Pakistan likely model of what’s to come
The current “war on terrorism” is largely a war on militant Islamic fundamentalists who may pose a threat to US interests. Yet by interfering in the affairs of Muslim-majority countries as part of the “war on terrorism” — often unilaterally — the United States is indirectly giving credence to the anti-American attitudes of the fundamentalist parties and groups. This paradox explains why as the “war on terrorism” progresses, attitudes toward the United States become more negative
By Erich Marquardt
In October, the Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of Islamic fundamentalist parties, was elected and given control of the provincial government in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), located on Afghanistan’s eastern border. Since the election, the alliance has quickly picked up where the Taliban left off; they’ve burned videocassettes, discouraged music, and are attempting to place the region under Shariah, or Islamic law. The most alarming aspect of the MMA’s rise is that they would not have been elected if it weren’t for the US invasion of Afghanistan.
The US military presence in Afghanistan greatly increased the anger and resentment felt toward US foreign policy in Central Asia and the Middle East. The subsequent invasion of Iraq boosted this anger yet again. While anger and frustration were felt throughout the world by those who had joined in large global demonstrations to protest the preemptive invasion of Iraq, these emotions have been traditionally most evident in Muslim-majority countries; in many Muslim countries, populations generally feel that the US “war on terror” is actually a “war on Islam.”
Pakistani society is absolutely virulent toward US foreign policy, as was seen from the results of a recent Pew Research poll. This anger has created a backlash against the United States, making it easier for Islamic fundamentalist parties who speak out against US policies to take power through democratic elections. As Liz Sly writes in the Chicago Tribune, the MMA’s “electoral platform of hostility to the US resonated with many ordinary Pakistanis.”
The election of the MMA is causing problems for the Bush administration and is bound to further exasperate an already delicate situation. The US military is having trouble securing the unstable border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US government claims that militants in Pakistan, sympathetic to the Taliban, and hostile to the United States, are travelling into Afghanistan to mount raids on the US military and the central Afghanistan government of US-backed Hamid Karzai. After mounting such attacks, the militants are able to sneak back into neighbouring Pakistan. In early June there was a battle in the border region near Spin Boldak between Afghan forces and suspected Taliban, which killed almost 50.
Because the MMA is sharply against current US foreign policy, it is not working to discourage such attacks. And with a population seething with anger at the United States, it is very hard for Washington to prevent the growing threat arising from the Afghan-Pak border. This has caused a conundrum for Washington. The Bush administration is also aware that its continuing pressure on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is threatening to destabilize his regime. Continuing hatred toward the United States is creating the possibility that other provinces in Pakistan will follow the North-West Frontier’s example and embrace Islamic fundamentalism more than they traditionally have.
The greater danger is the threat of this political system becoming the new Islamic model: one in which parties can garner public support best through anti-Americanism. This would be a significant blow to the Bush administration, as it would solidify the already popular sentiment that US foreign policy is creating hatred and disillusionment in many corners of the globe. Such a trend not only further radicalises those on the fringe and those dedicated to violent means but also those of the mainstream, thus turning them towards groups such as the MMA. It is this gravitational pull towards a more anti-American world that the White House has been trying to combat through its assortment of public relations campaigns and its everyday rhetoric of “liberation.”
The situation in Pakistan is really a specific example in a larger movement in which current US foreign policy is sowing many of the seeds it is attempting to destroy and creating significant negative effects: a resurgence in nationalism, a trans-Atlantic diplomatic schism, and, perhaps, a new era of nuclear proliferation.
The current “war on terrorism” is largely a war on militant Islamic fundamentalists who may pose a threat to US interests. Yet by interfering in the affairs of Muslim-majority countries as part of the “war on terrorism” — often unilaterally — the United States is indirectly giving credence to the anti-American attitudes of the fundamentalist parties and groups.
This paradox explains why as the e “war on terrorism” progresses, attitudes toward the United States become more negative. And as attitudes become more negative, we can also expect a heightened level of violence directed toward US interests at home and abroad. —Courtesy PINR