Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Who's Who and What's What of Pakistan

When reading about Pakistan - it helps to know who is speaking for what interest group. This should help decode what is really being said and most importantly who *not* to pay attention to.

I deconstruct Pakistan as follows. The political core of Pakistan wrapped around three major industries - narcotics, black marketeering and terrorism (murder for hire).

The narco-industrialists used to control most of the world's grade -4 heroin production in the late 80s and early 90s. After the fall of the Taliban - the production activities have dropped, a number of the refineries have quite possibly relocated to Kurdistan or to Afghanistan itself. The narco-industrialists of Pakistan continue to make large sums of money from trafficing in narcotics because in all cases the refineries have to recieve morphine base or opium gum from Afghanistan or release the heroin to their markets and the only way to get to the sea lanes of communication from Afghanistan is via Baluchistan or via Port Qasim in Karachi. Remember that the sea lanes are the cheapest form of transport - you pay nothing for floating sedately on the water. The narco industrialists of Pakistan also manage the conflict economy that arises from the trade in drugs. How big is this economy? some say it is $ 40 Bn, the size of Pakistan's white economy but I feel this may be an over-estimation. This is why the Pakistanis love the UAE so much because most of the money earned in the narcotics trade is remitted via UAE. There is no point in naming names - I leave it your intelligence to guess who speaks for this community.

Black marketeering as an activity relies heavily on Pakistan's ability to procure cheap items at a low cost and then smuggle them into places and sell them at a price that is below the going rate. It helps a lot if the item is completely unavailable through legal channels eg. nuclear tech. or missile tech. A large portion of this activity also includes trade in conventional arms. The arms that Pakistan sells are made by the Pakistani military-industrial complex. This comprises the Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT), Wah Nobel Corp., a group of companies operating from under the Fauji Foundation, the Shaheen Foundation and the Bahria Foundation - all run by ex-servicemen. The Pakistan Army and their front organizations also run a kind of SBIR/"Cottage Industries Board" type program and through engage a number of skilled armourers in Darra Adam Khel area to make small arms. PAEC and KRL are responsible for the nuclear side of things. A small cache of arms is still available from the "Ojhri fire" but this cache was a big boost to this activity over a decade ago. It may be recalled that Mirza Aslam Beg was the prime mover on the sale of centrifuges to Iran. Some of you may also remember that Javed Nasir was the person responsible for shipping arms to the Bosnians during Clinton's time. And of course you all probably know that Hamid Gul's daughter owns the largest of the trucking companies in Quetta. All three were around when the Ojhri depot went up in flames.

That leaves terrorism - i.e. murder for hire. The Pakistanis entered this trade in 1979. The CIA subcontracted Zia-ul Haq to kill Soviet troops in Afghanistan and Zia subcontracted the Islamists of Pakistan to raise an army of Jihadi drones. These drones can pretty much be programmed to kill anyone. This makes them a handy tool to have in any conflict management scenario. They are real life manchurian candidates. There a number of Deobandi preachers that were hired to carry out various parts of this programming. The big five used to be the heads of the Jaish, the Harkat, the Sipah-e, Al Badr and the laskhar of Jhang and the most terrible the army of the faithful. Today ofcourse these activities are often marketted under the brand name "Al Qaida" or "International Islamic Front" etc..., earlier they also went under the name of "Secret Army of BCCI" and other more colorful epithets. Today who ever claims to speak for any of these groups - effectively speaks for the entire murder for hire business. I am sure you know all the names by heart thanks to my friends B. Raman and Kanwar Pal Singh Gill.

So where does that leave PM or Shortcut or the ISI and the other people that float across our TV screens and entertain us?

Well, I feel they are important too, but for a different reason. I tend to think of them as referees in a match ( well.. actually less match and more free-for-all). It is they who organize the interaction between these groups and ensure that a common minimum agenda is hammered out. Without the common minimum agenda - the inter group friction would make profit impossible. That my friends is just about everything I know about the political economy of Pakistan.

It is not a lot to go on - but it does help make sense of the world from time to time.


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