OPINION

With A Grain of Salt: Pakistan - Trapped, Surrounded, Quarantined?

March 12, 2007
Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta

I was generally browsing the newspapers kept in the lobby of The Economist while waiting to be interviewed, when I caught a news item about how Iran is building a concrete wall to fence off Pakistan. And then, while returning from the interview, I got to ruminate about some strange coincidences and angles on this wall business with respect to Pakistan. If one connects some disparate recent occurrences and indications, one could argue that Pakistan is slowly getting trapped, surrounded, quarantined or perhaps the noose is drawing tighter.

I wrote before about how walls can be good for security and has have become fashionable but this seems to be a bit more than just a wall. Or perhaps I am reading too much into it, but here goes my thinking. You decide!

The Iranians got mighty miffed with Pakistan since people from over the border, allegedly, nipped over and detonated a bomb in the Iranian city of Zahidan, killing 13 people. That border is a bad one - it is full of smugglers, druggies, terrorists, various jehadis, and other nefarious chaps. Typical badlands! Iran has lost quite a lot of policemen and soldiers in that area down the years. I think this last episode was the last straw that broke the Iranian camel's back. So they have now decided to build a 700-kilometre wall to keep the poxy gits, who are blowing up the poor Iranians, out. There are even photographs of this wall available on the net, a strange blue coloured wall, but there you go.

Moving across, the NATO forces have their UAVs, reconnaissance planes, ELINT vehicles and satellites all peering beadily across the Afghan Pakistani Border. Nothing crosses the border without something or someone noticing it. That border is one of the most peered at borders. All to stop the assorted jehadis from crossing into Afghanistan. So most of the western and north western part is already controlled, scanned, checked, validated, stamped, and walled off.

There is a comparatively smaller stretch of frontier between China and Pakistan on the north eastern side of Pakistan. All the indications are that it is very difficult to pass, because of the very tough geography, and the few warm weather passes. The Karakorum Highway frontier pass is extremely tightly controlled. You see, the Uighur rebels in the Xinjiang province of China seem to be getting most of their sustenance from Pakistan, so the Chinese are very careful about whom they let in and are even more careful about the checks. Then you have the long western Indian frontier which is controlled already. It is one of the most heavily defended borders in the world. The only other border I think of is the DMZ between North and South Korea. It is fenced, mined, bristling with tank traps, barbed wire, patrols, you name it, eyeball to eyeball time, and this time, it is done by the Indians who don't want any of the Pakistanis or jehadis to nip across the border for nefarious purposes.

That leaves the seaward side on the Arabian Sea, which is pretty well covered by the US Navy and every other navy that you can think of. That area of the sea has naval ships, tanker traffic, etc. you name it. It is very difficult to sneak out of that side. But even if you have done that, the US customs service and homeland security check almost every container and cargo which originates or touches any Pakistani port. Still, I suppose you can nip over to Oman on your dhow, but make sure you have your running lights up and running otherwise one of those VLCCs will run you over.

So what?, you might ask. One can fly out of the country! Well, it is not that easy anymore, I am afraid. From all I have read on the various letters to the editors of Pakistani newspapers, and from talks I had with my Pakistani friends and British friends / acquaintances, who travel on the green passport, they do get the go-over on every emigration / immigration desk. So if you are travelling out of or into Pakistan with a Pakistani passport, then expect to be poked, prodded, questioned and checked inside out. And it's not just the green passport. Even if you have a British passport, if you are going to or coming out of Pakistan, expect to be checked and await an MI5 officer who will be sniffing around you. Look at the latest arrests and jehadis with bombs in the UK - some or other connection to Pakistan is always there. On the flip side, again on anecdotal evidence, getting a visa to get out of Pakistan, if you are a Pakistani citizen, is getting very difficult. Embassies are trained to look at your applications with great big beady eyes! Even for business visas.

Mind you, that's if you manage to get a Pakistan International Airlines plane! Apparently, the European Union bureaucrats have told Pakistan not to bother flying three quarters of their planes into anywhere near any European airport, because of the poor maintenance record of PIA. It's anecdotal evidence, but at least in Manchester Airport, anytime a Pakistani aircraft lands, it is checked with closer than usual scrutiny for substances carried above and beyond the call of aviation duty.

Then you usually have somebody or other from all over the world usually wagging their fingers at Pakistan. Usually it's the Americans, latest being Vice President Cheney, who was on the finger wagging trip. Every other week or so, an American general, ambassador, congressman, senator, bureaucrat, or somebody else will toddle over and poke the Pakistanis to do more about the Taliban and other assorted Jehadis. And all this is not even mentioning the official US sanctions which are still applied on Pakistan. Others who are further away are bit more discreet, but generally, Pakistan's neighbours do go about the finger wagging and furrowed brow exercise quite frequently. Heck, even the Saudis check the Pakistani Hajj pilgrims closely for drug trafficking and visa irregularities. Take a close look at this vivid example. Even marriages are not immune. If you want to marry a Pakistani, and you are a citizen of another country, be prepared for a spot of bother about an official checking your spouse out.

