Nothing reveals the bogus nature of the war on terror more explicitly than the attention, or lack of it, being paid to Pakistan at the moment. Loonies and walking tragedies like Melanie Phillips and Christopher Hitchens are still staring down aluminium tubes in Iraq, looking for WMDs; meanwhile, a country that has an actual nuclear arsenal is having fire-fights in the centre of its largest city.
Days after violence flared over the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the fighting continues — and the fact that it has normalised has taken it out of Western news bulletins. President Musharraf suspended Chaudry in an attempt, the latter’s supporters say, to nobble the judiciary in an election year.
Musharraf blames Chaudry for stirring up government opponents. Opposition politicians walked out of Parliament chanting for Musharraf’s resignation, and the MQM Party (Musharraf’s support base) was being blamed for what was, in effect, a counter-riot, with many of the casualties coming from club-wielding thugs affiliated to them.
On top of that, a suicide bomber killed 22 in Peshawar, northern Pakistan. The incident is unrelated to the Karachi violence — which makes it considerably worse, since it suggests that two separate fronts of violence are beginning to meet — the insurgent and sectarian campaigns of the Afghan war spilling over the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, a border that has always been a Western fiction in any case.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
The northern areas of Pakistan are usually referred to as the areas that have become “lawless tribal zones”. In fact, they always were — their leaders were only persuaded to become part of the Pakistani state in 1948 on condition that they retain autonomous status. The writ has never fully run there.
Were we focusing on real risks, the prospect of an actual nuclear state — and one that, via its chief nuclear scientist AQ Khan, has been a purveyor of nuclear technologies to all comers — sliding into anarchy would surely be cause for focusing the minds. Indeed, as the bloggers tell it, the violence was far worse than portrayed, with the struggle between MQM and Chaudry’s supporters far more destabilising and systematic than just a random series of riots.
But we can’t really focus on the prospect of a nuclear state going sideways and claimed by the biggest gang on the block, because there’s no way to fit it into the security narrative of the ‘war on terror’, whereby unprecedented levels of repression can be visited on Western countries to deal with the ‘threat within’. Greg ‘Remedial’ Sheridan suggests that al-Qaeda’s threat to the West is comparable with that of the the Cold War.
So an outfit run by a bloke in a cave, with no territory and no army, is the equal of the USSR. Last week, with his usual sureshot accuracy, Sheridan canvasses a wide range of countries where destablising violence is occurring, leaving out only one. Guess which.