Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 31-May-2009
Massive refugee population swells as Pakistan claims Taliban near defeat

Web Log - May, 2009

Massive refugee population swells as Pakistan claims Taliban near defeat

Doubts are being raised over Pakistan government claims that government troops will complete their operations against Taliban fighters in the Swat Valley within the next two or three days.

Northwest Pakistan <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: BBC)</font>
Northwest Pakistan (Source: BBC)

Secretary of Defense Syed Athar Ali said that only five or 10 percent of the operation remains incomplete. This comes a day after Pakistan's military says that they've have regained full control of Mingora from the Taliban, after dislodging thousands of Taliban militants. This is the biggest army victory since the Swat Valley offensive began a month ago.

Mingora is the biggest city in Swat Valley, and troops have been fighting street by street, house by house, watching for booby traps, with continued fighting in the suburbs.

However, BBC World News says the entire region has been devastated, and quotes a resident as saying that no more than 20 Taliban were killed, along with hundreds of civilians.

The Taliban have vowed revenge, and they've already carried out major acts of revenge. Earlier this week, a giant car bomb destroyed several buildings in Lahore, and this was followed by suicide bombing attacks in Peshawar.

Taliban leaders have warned that the terrorist revenge attacks are only going to get worse. A Taliban commander told Reuters, "We want the people of Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Multan to leave those cities, as we plan major attacks against government facilities in coming days and weeks."

I guess this statement illustrates that some Taliban leaders have a sense of humor, but the real point is that those cities are all in Punjab province, largely populated by the Punjabi ethnic group. The army is made up mostly of Punjabis, while Swat Valley and the rest of Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) are populated mostly by those in the Pashtun ethnic group. Thus, the Taliban commander's threat is a hint of a Pashtun vs Punjabi ethnic war.

Even with all this going on, the whole situation might be classified simply as a large police action, if it weren't for the refugees -- now being euphemistically called "internally displaced people," or IDPs for short.

According to late reports, the number of IDPs now stands at 3.4 million. This is a figure that brings back memories of the massive genocidal war and refugee relocation that followed Partition, the 1947 partitioning of the Indian subcontinent that created the states of India and Pakistan. The scale of civilian displacement from their homes is so massive that it's being called by some as an "exodus of biblical proportions."

The complexity of the political situation is illustrated by the following report from Pakistan's Daily Times:

"The goods discovered at the Taliban headquarters for Swat included 12 UN-registered vehicles that the Taliban had snatched. There were the typical tunnels where the warlords hid when they were attacked with heavy fire. There was a madrassa complete with four tunnels for storing rations stolen from NGOs and a huge cache of arms. Unfortunately, this victory has come at the cost of over 2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). The unfortunate dilemma, however, is that without this movement of people away from the battlefield, the victory over the Taliban would not have been possible.

Almost half the people of Malakand Division have fled their homes to enable the Pakistan Army to come in and kill over 1000 Taliban while suffering 80 soldiers dead in the fight in Lower Dir, Buner and Swat. The situation now faced by the country is no doubt grim but it could have been saved had the Musharraf regime decided in 2007 to stand up to the challenge of the terrorists. Even during 2008, the new civilian government dilly-dallied in the face of bad news from Swat and allowed the innocent Swatis to surrender their will to the Taliban.

Regrettably, those who supported the Taliban as “a legitimate reaction to the invasion of Afghanistan by America and Islamabad’s enslavement to American designs” have not given ground even after they were faced by a national consensus against the atrocities of the Taliban and their violation of the Nizam-e Adl accord. For instance, Ambassador Rustam Shah Mohmand insists that the report of the violation of the accord by the Taliban in Buner was actually an “exaggeration” on the part of the government: “But the fear of the Taliban taking control was so vociferously projected in the wake of two vehicles being driven into Buner by a few disorganised youths that it seemed like a deliberate move to create justification for a strong government intervention” (The News, May 30, 2009). The problem is that the resistance the army faced in Buner when it went in to clear the area could not have caused by “two vehicles being driven into Buner by a few disorganised youths”."