Economically Pakistan is looking a bit better, but still Foreign Direct Investment is meagre, so there's that sort of mental block/wall as well. The growth which Pakistan has seen is mostly because the expatriate Pakistanis are pulling their assets back from the world and sticking it into assets in Pakistan to avoid scrutiny. Pakistan made it to the top seven 2007 politically risky countries list from the Eurasia Group, as with the FDI magazine. Money transfers from Pakistan are scrutinised very closely, and the hawala system is now under tremendous pressure. Exports to Pakistan get checked that bit better, especially on dual use equipment! After Pakistani Nuclear hero Abdul Qader Khan drove a coach and buggy through the nuclear non proliferation scheme, exports and imports to and from Pakistan are checked and rechecked, or in some cases not, as the case might be. Pakistani banks and firms go through an extra level of scrutiny compare to other countries, but mind you, so do Nigerians! If you are wishing to travel to Pakistan, then you need to get extra approvals from your boss, the corporate security chief, the local embassy, etc. etc.

So once I put these various bits and bobs together, I do get the strong feeling that Pakistan is definitely under the microscope, if not under quarantine. Not a good feeling to have, I am afraid. It reminds me of the old eighteenth century maps, just in reverse. In those maps, where there were dangers, pirates or just simply unknown territories, you would see notations like, "be careful as there be uglies / devils / pirates there." Seems like slowly the world is turning its back on this country by raising all forms of overt or covert walls and raising a big sign on the barred gate, "be careful as there be uglies there."

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!

Dr. Bhaskar Dasgupta works in the city of London in various capacities in the financial sector. He has worked and travelled widely around the world. The articles in here relate to his current studies and are strictly his opinion and do not reflect the position of his past or current employer(s). If you do want to blame somebody, then blame my sister and editor, she is responsible for everything, the ideas, the writing, the quotes, the drive, the israeli-palestinian crisis, global warming, the ozone layer depletion and the argentinian debt crisis.
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#1
Aamir Ali
March 12, 2007
10:46 AM

As a Pakistani, I am fine with the wall Iran is building. It will help Pakistan control illegal movements as well.

The wall by itself, will not solve Iran's law and order problems.

#2
Chandra
March 12, 2007
11:58 AM

BD

Interesting analysis. While your overall analysis is probably in the right direction. Here are some arguments against the trend

On banks , Pakistan has seen some investments in Bank privatisation during the last one year (Stanchart and ABN) and expect more during the next 6 months.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=45638

On FDI, things are quite good actually. The Pakistan times reports about 3 Billion of FDI in the first 7 months of the year/ up by 70%

http://www.pakistantimes.net/2007/03/10/business1.htm

The Gwadar port is expected to be launched this month and is managed being none other than the Port of singapore. The forecast is for about 4-5 billion revenues in the next 3-4 years
http://www.app.com.pk/en/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3950&Itemid=2

I see each of these as confidence by investors more than anything else.

Of course there are many aspects that support your arguments----

I heard recently was that the US pumps in about a billion dollars a year to buy out Mushy and his cronies (Ayaz Amir, dawn).

The other thing that we all know is a recent attempt (stupid) by Pakistan to position itself as a peace maker. The Pakistanis called for a middle east summit (excluding Syria and Iran). Nobody knows what came out of that but the Iranians were furious and called the Pakistani Ambassador in Teheran for discussions (?).

One of the big gossips going around is that the Pakistanis are likely to screw up the IPI pipeline due to conflict with Iran rather than due to the conflict with India. So much for brotherly love.


cheers

#3
bd
March 12, 2007
12:09 PM

chandra

absolutely. In an analysis like this, it is very difficult to be categorical. And as you have shown, FDI IS happening. My point was slightly different on the FDI side, its risky according to the FDI magazine. I cant comment on the bank story as I work for one of them! :)


I wrote a big post somewhere sometime about Gwadar port. The gist of the post was that a port by itself is useless. It is but a trans-shipment point. Now look at the map. Just WHAT is going to be exported out of that port and what is going to be imported out of that port that Karachi or Chaman in Iran cannot do better, cheaper and more efficiently? if you look at that, then you will see that the gwadar figures are to be looked at with a very jaundiced eye.

And yes, chacha USA is pumping in money, it has to keep the army sweet! :)

#4
bd
March 12, 2007
12:09 PM

also see this

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=45528

#5
temporal
March 13, 2007
06:07 AM

beady:

to quote mark twain without exagerrating......

;)

#6
bd
March 13, 2007
06:38 AM

well, i hope i didnt go OTT! lol

#7
NAMAT KHAN
April 10, 2007
09:49 PM

In my opinion, the author should first read the new book titled "DIVIDE PAKISTAN TO ELIMINATE TERRORISM" which clearly proves that Pakistan's justification as a country has been eliminated due to Pakistan's involvement in terrorist activities. The author of this new book has asked the UN to intervene and disintegrate Pakistan into 6 pieces. The idea is neither bad nor impossible. But the real role rests with India.

