesn’t ‘Islamacize’ Pakistan wholly, then don’t be surprised if the seskaria’s also demand a separate nation. The army can use it as a tool to either neutralize or eliminate the feudal lords, ofcourse those amongst them would be safe-vouched for or sacrificed, depends… & spare me the ‘oh but they are not fundamentalist, they drink scotch’ blah blah how does it matters, as if the commies comrades lived in thatched huts & worked as labourers. It’s might that rules such societies.
    In Iran the revolution was restricted to select urban areas but all it needs is rumors to spread in the interiors & the ‘tens of thousands’ living in abject poverty, just manifest from thin air –
    Iran is as heterogeneous as Pakistan & half it’s pop. Which is sizable enough – Persians (51%), Azeris (24%), Gilaki and Mazandarani (8%), Kurds (7%), etc. Pakistan where punjabi’s are equiv. to the Persians – Punjabi 44.15% Pashto 15.42% Sindhi 14.1% Seraiki 10.53% etc.
    how’s the situation in Pakistan different where millions are bonded labourers? How healthy is the overall pak economy? Even in a local riot you’ll see the docile bank clerk in the forefront of a bloodthirsty mob.
    Therefore – The Talibanisation of Pakistan does not necessarily need the Taliban to take over. The Pak Army is the Punjabi Taliban.

  28. but then don’t these ‘violent conflict along a number of axis’ translates as polarization- your contention that ‘severe polarisations that occurred in that society are not present imo in contemporary Pakistan.’ whereas the required ingredients are identical, all you gotta do is substitute monolithic Bolshevism with Wahabbism, revolutionaries – jihadi’s, state of dictatorship of the proletariat –

    I am not too sure what exactly your arguement is here, it doesn’t seem too clear. However in Tsarist Russia most polarisation revolved around the nature of the regime – ie whether to have a democratic state, a liberal state or an authoritarian monarchy. It did not revolve around the very existence of the state as such and I don’t think there were many disputes over the core of Russian Nationalism within Russia at least (though the Empire was a different matter, however the Revolution was one that happened in the Imperial core not at the periphery where dissent was based on a resistance to Russian expansionism). Here similarly, I don’t think many of these movements want to capture the Pakistani state but actually want to be freed from it in its current form; others like the Mohajir movement are dissatisfied with the way Pakistani nationalism have evolved and I don’t think a simple appeal to Islamism will be the answer.

    The ‘not as supine as you think’ “Mensheviks” would be absorbed/persecuted in/by the whole

    This is a simple assertion not backed up by facts. Mensheviks are a poor example since the largest blocs in the elected body were not the Bolsheviks but the SR (Socialist Revolutionaries) and Liberal factions. The Bolsheviks were in the minority and would never have seized power except for the fact that they were located in the major urban centres of Russia and could command the support of the industrial working classes there through the Soviets, which were the most numerous grouping in these regions as well as the fact that it took a war which polarised the rest of the Russian political community to enable them to seize leadership. The Liberals lost a lot of support by endorsing foreign intervention by the Great Powers and the SRs split into Right and Left factions with the more dominant Left SRs supporting the Bolsheviks. The Russian Revolution is a very complicated event and I don’t think it can be reduced to the simplicities that people here are trying to or used as a good model for current situations. It was quite unique for a number of reasons.

    Do you really bite the bait that all these jihadi’s in SWAT are Pashtuns & not the punjabi’s well infiltrated & secretly planted personnel’s by the Pak Army? Can the Mohajir’s or Baluchi’s or for that matter even the Sindhi’s stand-up against the Army? The Islamization of Pakistan was done by the Army – Zia-Ul-Haq , had he not then regionalism would have divided Pakistan & this inherent ethnicity would have turned into a divisive force & led to a mass separatist movement & the present political fall-out is moving in that direction, if the army doesn’t ‘Islamacize’ Pakistan wholly, then don’t be surprised if the seskaria’s also demand a separate nation. The army can use it as a tool to either neutralize or eliminate the feudal lords, ofcourse those amongst them would be safe-vouched for or sacrificed, depends… & spare me the ‘oh but they are not fundamentalist, they drink scotch’ blah blah how does it matters, as if the commies comrades lived in thatched huts & worked as labourers.

    I didn’t say all the ‘jihadis’ were PAshtuns but certainly the most numerous grouping of them are and the NWFP is where their support is the strongest. As to their support and presence elsewhere, we hear and see a lot of numbers and assumptions bandied about without any proof. The rest of your arguement is fair enough but I doubt that it is accurate; choices about who controls the state aren’t based on personal lifestyles as you seem to imply is my arguement but on contending power groups. I don’t see the Army and the Islamists as a single group; the military across the Muslim world has actually been generally very hostile towards the Islamists whether we talk about Turkey, Algeria or the ME. In no Islamic country has the army ever been at the forefront of a takeover of the state by an Islamist party or group.

