Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Lal Masjid: Some questions about the violence in Pakistan

As I said in a response to one of the readers;

"The over-reliance (of Pakistani leaders) on choreographed violence to promote their brand of social leadership steadily destroys the very society they want to dominate. In a misguided effort to display their power to light a controlled fire, they manage to burn the house down. "

As we all gather to watch this choreographed fight between the Jihadis and the Pakistan Army, for those of us who keep track of violence and its use as a language of communication, a few questions naturally come to mind.

If a brigade size Pakistani Army formation finds itself overwhelmed (due to attrition or infiltration) by Jihadi groups on Pakistani soil what if anything can be said about the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapon caches? Surely even someone as smart as Alex Stolar knows that if the formation protecting the cache is compromised then there is cause for concern?

Alternatively if a flag officer is murdered or defects to the Jihadi side, then what if anything can be said about the loyalties of those critical in the chain of nuclear security?

Ofcourse so far General Musharraf has survived many assasination attempts, thanks in no small measure to the loyalty of his personal staff. General Musharraf has the capacity to fix almost anything or so we are repeatedly told, but what if he is shall I say "incapacitated" in some way? what can be said about his effectiveness in controlling the overall situation?

Generally the Islamists ofcourse have been given to rhetoric. I for one felt that this was deliberate on their part, perhaps even done at the behest of their allies in the Pakistan Army. Will the Islamists now eschew escalatory rhetoric in favour of a more rational and reasoned voice?

There is censorship in place in Pakistan today. Without a free flow of information, how will anyone make decisions about the state of things? This is the paradox of information control, the more you try to hide, the less you can predict.


At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Why do you think that an assassination of a flag officer will cast doubts on the loyalties of those in the nuclear chain of command? I am assuming here that the said officer being a part of that chain was implied in your post.

Surely the jihadis (both outside and within the military) are not powerful enough to identify such officers and pick them off at will.

A defection is sure to cast doubts but a one-off assassination?

At 7:24 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Anonymous,

If a Pakistani flag officer is targetted and killed, it would create in the minds of his colleagues that such an act was possible.

In Pakistan, the military thinks itself as a cut above the rest of society. The flag officers consider themselves a cut above the rest of the military even other officers.

If someone shows that it is possible to do something like this, their apparently invincible aura will have degraded and a big psychological edge they hold over their own people will have degraded.

Tell me something, when have you ever seen a photo of a Pakistani flag officer in a hospital, I mean as a patient? There has been an attempt on the life of Gen. Hayat, when he was Corps Commander of Karachi. The attempt was conducted *inside* the Karachi Green Zone and a number of the soldiers protecting him were killed, but did you ever see a picture of him with so much so as a scratch?

A Pakistani brigadier was killed during their Kargil operations. Did you ever see his body? or his funeral?

Do you see what I am getting at?

It is like that sort of thing never happens out there.

At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Vivek said...

HI maverick,

what do you make of all these reports coming out suddenly from DC. I mean this revelation of aborted attack, op-eds in major newspapers, NIE report, stratfor. Even the MSM is all over AQ in Pakistan. Suddenly they have woken up from following Paris Hilton it seems. Pressure tactics on mush? Is it just rhetoric or is US planning something in Waziristan/ NWFP?


At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi m,
in one of the threads you had mentioned that an insergency is already in places like waziristan.
But the point is ,will the current events at lal-majid blow into a full fledged LIC a.k.a Kashmir and Punjab.
1)In both places the number of troops that have been killed by militants far exceeds 3 figure mark. The casualties were in thousands.
2)If you look carefully at the various reports coming in, there is absolutely no evidence of paki army casualties touching even the three figure mark. Few dozens dying here and there. Hence my question? Will this lead to another punjab/kashmir style insurrection leading to mass slaughter of paki troops. It wil be fun watching for us many indians who want this bloodfest to turn even deadlier? what do you think?

At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi m,
you mean pakistani flag officers=3 star generals?

