Pakistan’s state of emergency

November 8, 2007

in Bombs and rockets, Politics, Security, The environment

Montreal flats

While I cannot speak on them with any particular knowledge or authority, it does seem that the unfolding events in Pakistan generate some ominous possibilities within the region. A recent Stratfor briefing argues that:

Whether Musharraf himself survives is not a historically significant issue. What is significant is whether Pakistan will fall into internal chaos or civil war, or fragment into smaller states. We must consider what that would mean.

One can only begin to imagine how the Middle East would change if Pakistan disintegrated. It’s a nuclear power bordering a huge but relatively fragile democracy, as well as Iran and Afghanistan. Furthermore, that exists in the context of the Iranian drive for nuclear weapons, the weakness of the Afghan federal government, and. the possibility of the breakup of Iraq (as well as a Turkish attack against the northern Kurdish region). Even for a region that has frequently been in turmoil, this is quite a confluence of events.

Given the context, it is unsurprising that climate change is not the top priority in Pakistan, though the inevitable disruption a changing climate will bring in future decades does seem likely to exacerbate tensions in this part of the world.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

. November 8, 2007 at 10:38 am

Musharraf pledges to hold elections

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: General Pervez Musharraf told his national security council Thursday that parliamentary elections would be held before Feb. 15 and that he would give up his military uniform before taking the oath of office for his new term as president.

But the Pakistani president did not set a specific date for parliamentary elections, and it was unclear whether the new timetable would satisfy Western governments, which had been demanding that he end emergency rule and that elections go ahead as planned. They had been scheduled for Jan. 15.

Musharraf imposed emergency rule last Saturday in order to avoid a possible decision by the country’s Supreme Court that his re-election last month as president while also holding the post of army chief was illegal. President George W. Bush telephoned Musharraf on Wednesday and urged him to relinquish his military position.

. November 8, 2007 at 1:12 pm

Dear Saudi: Stop Hogging Our Oil!

Raymond J. Learsy, author of Over a Barrel,is an idiot. How he managed to write a book will always be a mystery to me. Every time I read one of his screeds over at Huffington Post, I feel dumber afterward. Today’s is no exception

. December 19, 2007 at 4:59 pm

Just over the border from Afghanistan, Pakistan has witnessed the rapid spread of Talibanization. As a result, Islamabad now is fighting a jihadist insurgency of its own in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the North-West Frontier Province. The spread of this ideology beyond the border areas was perhaps best demonstrated by the July assault by the Pakistani army against militants barricaded inside the Red Mosque in Islamabad. Since the assault against the mosque, Pakistan has been wracked by a wave of suicide bombings.

Pakistan should be carefully watched because it could prove to be a significant flash point in the coming year. As the global headquarters for the al Qaeda leadership, Pakistan has long been a significant stronghold on the ideological battlefield. If the trend toward radicalization continues there, the country also could become the new center of gravity for the jihadist movement on the physical battlefield. Pakistan will become especially important if the trend in Iraq continues to go against the jihadists and they are driven from Iraq

. January 16, 2008 at 3:57 pm

Nuclear war: the safety paradox

In the second of a series of articles, Geoff Brumfiel looks at whether certain nuclear-weapons technology should be shared.

“There are two types of bomb safety device: those that stop a bomb from going off accidentally; and those that stop it from going off without proper authorization. Mechanisms for accident-proofing a bomb range from simple housekeeping (keep the explosive triggers entirely separate from the nuclear cores) to sophisticated design requirements such as ‘one-point safety’. In a one-point-safe design, a nuclear explosion will not occur even if one of the various chemical explosive charges in the trigger goes off. This is quite a hard trick to master: before a 1992 voluntary test moratorium, the United States conducted 32 nuclear tests to establish one-point safety on each of its weapons.

Ensuring proper authorization is the role of what America calls a Permissive Action Link, or PAL. PALs are devices that keep the explosive systems of a bomb or warhead isolated from the outside world unless they are unlocked with a specific code: no code, no explosion. If the incorrect code is entered a set number of times, the PAL will disable the weapon, sometimes with a small explosive charge. After that, the weapon will need extensive servicing before it can be returned to readiness.

Precisely what safety systems various nuclear states have is not open knowledge (the British television news programme Newsnight recently caused a stir when it revealed that Britain lacks a PAL system). But their limited system experience and short testing history make it almost certain that any safety systems fielded by new nuclear nations will not be as sophisticated as American ones, says Geoffrey Forden, a physicist and arms-control analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Pakistan, for example, is believed to keep its weapons safe through disassembly, keeping the nuclear cores and triggering explosives in separate locations. But little is known about how the separation is maintained, or how the assembly and arming processes are controlled.”

. December 15, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Yet the fact that the broad relationship has survived other severe tests this year suggests it may get over this one too. Pakistanis were whipped into a fury when a CIA contractor shot dead two men in Lahore in January, provoking weeks of confrontation. That quarrel had just about been patched up by May, when American special forces discovered and killed Osama bin Laden nesting in what was probably a Pakistani army-spy safe house in a military town, Abbottabad. Then, in September, it was the Americans’ turn for dismay, after an Afghan insurgent group, the Haqqani network, seen as having close ties to the Pakistani army, launched a prolonged attack on their embassy in Kabul.

. September 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Banyan
Nuclear profusion
The build-up of nuclear arms in South Asia remains terrifying

THE militant attack early on August 16th on the Minhas air-force base in Kamra, just 40km (25 miles) outside Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, involved an intense gunfight but was beaten back without much difficulty. Yet probably not before it had rattled nerves in the White House. According to a new book (“Confront and Conceal”) by David Sanger of the New York Times, late last year Barack Obama told his staff that his “biggest single national-security concern” was that Pakistan might disintegrate and set off a scramble for its nuclear weapons.

Inevitably Pakistan denied that Minhas held any of its nuclear warheads, believed to number about 100. In any event the country’s security arrangements, it claims, are “perfect”. As for the fear of “disintegration”, officials are used to pooh-poohing the overheated fears of foreign doom-mongers. Even if bearded fanatics entered the presidential palace and proclaimed a new caliphate, they would dismiss it as a minor upset and offer a cup of tea.

Perhaps even Pakistani generals accept that this is not an ideal disaster-avoidance plan. Fear of capture or pre-emptive destruction of their nuclear defences seems to be one reason why they are determined to develop a third leg, after air- and land-based delivery systems, to Pakistan’s nuclear “triad”: nuclear-armed ships and submarines. As Iskander Rehman of the Carnegie Endowment, a think-tank, observes in a recent paper, Indo-Pakistani nuclear rivalry is drifting “from the dusty plains of the Punjab and Rajasthan into the world’s most congested shipping lanes.” “It is only a matter of time,” he argues, “before Pakistan formally brings nuclear weapons into its own fleet.”

As nukes move to sea, “dual-use” platforms that can be used for both conventional and nuclear weapons create an even more hazardous ambiguity than they do on land. What India sees as a prudent defensive response to China’s naval build-up might easily be taken by Pakistan as aggressive. A competitive arms race beckons—with the added twist that the navy, which would be in charge of seaborne nuclear weapons, is thought to be the branch of Pakistan’s armed forces most infiltrated by extremists.

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