    Also that point about the seskarias is just absurd. The mere existence of an ethnic group doesn’t translate into a demand for ethnic separatism; we need to distinguish between what is likely to happen and what me might fantasise about happening.

    The rest of your points here seem polemical to me, and don’t seem to be putting forward any substantive arguement, so I am going to pass them over.

    In Iran the revolution was restricted to select urban areas but all it needs is rumors to spread in the interiors & the ‘tens of thousands’ living in abject poverty, just manifest from thin air –

    I am not an expert on the Iranian Revolution, but this is again very simplistic. EVERY single major urban centre was affected by serious disturbances, not just a “select few” like you claim. Many key sectors of society were mobilised against the Shah, primarily because of the activities of SAVAK and the heavy-handedness of security forces. Rumour of course played a part, as it always does when official sources of information suffer from a credibility deficit and are not believed but the Revolution was not just ‘manifested from thin air’ a fantastical claim if I ever saw one. Even CIA intelligence analysts retrospectively assessed that they should have seen the signs of serious discontent and instability brewing but for you obviously revolutions seem to happen as if by magic at the drop of a hat. The point about poverty is debatable; the Shah had embarked on an impressive modernisation programme, that meant urbanisation and industrialisation; it generated inflation but it is not true to say that the 1970s was a period of growing poverty for the mass of Iranians. Evidence actually suggests otherwise; what was a problem was rising prices and shortages of wage goods. But the ‘White Revolution’ of the Shah was designed to ameliorate these constraints not enforce them.

    Iran is as heterogeneous as Pakistan & half it’s pop. Which is sizable enough – Persians (51%), Azeris (24%), Gilaki and Mazandarani (8%), Kurds (7%), etc. Pakistan where punjabi’s are equiv. to the Persians – Punjabi 44.15% Pashto 15.42% Sindhi 14.1% Seraiki 10.53% etc.

    Yes, I know that Iran is not homogenous in terms of ethnicity but you have only two main ethnic groups, the Persians and the Azeri the others are very small minorities. Pakistan is more broken up; perhaps more significantly is that none of the Iranian minorities exhibits much sign of separatism or nationalist consciousness; despite the large Azeri minority, Iran was able to take a decidedly neutral approach to the Azerbaijan Armenian conflict without any domestic protest and the Iranian Kurds, unlike their Iraqi counterparts stood out for their loyalty to the Iranian regime during the Iran-Iraq war.

    how’s the situation in Pakistan different where millions are bonded labourers? How healthy is the overall pak economy? Even in a local riot you’ll see the docile bank clerk in the forefront of a bloodthirsty mob.

    What has this got to do with anything? There are millions of bonded labour in India too. There ae more hungry and starving people in India as well; Pakistanis as a whole are better fed and less starved as a population. As for that last part, I don’t see its relevance, you see that kind of thing across the region in India, Bangladesh etc. I never said that Pakistani society was a peaceable or stable one. Few in the region are.

    Therefore – The Talibanisation of Pakistan does not necessarily need the Taliban to take over. The Pak Army is the Punjabi Taliban.

    This is just a tautological assertion without any facts or arguement. I don’t think the army can be equated with the Taliban – I am not sure how you are defining this term anyway. There is no evidence provided for the bald claim that the “Pak army is the Punjabi Taliban”. I think this sees the army, local Islamists and their political parties as well as the armed militants as essentially the same actor, which they are not. They are related agents but they have their own agendas; in fact as far as the army and any “Taliban” are concerned, I think the agendas are very different indeed.

  29. Conrad Barwa
    Well if you refuse to even remotely acknowledge an analogy or sense the gist of the topic, but would not settle for anything less than exactly the same circumstances & precise occurrences, then prudence demands that I leave it as it is.

    “Rumour of course played a part, as it always does when official sources of information suffer from a credibility deficit and are not believed but the Revolution was not just ‘manifested from thin air’ a fantastical claim if I ever saw one. Even CIA intelligence analysts retrospectively assessed that they should have seen the signs of serious discontent and instability brewing but for you obviously revolutions seem to happen as if by magic at the drop of a hat.”

