T Nation

Instability and Strife?


Pakistan is having it's own troubles these days...

A major rebellion in Baluchistan

The guerrillas belong to the shadowy Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), an insurgent group that's said to have 5,000 men under arms, waging a bitter war in the southwestern province of Baluchistan against Pakistan's government. Baluchistan is the largest, poorest and least-populated province in the country?but it has large quantities of natural gas, coal and copper, and it supplies half of all Pakistan's energy needs.

The rebels, like most of the 6.5 million people in the province, want greater political autonomy and more control over the region's abundant mineral resources.

The Baluchs have chafed at Islamabad's treatment for decades. One of their chief complaints is that the government has been stingy with royalty payments for gas supplies. The province has its own assembly, but observers say the Pakistani Army effectively runs the place, a major irritant in a fiercely independent tribal region.

Tensions flared last year when President Pervez Musharraf established three new Army garrisons in the province. The military already has 70,000 troops confronting Qaeda-backed Islamic militants in neighboring North-West Frontier province.

Now it's locked in a new battle with a secular separatist movement in Baluchistan that, analysts say, could become Musharraf's toughest crisis. "Instability in Baluchistan would seriously destabilize an already fragile Pakistan," says Samina Ahmed, South Asia project director for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

And it could further unsettle neighboring Afghanistan. (Baluchistan is home to an untold number of Taliban sympathesizers, who've been stoking resistance to the U.S.-backed government of Hamid Karzai.)

Then of course, we are all aware of the recent attempt to eliminate al-Zawahri...

Opposition in Pakistan vows more protest at US Strike
Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism, condemned the attack and summoned the U.S. ambassador to protest at the deaths of civilians, who included women and children.

The incident provoked anti-American protests in several Pakistani towns and cities on Sunday and supporters of a party allied with President Pervez Musharraf were among 1000s of people who rallied in the southern city of Karachi.

The Muttahida Majlis-e Amal (MMA) opposition alliance has called for a debate in parliament on the issue this this week.

The MMA said it planned more protests after consultations with other opposition parties.

"We will continue to protest until American forces withdraw from
Afghanistan," said its spokesman, Shahid Shamsi.

The incident -- which came just days after Pakistan lodged a strong protest with U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, saying cross-border firing in a nearby tribal area had killed eight people -- has been greeted with widespread censure in Pakistan.

I'm sure nobody has missed the recent issues happening in Israel...

Sharon's guy prepares to lead Israel

Israel's interim prime minister wasted little time on polite chitchat. Last Tuesday afternoon, at a private meeting with a select group of foreign politicians, Ehud Olmert launched into a monologue on the man he had replaced barely a week earlier: Ariel Sharon. He spoke of getting the first news of Sharon's stroke, of his talks with Sharon's doctors and of Sharon's strategy against terrorism. There was no need to mention the upcoming general election.

"It was clear to me that he was running as the Anointed One," says New York Congressman Gary Ackerman, one of the attendees. "This guy's positioning himself at the right hand. He's running as Sharon's guy."


At present, Olmert is riding a surge of public sympathy. Late last week, as Sharon remained in a coma, opinion surveys showed stronger public support for his centrist Kadima Party under Olmert's leadership than the party had managed to attract while Sharon was in charge.

And the impression of Olmert as loyal caretaker of the Sharon legacy was only reinforced when President George W. Bush called the interim leader to offer whatever assistance America could provide in Israel's days of need.

But stand-ins and sympathy votes are not forever. Before too long, Kadima's new leader will need to prove he's something more than a surrogate Sharon. The irony is that Olmert may very well have been the one who finally convinced Sharon of the wisdom of withdrawal from occupied territory, not the other way around.

Back in 1981, Olmert was the only Likud parliamentarian who voted in favor of a resolution that would have unilaterally granted autonomy to Palestinians in the West Bank?a move Sharon opposed at the time.

Of course, nobody has taken their eye off of Iran either, but I am very skeptical of this recent item...

Iran breakthrough may be in sight
A POTENTIAL breakthrough in the nuclear stand-off with Iran came last night when the Iranian ambassador in Moscow praised a proposal to move Tehran's uranium enrichment programme to Russia.

As Britain, the United States, Russia, France and China met in London yesterday to discuss how to handle Iran's illegal nuclear development, the country was facing the growing certainty that it would be referred to the UN Security Council.

While China remained resolutely silent on the possibility of sanctions - a move which it has the power to veto - Russia made significant moves towards the western stance on Iran's nuclear programme.

Anyway, I'm not offering any criticism of anything. I just think that the degree of strife and unrest in the region is hitting a peak. We have Iran, Iraq, Aghanistan, Pakistan and Israel all dealing with significant issues at this time.