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You need to look at the time length of the insurgency in J&K and Punjab vs. FATA and NWFP before you start making such silly comparisons in cumulative casualty figures.

Instead look at the casualty rates. If the Pakistanis keep loosing a few dozen soldiers here and there every week in FATA and NWFP, then over a period of time that will add up to a very large number of dead men. That is assuming the Pakistanis stay and fight instead of running away like the last time. Incidentally, the last time they entered FATA in divisional plus strength and fought, they suffered about 600-700 dead over a few months. Over the last week or two in FATA they have suffered about a 100 dead. When did we ever suffer such intense casualty rates in J&K and Punjab?

Think about these things before making such superficial comparisons.

At 8:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi ,
1)wow 600-700 dead!!! the number was closer to 126!
2)paki army running away from battlefield!!!
3)with such casualty figures isn't it a mystery as to pakistan keeps going?

At 7:34 AM, Blogger maverick said...


It may be that some part of it is related to a domestic political rough patch, but Washington is trying to remind all Pakistanis where its interests lie.

What effect these idle boasts of non-operations have on their domestic politics is unknown, but in Pakistan they have an effect that does not exactly make Gen. Musharraf's life easier.


The underlying drivers of an insurgency are quite complicated, and I can't make any such predictions. There is a lot of anger in the population over a variety of issues. Islamists are succeeding in channeling this fire into political capital for their purposes.

It is unclear to me whether the situation in Waziristan will spread to other parts of Pakistan.

It must be remembered that Karachi is the crown jewel of Pakistan's economy. Anyone who wants to rule Pakistan, must demonstrate an ability to hold that city to ransom.

If there is an escalatory pattern of violence in the city lasting many months, either in the form of attacks on the Army/Green Zone, attacks on the communal fabric of the city, or even random attacks on citizens, then an atmosphere of fear will develop. This atmosphere can be used to leverage an end to operations in Waziristan.

There is a very large Pashtun population in Karachi, and in theory they could hold the city to ransom. Though they are heavily divided along tribal lines, it may be that Islam appears as a unifying factor and causes their loyalties to turn towards their kin in Waziristan. It all seems entirely plausible, and yet it is impossible to say with certainity which way things will shift.

We are already seeing attacks on American military fuel convoys going to Afghanistan. There are reports appearing about increased pilfering of supplies going to US troops. It is unclear if these are related to rising Pashtun discontent with Musharraf's policies.

From the perspective of the Hogwarts of Jihadi Islam, the Jamia Binoria, destablising Karachi is a double edged sword, it could in theory bring about a Lal Masjid style operation against them, but it may also bring about a critical leverage that they seem to be steadily losing. It is a choice they will not want to be seen making openly.

You see, they are playing the underdog card in Pakistani politics. They are garnering sympathies from the people on the basis of the fact they are being slapped around by a big bad Pakistan Army that more America's slave than Pakistan's or Islam's protector.

By comparison to them, the rest of the feudal parties seem like collaborators. This trick will work and bring over supporters to their side. The only thing left to do will be to push things to a point where this support spontaneously but in a highly controlled fashion boils over just a tiny little bit.

At 7:40 AM, Blogger maverick said...


Casualty rates are meaningless until they affect internal morale.

The morale of the Pakistanis wears very thin when they are fighting their Jihadi/Pakistan Army brothers.

Civil Wars have this odd ebb and flow of intensity to them. The players often lunge at each other with great anger and righteousness over some perceived betrayal. However as the horror of fatricide sinks in, the participants recoil. As the horror subsides the righteous anger returns and they go at it again. This state of affairs matures as criminal elements set up internal conflict economies. The war ofcourse endures until the number of dead exceeds the ability of the living to dispose.

Casualty figures are meaningful in this conflict in Pakistan and that is why Musharraf's men are trying to hide them, but as I said before, bodies bodies bodies everywhere... how to get rid of so many bodies...


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