#8
Lere Ayanwola
April 10, 2007
09:53 PM

The need for us today is to understand the reality of Pakistan. I want to refer all of us to Syed Jamaluddin's new book "DIVIDE PAKISTAN TO ELIMINATE TERRORISM" which says that a country which has a terrorist-in-uniform being the President of this country, how can Pakistan be taken as a serious nation. The world now needs to be reshaped with only those forces to exist which believe in humanity and not those who intend to destroy humanity. The Serbians are now paying price of their inhuman behaviours. Kosovo shall be independent soon and therefore Pakistan must also be disintegrated.

#9
Ledzius
October 14, 2007
10:43 AM

Chanced upon this dead thread, but if Iran has the sense to build a wall, what are we doing running trains to Pak? High time we stopped these and spend the money on building a wall as well.

#10
Forexman
URL
May 24, 2008
03:53 PM

Hi. This is really interesting post. Thank You! I have just subscribed to Your rss!

Best regards

#11
ushnishas
May 26, 2008
12:21 AM

I agree with Ledzius! We can never tell, it could be the best thing. Keep trouble out.

#12
ushnishas
May 26, 2008
12:25 AM

Look what happened to Benazir Bhutto. She put her trust in Musharraf's promises. And bingo!

#13
Ruvy
August 19, 2008
06:53 AM

I also stumbled on this dead thread.

Disintegrating Pakistan? What an interesting thought! So, then Pakistan can be re-integrated with India. There is far more uniting these two nations than dividing them.

Reintegrating Pakistan into India as a number of states would solve quite a number of problems (like Kashmir), and would challenge those Indians who talk of a secular, civil society to actually have one.

Someone with far more understanding of the region should write an article on this idea....

#14
Tony Afam
September 24, 2008
09:12 AM

All reference of Syed Jamaluddin's new book "DIVIDE PAKISTAN TO ELIMINATE TERRORISM" and the comment by Lere Ayanwola are false. Lere Ayanwola has no interest in Pakinstan's politic and would not make a comment in support of Syed Jamaluddin book or anything about him, this is a disclaimer.

We know Syed Jamaluddin as a fraud in Nigeria and should not be taken seriouly.

#15
kerty
September 24, 2008
10:23 AM

Ruvy

Why would India want to inherit Pakistan's problems and compound its own? I do not think it would solve India's problems. When you have an incurable malaise, best thing to do is to isolate it from the rest and let it die its natural death. May be than, the India can think of taking on Pakistan by some sort of confederation. On the other hand, USA has geopolitical interests in the region and it makes sense for it to move into Pakistan, stabilize it and eventually try to swallow India too in order to surround China. India can not afford to have USA at its door step. So none of the options will be good for India and India has very little influence in how events will play out in Pakistan. May be best option is to let Pakistan disintegrate into several countries that can provide a buffer.

#16
Ruvy
URL
September 27, 2008
06:34 PM

Your solution, Kerty, would very possibly lead to just what you seek not to have. How long would an independent Sind or Baluchistan last? Bangladesh is a failed state now. India would have to move in just to protect its own security after a time. Otherwise Ivan would be sitting pretty just west of India.....

#17
kerty
September 27, 2008
07:06 PM

Ruvy

Pakistan will remain a failed state for a reason - its Jehadi ideology. There is no reason for Pakistan to fail otherwise if it gives up this ideology, which at present is easier said than done. Same would be true of all the break away provinces of Pakistan - if they remain wedded to Jahadi Islam, not even Allah can save them. But hopefully after Pakistan disintegrates as a failed state, the Jehadi ideology would be sufficiently crippled, and it might become easier to split apart or mash together its provinces to produce viable entities. Lot of wishful thinking, no doubt. Because lots of things have to fall into place before such a scenario can become viable. Iran and USA are wild cards and India will be mostly reacting to what they do.

#18
Citizen
March 8, 2009
01:27 AM

[EDITED]
http://www.telegraphindia.com/1090308/jsp/frontpage/story_10642588.jsp

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20090304bc.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7929236.stm

Love,

Citizen.

#19
Citizen
March 8, 2009
11:35 AM

All,

hindian india will learn its lesson form his unforgettable past....bullying its neibors and terrorizing the innocents...it's time is OVER!!!!

NAZI INDIA IS UNDER WATCH!!!!!

Almighty USA will be in TAMIL AREAS shortly in hindian india's back yard....SUPER!!!!!

Why TAMILS NEED HINDIAN ARMY MEDICAL UNIT AFTER GETTING HURT AND KILLED BY THE NAZI HINDIAN INDIAN NAZI CRIMINALS man mohan singh, RAW AGENTS OF HINDIA, sonia ghandhi family, pranab muharjee, karunanithi family, nasty woman jeyalalitha madam...you all must be sentenced to DEATH under GENOCIDE ACT of THE WORLD COURTS along with you sri lankan, japanese, chinese, israeli, iranian, pakistani counter parts.

Love,

Citizen.

Love,

Citizen.

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