I know I am late on this news about the clash between US forces and Pakistani Border Scouts near the Afghan border (there’s a dispute about which side of the border it happened.) But then this is a weblog, not a news site. Plus I was enjoying my brother-in-law’s wedding the day it happened.
Unqualified Offerings has the Pakistani press stories about the incident. He says:
The writ of the Pakistani national government extends only tenuously to NWFP, and NWFP has longstanding blood and ideological ties to the Taliban. To the extent that Pakistan’s cooperation with the US is sincere, it faces a couple of unpleasant options: Rely on local troops whose enthusiasm for cooperating against the Taliban is low or bring in troops from outside with no local ties and maybe even antipathy —- a recipe for unrest.
I wish it was as simple as that. First, this incident did not happen in NWFP (North West Frontier Province), it happened in South Waziristan Agency which is part of FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas). The provincial government does not rule there. In fact, even the federal government doesn’t. These tribal areas, unlike the actual province of NWFP, have been more or less independent to run their local affairs. The British, before 1947, and the Pakistani government later have had some influence through the tribal elders (sometimes by bribing them.) FATA is sometimes considered part of NWFP because it should have been; it is populated by Pashtuns/Pathans who are the dominant ethnic group of NWFP (though not the only one; the Hazara area in NWFP is populated by Hindko-speaking people.)
The NWFP provincial assembly and government is dominated by the religious alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) [United Assembly for Action], a number of whose leaders are also Pashtun and some of whose constituent parties created the Taliban in their madrassas. In addition, the members of National Assembly from FATA (FATA is not represented in the provincial assembly) do not belong to any political party but are allied with the MMA. However, the tribal areas are fiercely independent, extremely backward and heavily armed. Almost every kid I saw there (quite a few years ago) was carrying an AK-47.
The reaction to this incident that I saw among people in Pakistan was definitely anti-American. For the people there, the most important detail was the 500-lb bomb that was dropped by the US. It fit the stereotype of the US military that just bombs from miles up.