Red Countries> Pakistan

Pakistan has the unfortunate bad luck of sitting on a massive fault line in this conflict and risks being completely torn apart by the whole affair. Pakistan is made up of four states: Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh and the North-West Frontier Province. It also has two territories under its command - the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Islamabad Capital Territory. As well as this it has controlled a large portion of the Kashmir province following a number of wars it fought with neighbouring India over this region.

Following the attack of 9/11 it seemed that Pakistan would definitely be involved in the ensuing war on some level. Indeed, it initially seemed that Pakistan would be declared one of the many enemies of the west due to its historic links to the Taleban government of neighbouring Afghanistan. At the time there were even rumblings that it could be plunged into a new war with its other neighbour India, a much more traditional ally of the US. As the US attacked Afghanistan it seemed likely they would ask their ally India to take care of the Pakistan problem for them.

But this all changed when it was suddenly announced by the leader of Pakistan, a military dictator by the name of General Musharraf, that he would be an ally of the US and help in the attacks on Afghanistan. This was a great surprise at the time and would have seemed a great betrayal by the Taleban who had a strong presence on the Pakistani side of the border as well. It has recently emerged that General Musharraf made this decision to become a US ally because he was contacted in the hours after 9/11 by then US Deputy Director of State, Richard Armitage, and told to prepare to have his country “bombed back into the stone age”. This left General Musharraf's regime between a rock and a hard place. They chose to play a dangerous game of sitting on the fence that could still be the downfall of the entire nation.

The central government has ostensibly been helping the US and its allies in their war on terror. Indeed a number of suspects have been sent to Pakistan to be tortured as part of the ‘rendition’ network for acquiring information from terrorist suspects. However many suspect that internal groups of the military are still on the opposing side in this war which is giving Pakistani actions an almost schizophrenic feel.

The great danger that US military advisors warn against is that eventually General Musharraf will be overthrown and all pretence that Pakistan is a ‘friendly’ country will be lost and it will be yet another country that will have to be destroyed and attacked by the US war machine. Indeed there have been numerous assassination attempts against General Musharraf by the Taleban elements within Pakistan since 2001. Any attack on Iran would inflame this dangerous situation very rapidly. The heartland of the Taleban movement has long been the madrassah religious schools that exist within Pakistan. So as the conflict between the Taleban and NATO heats up next door in Afghanistan, this too is being felt in Pakistan.

There has long been suspicion that Mullah Omar and Usama Bin Laden have been safely hiding in the FATA region of Pakistan. The Pashtun in this area were strong supporters of the Taleban in Afghanistan. Traditionally the central government is not allowed to enter these areas for fear of sparking civil war in the country between these fierce tribes and the central army. And General Musharraf had managed to play the US into even greater farce by not allowing them to enter any of Pakistan’s territory. So the fugitives remain at large and essentially safe. Some limited co-operation had however been entered into which had seen Pakistani forces deployed into one of the Tribal Areas known as Waziristan. The whole balance seems to be shifting lately though, with even General Musharraf warning that the Taleban movement is growing so strong it may soon be seen as a generalised war of liberation for the entire Pashtun people.

In light of this the Pakistani military recently cut a new deal with the tribal leaders and began pulling back out of Waziristan, leaving the border security in the hands of the tribal militias, militias that are known to be sympathetic to the Taleban. It was about this time that the Pakistani Taleban began openly crossing the borders most likely along this area and entering into Afghanistan, assisting in wrecking great havoc on the NATO troops there. Certainly not the classic sort of help one might expect from an ally. It leaves open great questions as to how much control General Musharraf really has over the country at the moment.

As well as this the classic conflict between Pakistan and India over Kashmir has again reached a fever pitch. India accuses the Pakistani military of assisting and in some way running the militant organisations in this region. Since January 2006 there have been numerous attacks on Indian forces coupled with suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks. These are surprising actions from a nation supposedly at war with terrorism. This reached a head when a massive bombing occurred on the commuter train network of the Indian city of Mumbai back in July. This was an attack that was very reminiscent of the purported Al Qaeda train attacks in Madrid and London. An Indian report into the attack directly accused the Pakistani military of having links with and assisting the group that carried out the attack. This has led to a steady escalation in tensions again between India and Pakistan that could explode following any Iran destabilisation. Again this casts much doubt over whose side Pakistan really sits on. “You’re either for us or you’re against us” does not seem to apply in the case of Pakistan.

This has become increasingly clear in the recent nuclear crises. Back in the 90’s, after their enemy India acquired a nuclear bomb, Pakistan felt it necessary to follow suit. A scientist by the name of Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan was able to design one for them and became a national hero working closely with the new Musharraf government after he seized power. Recently however Musharraf has placed him under house arrest and it has become apparent that he was sending the Pakistani nuclear secrets to other countries. The UN has said it suspects that the uranium enrichment techniques that Iran is now capable of doing, for its peaceful energy reactors, did indeed originate from Dr Khan. So there is a strange Pakistan/Iran connection here when it comes to the nuclear showdown that the US is driving against the latter country. On top of this said Dr Khan also admitted to having sent nuclear technology to the North Koreans! Undoubtedly some of this has helped them in the development of their recent nuclear bomb. Again Pakistan sits on a bridge between enmity and ally with the US.

Against the backdrop of all this intrigue a greater push for internal chaos in Pakistan with the hopes of removing Musharraf have increased. The state of Balochistan has long had a simmering secession movement inside it but this has erupted dangerously since July of this year. Balochistan is the Pakistani state that borders Iran. The Baloch people are traditionally an Iranian peoples and Balochistan is divided between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Iranians have had to deal with a similar push for secession from their Baloch minority but it is possible that they have set aside old differences and are using the Baloch issue to help destabilise another of the US’s allies in the region. There have been reports following questioning of captured Baloch rebels in the region that there is foreign involvement in stirring the trouble up to its recent heights.

From July of this year till now the rebellion has grown into a very serious war on the ground. Indeed it may have been because of the pressures in Balochistan that the Pakistani military chose to withdraw from Waziristan. Any US attack on Iran could see a more unified assault on General Musharraf within Pakistan. Pashtun and Baloch alike could begin a much more sustained campaign to overthrow him. And if this were successful it could see war raging in Pakistan on numerous fronts. From India in the east and against US forces along the Afghan and Iranian borders in the West. The aftermath of which could be a fragmented Pakistan.

Map of Pakistan