In reading the New York Times editorial on what may be ahead for Pakistan after the resignation of its president, Pervez Musharraf, this paragraph leapt out at me:
Pakistan’s newly elected civilian leaders must also move quickly to challenge Taliban and Al Qaeda forces — who threaten their own country’s stability — and the Pakistani intelligence and military officers who are in league with them. They must address a desperate food and fuel crisis and tackle the deeper problems of poverty, development and corruption that are feeding extremism and anti-American fury.
I suspect that reflects a peculiarly America-centric view of things in Pakistan. Do the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which in recent years have been a lot more tribal and a lot less federally administered, which are the areas in which the Taliban and Al Qaeda have taken root, really register that high on the Pakistani radar?
Have these regions ever actually been under the control of Pakistan’s central government? Is the status quo there destabilizing to Pakistan or actually maintaining Pakistan’s stability such as it is and whatever U. S. views on the subject might be?
I suspect that headlines like “Two Gas Pipelines Blown Up in Pakistan’s Baluchistan” or “Fighting flares in Pakistan’s Baluchistan; 43 killed”, to pick just two, are more likely to be on Pakistanis’ minds than what’s going on in the remote and comparatively isolated Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Contrariwise I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t going to be quite the challenge for us to encourage the new Pakistani president to muster even the mercurial level of interest his predecessor had in the region. How likely is he or she to continue turning a blind eye to our occasional cross-border incursions? They’re not much but they’re what our billion dollars a year in aid are buying us.