Pakistani Reaganism

Juan Cole with a bit of (presumably informed) conjecture about Pakistan and the nasty business in Mumbai. Another bumper harvest of whirlwind.

Pakistani Reaganism Must End: The New Government must take on the Lashkar

I saw this militarization of Pakistani civil society with my own eyes. I first went to the country in 1981 before you could just buy a Kalashnikov in the bazaar. When I was doing research there in 1988 and then again in 1990, the situation was completely different. Pakistan had never had a drug problem but now there were a million addicts (the US encouraged the Afghan mujahidin to grow poppies for heroin to finance the anti-Soviet struggle, and the drugs spilled into Pakistan). Weapons were freely available. Karachi was having a kind of civil war. I remember that fanatics from the religious right attacked an art exhibition in Lahore, a city of the arts (graven images not allowed & etc.) Political figures were accused of cynically creating Islamic movements for personal and political gain. This deterioration of Pakistan was, in some important part, a direct result of Reagan-Bush policies. They used Pakistan, corrupted it with all those drugs, arms, and radical Muslim militias that they called ‘freedom fighters,’ and then threw it away when they did not need it any more. Reagan and the Saudis funneled billions to the Pakistani military. What did ordinary Pakistanis have to show for it?

When the Soviets withdrew in 1988-1989 from Afghanistan and the Mujahideen took over, the Pakistani military lost control of its northern neighbor. It therefore funded and promoted the Taliban (expatriate Afghan young men who had been through Deobandi seminaries in northern Pakistan) from 1994, enabling them to take over Afghanistan. The Taliban ran terrorist training camps, at which the Sipah-e Sahaba and the Lashkar-e Tayiba trained for missions in Kashmir. Afghanistan in essence was the boot camp for Pakistani Reaganism.

High Dudgeon of Americans directed at the Pakistani military for this activity is the height of hypocrisy. The Reagan administration actively encouraged Islamabad to mount precisely such activities against the leftist government of Afghanistan (which, while dictatorial and brutally oppressive, was busily educating girls, admitting women to professions, spreading literacy, working against the vestiges of landlord feudalism, etc.) From a Pakistani point of view, Soviet-occupied Afghanistan and Indian-occupied Kashmir were morally equivalent.

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