    — Revolutions do ‘manifest from thin air’ “as if by magic at the drop of a hat.”
    because the ‘intelligent’ CIA analysts, your only credible source, do not possess the intellect to foresee ominous signs & then resort to face saving retrospection after the damage is done & indulge in self-justifications such as obediently penned by you –
    “the Shah had embarked on an impressive modernisation programme, that meant urbanisation and industrialisation; it generated inflation but it is not true to say that the 1970s was a period of growing poverty for the mass of Iranians. Evidence actually suggests otherwise; what was a problem was rising prices and shortages of wage goods. But the ‘White Revolution’ of the Shah was designed to ameliorate these constraints not enforce them.”
    — Some insight! It makes supreme sense to empty stomachs.

    “What has this got to do with anything?” – “As for that last part, I don’t see its relevance,”
    —My folly, to presume that the obvious would be easily comprehended.

    “ There is no evidence provided for the bald claim that the “Pak army is the Punjabi Taliban”. I think this sees the army, (local Islamists and their political parties)???huh? as well as the armed militants as essentially the same actor, which they are not.”
    & then
    “They are related agents but they have their own agendas;”

    —Well, in that case don’t think until the ‘CIA’ intelligence analysts come out with their ‘retrospective assessment’ report, stating that the Punjabi Taliban is an extended arm of the Pakistani Army, as that seems to be the only valid evidence that would suffice to you.

    “in fact as far as the army and any “Taliban” are concerned, I think the agendas are very different indeed.”

    —Let’s await the ‘retrospective assessment’ report – what if it states otherwise…

  30. Well if you refuse to even remotely acknowledge an analogy or sense the gist of the topic, but would not settle for anything less than exactly the same circumstances & precise occurrences, then prudence demands that I leave it as it is.

    Excuse but WHAT? I don’t have to accept your analogy which I think is wrong and I pointed out why this was the case. The whole point about analogies is that we try to compare like for like as far as possible; not take whatever suits our fancies and try to shoehorn it into some awkward theory and then whinge about it when other people don’t accept it.

    Revolutions do ‘manifest from thin air’ “as if by magic at the drop of a hat.”
    because the ‘intelligent’ CIA analysts, your only credible source, do not possess the intellect to foresee ominous signs & then resort to face saving retrospection after the damage is done & indulge in self-justifications such as obediently penned by you

    Are you seriously telling me that revolutions happen in this way? Wow, it must be interesting to live in your universe where wholesale social change happens in such a manner. Your arguement here doesn’t even make any sense; first of all CIA analysts are “not my only credible source” in fact they were not even a good source for what was going on in Iran at the time. Numerous commentators in the region, in academia and amongst the diplomatic community communicated concerns that the Shah’s regime was in danger of collapsing. You say that the CIA didn’t “forsee the ominous signs” my point is if there WERE OMINOUS SIGNS then the revolution was hardly a bolt out of the blue was it!

    Some insight! It makes supreme sense to empty stomachs.

    It is tedious that you resort to these pointless assertions without any evidence or arguement. Where was the proof that somehow stomachs were emptier under the Shah in 1979 than before? Rather than spouting preconceived rubbish you would do well to actually come out with something grounded in fact.

    —My folly, to presume that the obvious would be easily comprehended.

    Given that I have already had to explain one of my earlier comments to you; which you claim was “too long” for you read and that you have misunderstood key parts of my reply here; the irony is deafening.

    —Well, in that case don’t think until the ‘CIA’ intelligence analysts come out with their ‘retrospective assessment’ report, stating that the Punjabi Taliban is an extended arm of the Pakistani Army, as that seems to be the only valid evidence that would suffice to you.

    Outside some fevered Hindu nationalists circles, I know of no credible academic or specialist on Pakistan or its army that holds this view. Of course, no doubt you will now say they are all CIA agents. I must admit, it is convenient that whoever disagrees with whatever shallow theories you put forward turns about to be a CIA agent.

    If you don’t like my arguements or disagree with them that is fine; this is not a branch of physical or natural science. But unwarranted sneering or comments like these add nothing of value to the debate.

  31. Conrad Barwa
    “Outside some fevered Hindu nationalists circles, I know of no credible academic or specialist on Pakistan or its army that holds this view.”

    —Duh, ‘Hindu Nationalists’ & views???? That’s news to me – Oh, isn’t this term the last resort of the intellectually bankrupt?

    “…credible academic or specialist on Pakistan or its army…”
    – You take the cake….

    Gyani se Gyani mille,
    Hoye ras ki loota loot
    Gyani se Agyani mille
    Hoye maathakoot
    -Kehgaye Sant Kabir.

  32. Seriously, this is the best response you can come up with?! Come on, even a vacuous muppet like you should be able to do better!

    Instead of quoting Kabir and demeaning the great poet by trying to hide beind his poetry; why not actually provide some examples to rebut me or evidence to support your view. Oh, yes, I forgot, it is because you can’t.

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