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Friday, January 20

Moo Shu Pakistan and Washington's Baluchistan Problem: Calling Samantha Power! Hello? Samantha? Hello? Hello?

I was so depressed last night after I listened to 15 minutes of the latest Republican presidential hopeful debate that I went to jump out the nearest window, so it's a lucky thing I decided to visit the Glittering Eye first or I might be nursing a sprained toe right now. Dave Schuler's comments about Fareed Zakaria caused me to burst into surprised laughter. I thought I was the only one who'd noticed that Zakaria had turned out to be a complete ass. Refreshed and restored I braced myself for yet another night of wading through news on Pakistan and the Afghan War.

Two items caught my eye: Aziz Haniffa's January 20 summary for Rediff of a panel discussion at a Hudson Institute-hosted conference, Pakistan: The Crisis State.

Haniffa dutifully wastes his time and yours by quoting "noted South Asia expert" Stephen P. Cohen (NOT to be confused with my idol, Russia expert Stephen F. Cohen), who hangs out at Brookings Institution, and who wants the world to know that Pakistan is too nuclear to fail "implying that this is why it has got to [be] continually propped up by the likes of the United States."

So now we're deep in Thinktankistan territory, gas mask on and battery-powered gibberish decoder spitting out coordinates. The funniest quote is from Marvin Weinbaum, Scholar-in-Residence at The Middle East Institute:
I've been looking at Pakistan some 40 years now and as a Pakistan observer, I really don't know that there's been any time in that period when I would have characterised Pakistan as a 'normal' state. I know when you use the term crisis and you have a crisis all the time, the term crisis loses its meaning. So, I am asking here, whether there's something deeper involved here -- deeper in the body politic, deeper in the political culture of Pakistan, of which this is the latest and perhaps in the order of things, only of the most dangerous."
Please someone assure me it didn't take Weinbaum 40 years to arrive at that question.

The panel included Lisa Curtis, "former Central Intelligence Agency official and currently Senior Research Fellow for South Asian Affairs at the Heritage Foundation -- the conservative DC think tank." Curtis made an observation that I consider ominous:
If Pakistan feels that it needs to force the US to choose between India and Pakistan to have a strategic relationship, it's not going to happen. Yes, there has to be an understanding that yes, the United States would like a strategic partnership or relationship with Pakistan, but it's certainly not going to choose between India and Pakistan.
Given even the recent history India's government should not take that assurance to the bank, but the idea that Washington still wants Pakistan as a "strategic" partner is very bad news for Americans -- not to mention Afghans and Indians.

Lisa Curtis popped up again in the other report I noted, which is a January 19, 2012 Heritage Foundation background paper she co-authored with Derek Scissors titled The limits of the Pakistan-China alliance.

The gist of the paper will come as no surprise to Pundita readers but the authors provide considerable detail to shore their argument that the relationship between China and Pakistan is not as extensive or close as many in Washington believe; for that reason the paper is important. Or rather the paper would be important if not for the fact that Pakistan's water carriers in Washington will simply conjure another argument for the U.S. to maintain a "strategic" relationship with Pakistan if it's demonstrated that Washington's concerns about China's relationship with Pakistan are overblown.

The paper omits discussion of Beijing's increasing worries about Pakistan's designs on Afghanistan. And although Curtis and Scissors mention the glitch with the Gwadar Port deal in Baluchistan province, there is no discussion of what has become an extremely difficult problem for China's relationship with Pakistan -- That is the problem called 'The Pakistani military's atrocities in Baluchistan.'

To show you how popular any such discussion is in Washington, recently a former U.S. foreign service officer named M. Chris Mason had to go to a Canadian newspaper to get a media platform for his idea that the USA should consider supporting the Baluch independence movement. (Solve the Pakistan problem by redrawing the map; Globe and Mail, December 21, 2011.) But even Mason's tough-as-nails recommendation tactfully avoids mentioning the huge conundrum for Washington not to mention the 'international community' and the Human Rights crowd, to include Right to Protect hawks such as Samantha Power: Just how do you make an exception for the Pakistani military's atrocities in Baluchistan while you're yammering about the human rights violations of Assad's regime and when you advocated bombing Ghadafi's regime out of existence to protect the civil rights of freedom-seeking Libyans?

