Friday, May 15, 2009

Swatted Down

I am one of those who thinks that the current elevated misfortunes of Pakistan are a direct effect from the US/NATO failure in Afghanistan. The droning and bombing, the slaughter of the innocents, the twelve kids who were blown up when they were playing with an undetonated bomb, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the general intensifying of stability issues, and now, the tragic exodus of the embattled residents of the beautiful and traditionally peaceful vale of Swat and its district, and hundreds of other outrages, none of these and many other events need have occurred but for the encroaching crises exported from an occupied Afghanistan, inflaming Pakistan's vulnerabilities and enabling them to expand.

When I was in Peshawar years ago, I checked into visiting the Khyber Pass. I was told it could be done, but an armed escort was necessary. Not for protection against the Taliban or al Qaeda (or drones - or even friendly fire - from our NATO 'peacekeepers'). No, back then it was for protection against mostly smugglers and tribesmen, people who have never been under any greater power's control, whether they were Mughal, British, or Pakistani. It was an exciting prospect, but rather an expensive one, so I passed. Peshawar was a charming city, full of Arabian Nights magic, cordiality, and excellent green tea.

Granted, political instability has been a way of life in Pakistan. Death in front of the mob was perhaps Bhutto's destiny all along (witness the Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty's precedents in India), and there has long been an uneasy Pak-Talibanian association. But the aggressive actions in Afghanistan, and US (et al) blunderings, have clearly exacerbated Pakistan's issues to the boiling point.

Finally, an entirely selfish point to make, but one that is at least peaceful in its intent: I always wanted to visit Swat. When I was near to it, I turned back, in the interest of other threads to follow in the region. I figured, 'it'll always be there, so I'll get there next time.'

Alas, alas for Swat...

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