A personal history of Pakistan on the brink

Mohsin_BR34.2_fruitstand Moni Mohsin in The Boston Review:

Musharraf’s personal convictions had little bearing on the Pakistani army’s ingrained beliefs. Having fought three wars (one was lost badly, the others ended in ceasefires) with its hostile eastern neighbor, India, the army learned that, while it could not win a conventional war against a vastly superior army, it could keep India bogged down by supporting separatist insurgencies within its territory. The Pakistani army also came to count on “strategic depth” in the form of a friendly neighbor on its western flank to counter the threat in the east.

The Russian invasion of Afghanistan had set the stage twenty years earlier. When the United States elevated Pakistan to a “frontline state” in the war against Communism, not only did the Pakistani army, under the leadership of General Zia, receive huge military assistance from the CIA, but Peshawar also became the global headquarters of jihad. Muslim fighters from all over the world converged on Peshawar to receive training before going into Afghanistan to wage holy war against Russian infidels. The United States supplied dollars and arms to the war effort; the Pakistani army got training and logistical support. When, after nine years of brutal fighting, the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan, the victory belonged not just to the United States but to the Pakistani army, which now had a friendly neighbor on its western border in the shape of the Taliban— originally a group of young hardliners backed by both the CIA and the Pakistani army.

Of course, “victory” came at a price for Pakistan. Three million Afghan refugees streamed across the border and into the North West Frontier province. In their wake came the heroin trade, Wahhabism, and a wealth of sophisticated weaponry.