To put it all another way, how do all those human rights defenders keep covering for Pakistan's regime without appearing to be self-serving phonies? This is the great, unanswered question of the early 21st Century. And it's one of the many reasons I keep advising Washington to cut its relations with Islamabad to the bare bones of a purely transactional relationship.

When it comes to the point where even China's leaders, who have to fend off accusations about their own regime's human rights violations, worry that Pakistan's regime is becoming toxic in the international arena, this is a Sign. On the one hand Beijing doesn't want to encourage "splittist wolves" in Baluchistan because this would encourage China's own splittist wolves (the Tibetans, etc. who want independence). On the other hand China is trying to be the world's most admired power and for that type of social climbing one has to least put on a show of frowning at government-instigated mass murder.

And it's getting increasingly hard for Washington and the 'international community' and the press outlets that serve them to keep a lid on the Baluchistan Problem, as B. Raman's recent observations suggest:
The Killing Fields of Balochistan have started shocking the conscience of the international community. Not only non-governmental human rights organisations, but even Governmental spokesmen of other countries---including a spokesperson of the US State Department in response to Tweets on the sufferings of the Balochs--- have started getting over their hesitation in expressing their concern over the steady flow of reports from Balochistan about the atrocities committed by the Pakistani security forces on the people of Balochistan.

2. The atrocities have taken many forms. Brutal killing of the Baloch youth in false encounters for opposing State repression. Custodial deaths of Baloch youth rounded up by the security forces for interrogation on their suspected association with the on-going freedom struggle. Hundreds of missing Balochs, who were rounded up by the Security Forces for interrogation and who have since disappeared from public view and public conscience. Frequent recoveries of dead bodies of Baloch youth here, there, everywhere after they were allegedly tortured to death. Despite all this, the Baloch freedom struggle continues unabated.

3. Even the conscience of right-thinking sections of the Pakistani civil society have been shocked by the atrocities committed on the Balochs by the Pakistani security forces which bring to mind the atrocities committed on the Bengalis of the then East Pakistan before 1971.
[...]
7. Even though the Western world has started showing signs of being disturbed by reports suggesting a systematic genocide of the Balochs by the Pakistani Security Forces, they are unable to go beyond expressing lip sympathy for the bleeding Balochs.
[...]
Raman does not limit his criticism to the Western world; his post is specifically to take India to task for not stepping up, but it's not New Delhi that's leading the Right to Protect movement; it's Washington and Brussels.

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Comments:
Excellent piece. Thinkistan?! What an apt connotation - Kudos! Must find its way into the State Departments vocabulary soon. We shouldn't be surprised that the mandarins of thinkistan have either acknowledged their senile status or had rare L-DOPA flashes (Awakenings 1990) with inevitable relapses to their previous catatonic state. The irony is that these mandarins were paid by US tax Dollars in more ways than one. Some were financed by the Pak nation and chose to,invariably, play mouthpiece for their paymasters. Ah yes, he who pays the piper...

Baluchistan is a sordid example of Realpolitik. The never ending genocide can be put to a stop, provided we attempt to gain some high moral ground that has been lost over the years. But that is indeed difficult, when one looks at the verbal outpourings of the Republican presidential candidates. The drivel that they have been mouthing is nauseating, but even more depressing is the applause they get with these lies, platitudes and even more downright lies. Its all an open (marriage) apparently.
Nothing much can be expected from the US, in this respect, caught in the gridlock of political gamesmanship, which indeed must turn the spotlight on India and the need of the hour. Far too long has the world accepted the snivelling of these (supposed) grown ups with their clipped accents, borrowed Uranium Ding Dong (Chinese) toys, the moral rectitude of baboons and the intellectual capability of Neanderthals.

The gauntlet has been long awaiting to be picked up. Time to call their bluff!
 
Anon -- Thank you but "Thinktankistan" isn't my invention. I got it from Madhu, who blogs at Chicago Boyz, who got it from someone else. But yes it's very apt, but note it's think-tank-istan not thinkistan, although your way of writing it might become standard 'shorthand' if it enters the lexicon lol.
 
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