INTELTRENDS: While all eyes are fixed on Egypt, is anyone watching Pakistan?
By Steve in Wisconsin
February 1, 2011
The popular uprising currently underway in Egypt is grabbing the world’s attention, but it is also grabbing the attention of Muslims in other states.
Some media commentaries mention nearby regimes in Algeria, Jordan and Yemen, and speculate as to whether or not they will follow suit. However, analysts are largely overlooking Pakistan — a tinderbox and U.S. ally — whose people are also facing price increases in food and fuel, shortages of goods, utilities and services, plus growing unemployment. These are the same catalysts that launched rebellions in Tunisia and Egypt.
Public dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s pro-Western (seemingly spineless) President Zardari and his government’s inability to stem U.S. drone attacks inside Pakistan’s tribal areas, coupled with a growing interest in fundamentalist Islam have brought Pakistanis’ tolerance level of the status quo to just below simmering. Keep in mind, also, that if there were ever a country that could mobilize hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people at the drop of a hat, it’s Pakistan.
Pakistan is very technologically advanced: cellphones, high-speed internet, and a sizeable blogging network need only to be inspired to rapidly mobilize the masses. Additionally, ever since Pervez Musharraf’s departure it is my opinion that current Pakistani leadership cannot discount the threat of a military coup, or elements of the security services (police and military) joining a popular uprising — with their weapons. Even if the government shuts down internet and cellphone service, Pakistan’s high-density urban population will continue to communicate using simple methods of decades past: vehicle-mounted loudspeakers and bull horns.
Pakistan’s security forces are likely sufficient to contain even large-scale uprisings, but not without substantial civilian casualties and property loss. This is assuming, of course, that elements of these services refrain from joining the rebellion.
The United States (from a purely self-serving standpoint) is making a mistake in turning its back on long-standing regional allies as this sends a message to other rulers and their security services that the U.S. may stand aside and allow events to run their course. America should also reconsider encouraging opposition forces through the use of social networking sites. [See: Inteltrends’ Special Report: The role of social networking websites in global unrest, and, as a further example, Google Launches Service Letting Egyptians Tweet by Phone.
An editorial in today’s Daily Times (Lahore, Pakistan) takes note of the simmering situation there. It reads, in part:
One should in any case be cautious in dismissing the possibility of a movement of the people in Pakistan. However, there is another dimension to the situation here, which could be the cause of great concern. After four decades of nurturing of jihadis and extremists, any popular revolt will be at risk of being hijacked by extremist forces, who have recently rallied together on the issue of the blasphemy laws and are not in a mood to arrest the momentum of their campaign against the government. In these circumstances, the people of Pakistan have the sorry option between an inept and corrupt political leadership and the entire spectrum of right-wing forces from centre-right to extreme right. The decline of the liberal, democratic and progressive community is at the heart of this crisis. Unless these forces strengthen their cadre, induct fresh blood into their ranks and mount a challenge to the extremists, Pakistan has little hope of salvation.
Recent history has shown that countries which have overthrown unpopular dictators are not necessarily pro-Western once a new government replaces them. [See Stanislav Mishin’s analysis: How the Muslim Brotherhood Saved the U.S. Dollar.]
Steve in Wisconsin is a former deputy sheriff with travels in Africa, Asia and Central America. His primary blog is inteltrends.wordpress.com.