Archived Story

Michael Waldron: Pakistan kahan he? (Where is Pakistan?)

Published 12:22am Thursday, April 14, 2011

I wonder how many Americans can find Pakistan on the map.  It’s located a long way from the United States.  In fact, it’s 10 time zones from the East Coast—just about the other side of the earth.  I have a personal reason to know about Pakistan because I lived there twice with my family in the 1980s.  We lived there for 3.5 years in Quetta and Islamabad.  Why should you know or be concerned about Pakistan?

First, Pakistan is the only Muslim country with nuclear weapons—at least for the near future.  Most analysts estimate that Pakistan possesses over 100 warheads.  On Pakistan’s eastern border is India, its mortal enemy and also armed with nuclear weapons.  Those two countries have fought three wars since independence in 1947.  Pakistan lost all three so it may be tempted to preempt an Indian attack.  Probably there is a greater chance of nuclear warfare on their 1000 mile shared border than anywhere else in the world except possibly on the Korean peninsula.

Second, Pakistan has been a major proliferator of nuclear technology.  A.Q. Khan, a prominent Pakistani scientist, disseminated Pakistani nuclear technology to some very bad international actors.  Since the Pakistani government only kept him under house arrest and then freed him in 2009, many believe Khan has high level support in the Pakistani government.

Third, even if Pakistan does not go to war with India, it’s still a very unstable country, and Americans are not very welcome in Pakistan at present because of our war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and our Predator drone attacks inside Pakistan.  The Taliban are mostly Pathans, who reside inside Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.  Pakistan’s military has ruled the country for about half of its history.  There is doubt that the current president, Asif Ali Zardari, has the talent to maintain civilian rule while the country suffers from terrorist attacks and other challenges.

Fourth, there has been a gradual Islamization of the culture.  When I was there in 1983, I spoke with a Pakistani army major about Pakistan’s development.  I asked him if he thought women were as intelligent as men.  He said yes, which surprised me.  Then I asked him how Pakistan could ever catch up with developed countries if half the country was kept at home by strict Islamic custom and unable to help develop the economy.  He answer was brutally frank, “We’ll just remain undeveloped.”  I’m sure that 28 years later, there are even more Pakistanis like him who distrust the West and want to become more Islamic regardless of the consequences.  Pakistan has an odd mixture of residual British colonial law and Sharia law.  You can be executed for blaspheming (insulting) Allah or Mohammad.  The governor of Punjab recently defended a Christian Pakistani against a charge of blasphemy.  For that, he was assassinated by his bodyguard.

Last, many experts believe that success in Afghanistan depends on what happens in Pakistan.  The InterServices Intelligence Directorate (ISID), the Pakistan equivalent to our Defense Intelligence Agency, has many agents who were sympathetic to the mujahideen and now are sympathetic to the modern Taliban.  Americans are killed and wounded by the Afghan Taliban, who are supported by some in the Pakistani ISID.  The last Pakistani general, who staged a coup, Pervez Musharraf, defended the ISID at the Economic Club of Southwest Michigan, but he was either self-deluded or merely defending something indefensible to an American audience.

There isn’t much that individual Americans can do to change things in Pakistan.  However, pay attention to American politicians when they discuss foreign policy.  If they can’t find Pakistan on the map, don’t vote for them because they have too much to learn on the job.  I predict that in the near future the provinces of Pakistan:  Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, Azad Kashmir, or the Northwest Frontier Province will become as familiar to Americans as Kosovo, Chechnya, Somalia, Libya, and Iraq are now.

By using this website’s user-contribution features, including comments, photo galleries, or any other feature, you agree to abide by the terms of use. Please read this agreement in its entirety because it contains useful information that will help you better understand the rules and general "good manners" that are expected when contributing content to this website.

  • Uman1

    Mike, you’ve to dig deeper to get to the root cause of the calamity in Pakistan. The armed forces are the main cause of Pakistan’s destruction and the proliferation of the extremism in the country. However, they couldn’t have done without the support of the US and I’m sure you witnessed that more vividly in the 19080s, while there. The Taliban are the creation of the US and Pakistan army. They faction was created to fight the infiltration of the Russians in Afghanistan and now they threaten the Pakistani society.

    The US long-term national interest in Pakistan can only be served through sustainable, true (no influence from the armed forces) democracy, higher education level and a strong middle class. The US provided over $11 billion to the last army dictator, Musharraf, guess where the money was spent….over 85% went the army way. Do you expect any nation to evolve, where most of their money is spent on armed forces and only a fraction of economic development?

  • nychotpilot

    Michael: Knowing where Pakistan is has not helped when it came to US foreign policy. From Eisenhower to Kennedy to Nixon and Carter and latterly to George Bush, all knew exactly where the (alleged) country lay but nevertheless managed to get their foreign policy nearly completely wrong. Each of them had their own reasons for an alliance that looked the other way at repeated Pakistani perfidy and blatant anti-Americanism. And the latter is not a recent phenomenon as you well know having lived there. But it was the last decade of the Soviet Union that contributed most to creating the hydra-headed monster that passes for a nation now.Brezhinski (Carter’s NSA) was the one started the process of consciously arming the Afghan mujahideen via the Pakistanis. Of course, Reagan ratcheted that up significantly with considerable (illegal) help from Charlie Wilson. GWB took it to new heights – turning a blind eye to duplicity from the Pakistanis, all the while thinking that the US got more than it lost through their fraud. Obama has been relatively dry-eyed if only because of his personal stake in Afghanistan but he too continues the policy of offering significant tax-payer dollars to a regime that regularly cocks a snook at the US.

  • MichaelWaldron

    To Uman1 and nychotpilot, thanks for your comments. You have added to my original piece quite nicely. My purpose for the original column was to alert people that Pakistan will be in the news soon. My implication also was that the news would probably not be positive for the United States. I was operating under a word count limitation that prevented an exhaustive rendering of the situation in Pakistan. I would take notice of several things written in your comments. First, Pakistan exists next to its mortal enemy, India, which has about four times its population and more than four times its economy. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for Pakistan to invest a substantial amount in its military. In my opinion, they’ve invested too much in arms and too little in education. Its literacy rate is about 50%. That alone condemns it to a backward status for the foreseeable future. Second, the Taliban was not created by the US and the Pakistan army and they weren’t around to fight the Russians. Our hands are not entirely clean, however. We ignored Afghanistan after the Soviets left. That allowed the Taliban, which formed in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal, to push out the warlords that dominated Afghanistan. Third, Charlie Wilson’s role in supporting the mujahideen was not illegal. He was a flamboyant, flawed character, but his actions in Congress were legal. By the way, Clinton’s role in allowing Osama Bin Laden to escape Sudan and blowing up some Al Qaeda tents with cruise missiles after the Al Qaeda terrorist attack on two US embassies in east Africa is also worth mentioning when apportioning blame for Afghanistan.

  • stuartbramhall

    I would advise not to vote for anyone who can’t find Balochistan province (in Pakistan) on the map, given that the CIA has spent over a billion dollars training Baloch separatists in bomb making and other terrorist activities. The Pentagon/CIA make no secret of their desire to see energy and mineral rich Balochistan secede from Pakistan to become a US client state – just like the energy and mineral rich former Soviet republics Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. In fact many Pakistani analysts believe Pakistan – not Afghanistan – is the real target. And the real goal is to break Pakistan up into two separate countries.

    I blog about this at “Our CIA Freedom Fighters in Pakistan” at http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2011/03/07/our-cia-freedom-fighters-in-pakistan/

Editor's Picks