Rather than bury the lede, I’ll come right out and say it: If Pakistan isn’t already a failed state, wait a minute.
A little background. I always thought of Pakistan as the Indian Subcontinent’s half-retarded version of Turkey. Pakistan was never meant to be as thoroughly secularized as Turkey — quite the opposite — but otherwise it was politically similar. In other words, a democracy backed up by the Army. Whenever democratic politics got out of hand, the Army would step in, clean things up, then restore civilian government, until the next time.
There were, however, a couple important differences. First, the Turks could count on the Army to at least run a clean government, if not a democratic one. Second, Turkey might have the Kurds to worry about, but they never had the North-West Frontier Province. If you looked at the map, the NWFP is just another province of Pakistan. If you looked at the ground, Pakistan rarely maintained even notional control there.
Add two and two together, and you get, at best, three.
Let me try and be a bit more clear. The NWFP is an uncontrolled breeding ground for terrorists and tribalism. And Pakistan’s history of swapping corrupt civilian governments for corrupt military governments is turning the entire country into a frontier province. General Musharraf has already been in extra-legal power since 1999. The people were, rightly, expecting civilian control to return before too much longer. Well, Musharraf broke his end of the deal.
Now the people are mad, the Taliban/al-Qaeda complex is more or less running the show in NWFP, and the Army is suffering from low morale and even lower public esteem. Oh, and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has just been shown up as more-or-less useless. (That assessment may seem unfair, but that doesn’t make it less correct.)
If the Army can maintain control over an increasingly frustrated, ungovernable, and radicalized country, then… well, it can maintain control, but that’s all the Army will ever manage. And it can’t do so indefinitely. If civilian government can be restored, it will have to fight the Taliban/al-Qaeda complex with an Army even less equipped to do so than it is now.
And, oh yeah, they have some nukes.
It’s not the beginning of the end for Pakistan–it looks more and more like the end of the end.