The Crucible of Terror
Not surprising that al-Qaeda and the Taliban found much in common, since they had much in common. Saudi Arabia being the initial commonality, since Osama bin Laden is a Saudi from an aristocratic wealthy family there, though he despises the House of Saud. And it was and remains Saudi funding that established and encouraged Wahhabist-style madrases to churn out fundamentalist Islamists eager to join a global jihad. A succession of Pakistan's governments encouraged these fanatics, directing them alternately, to India, Indian Kashmir and Afghanistan.
With that kind of encouragement, and ties to Pakistan's military and secret police, little wonder that insurgencies in the country itself, and the birth of Pakistan's own Taliban ensued. Wracked by violence that claimed the life by assassination of Benazir Bhutto whose father was proudly responsible for funding the research that resulted in the country's ownership of nuclear arms, and who herself gave shelter and encouragement to the fanatics, she was herself killed by them, after finally denouncing their agenda.
Now here is her husband, newly-installed as president of Pakistan, now however, generally viewed by the population as ineffective and wholly unsuited to the post he was voted into, as a great surprise to himself, let alone those who voted for him. Mr. Tenpercent, aka Asif Ali Zardari, has left the indelible impression among the citizens of his country that corruption, always present, is running rampant under his stewardship of patronage unbound.
Worse, however, is the crumbling, and dangerous state of security in the country where suicide bombings have become a daily occurrence. Even the country's president will not appear in public for genuine and very real risk of assassination. His is a presidency in name only. When he was in India, and commiserating with his Indian counterpart over the attacks on Mumbai, he pledged his military's and secret service's assistance to India in unveiling the details behind the Mumbai massacre.
Returning home to Pakistan he was speedily jerked back to political realities, and on cue from his military and secret service adamantly denied that Pakistan had anything to do with the Mumbai attacks. Emphasizing, in the face of all manner of evidence uncovered by the Indian police, that there was no solid proof of Pakistani involvement. And the ancient enemies, so close to accommodating one another's needs in reaching a peaceful settlement, are now back to the basics of assembling troops across one another's borders.
The economy of the country is crumbling as quickly as its security. Investors are departing; even wealthy Pakistanis are not interested in keeping their money at home, or investing it in projects that would benefit the country. Tourism has collapsed, international travellers not recognizing the entrancing fascination of touring a country where their safety cannot be guaranteed if they're kidnapped for a king's ransom.
Waziristan, Bajaur, Swat and Baluchistan are becoming increasingly impossible to handle, with insurgents ready to prepare for a bloody civil war, and jihadis infiltrating throughout the country, not only in the North-West Frontier Province but in the country's largest cities. Even Islamabad is not immune from terrorist incursions to blow up mosques or hotels, or attempt the assassination of government figures or military leaders.
Pakistan's economy is near collapse. The billions of dollars in aid received from the United States in exchange for Pakistan's assistance in the fight against terror - a risible plot at the very minimum to ingratiate the country into the good graces of a wealthy nation by an impoverished one - hasn't been enough to restore economic equilibrium. Cap in hand, overtures for billions in loans from China and the Arab Gulf States have been turned down.
The International Monetary Fund came to the rescue, not precisely Pakistan's first choice, but there it is, beggars cannot be choosers. The long-overdue and existentially-compelled battle against insurgents has been costly, in an already over-extended economy. Food and energy prices have been rising sharply, and the population is growing restive and angry, the groundwork for future violent riots rising.
All bets are off whether in the coming months Pakistan's new president will be assassinated by cleverly determined Islamists or removed by virtue of yet another military coup.