James Forsyth James Forsyth

The nightmare scenario

Bruce Reidel chaired Obama’s review into Af-Pakl policy which makes this piece by him explaining how jihadis could take over Pakistan worth paying attention to. Here’s his scenario for how it could happen:

“Extremist forces are beginning to align. The spread of their influence could come easily. To secure power, the Taliban—currently concentrated in the tribal areas west of the Indus and all along the border with Afghanistan—would need to move east. This would take them from the Pashtun-dominated regions into the Punjabi heartland, where they need to gain significantly more support. There is good evidence this is already happening. The Pakistani Taliban is now coalescing with the Punjab-based Lashkar-e-Taiba. Though differences between the organizations remain (they have no common leader or agreed-upon agenda other than jihad against India and the West), they could well overcome their differences and make overthrowing the government their common priority.

Terrorist leaders would likely be able to tap into the deep anger among landless peasants as well. In the India-bordering provinces of Punjab and Sindh, where they already have a great deal of support, the extremists could mobilize a mass movement similar in some respects to that which toppled the shah of Iran in 1979. Press reports suggest antilandlord agitation has been a part of the extremists’ success in the last year in Swat and elsewhere. And in this way the current civilian government would be swept from power and the army would be pressed to make an accommodation with the new Islamist leadership. Since many in the army back the jihadists already, a deal with an Islamist movement would be attractive, especially if the Islamists made promises of protecting the army’s interests (which might or might not be kept later). The new government would be composed of representatives of the Pakistani Taliban, LET and possibly the Islamist political parties that have contested electoral power in the past.

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