This report highlights many of the political issues in the current offensive:

I haven't seen this reported anywhere, but based on the words that I'm seeing, I get the feeling that Pakistani military officials are hoping to mimic the situation in Sri Lanka, but without all the civilian deaths. In Sri Lanka, the army managed to corner the Tamil Tiger militants and force them to surrender, effectively ending the Sri Lanka civil war.

But from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, any such comparison is faulty. It's precisely the horrific "genocidal fury" of the Sri Lanka civil war climax that is bringing about the current peace and recovery there. But the deference to civilian lives in the current Pakistan offensive only means that when the next round of fighting begins -- as it certainly will -- then each side will be more willing to kill civilians.

(See "Tamil Tigers renounce violence, to join Sri Lanka political process," and "Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Gaza are all following the same path.")

The Pakistan government claim that operations will be completed within the next two or three days is actually a very dangerous statement, because it raises hopes that will not be fulfilled. There is absolutely no possibility whatsoever that the crisis will end in any sense in a few days, or even a few months.

Let's look at two reasons why.

First, even if the army offensive miraculously completed its task, it would still take months or years for the 3.4 million IDPs to return to their homes and rebuild the many homes that have been destroyed. The International Committee of the Red Cross has called the refugee situation "dire," and expressed fears of a humanitarian crisis.

Second, the Taliban are not a static group of bandits like the Al Capone gang, that can be exterminated once and for all. This is a generational battle, and the Taliban are being fed a steady stream of new recruits by training thousands of young boys to become Islamist militants. (See "Is Pakistan's government close to total collapse?" for a Frontline video illustrating this.)

In an earlier article, I quoted a description of Taliban militants from a Time Magazine article as follows:

"It isn't hard to recognize a Pakistani Taliban fighter. Most of the thickly bearded men are barely in their 20s — members of a new and fiercer generation of jihadists. Their long black hair flows down past the shoulders on which they rest their rusty Kalashnikovs. Some wrap their heads in a black turban; others favor an embroidered red skull cap, modeled on the type worn by Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the militant leader killed during the army's high-profile siege of Islamabad's Red Mosque in July 2007. They shield their bodies with camouflage bulletproof vests, which usually have a grenade or two hanging from them. And under their hiked-up baggy trousers, all sport a pair of dirty white sneakers, with which they swagger menacingly around their freshly captured territory."

So there are Taliban leaders, most of whom will escape the army offensive. But then there are young kids playing with guns who are doing the actual fighting. No matter how many of these kids the army kills, there will always be more.

Right now, the army action is popular with the Pakistani people, but some chaotic event at any time could change that attitude overnight. When it's realized that the refugee situation is much worse than the army is saying, the Pashtuns may turn against the government or, more generally against the Punjabis. Or, some chaotic even may turn the entire population against the United States or India, risking a wider regional war. This kind of chaotic change in behavior can't be predicted, of course, but it's safe to say that with 3.4 million refugees, support for the army action is certain to change dramatically in some direction.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, a re-fighting of the massively genocidal war following the 1947 Partition that created India and Pakistan is coming with absolute certainty. The rapid escalation of the Pakistani civil war appears to bring re-fighting of the 1947 war much closer.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, as well as more frequent updates on this subject, see the Afghanistan, Pakistan and India thread of the Generational Dynamics forum.) (31-May-2009) Permanent Link
Receive daily World View columns by e-mail
Donate to Generational Dynamics via PayPal

Web Log Pages

Current Web Log

Web Log Summary - 2016
Web Log Summary - 2015
Web Log Summary - 2014
Web Log Summary - 2013
Web Log Summary - 2012
Web Log Summary - 2011
Web Log Summary - 2010
Web Log Summary - 2009
Web Log Summary - 2008
Web Log Summary - 2007
Web Log Summary - 2006
Web Log Summary - 2005
Web Log Summary - 2004

Web Log - December, 2016
Web Log - November, 2016
Web Log - October, 2016
Web Log - September, 2016
Web Log - August, 2016
Web Log - July, 2016
Web Log - June, 2016
Web Log - May, 2016
Web Log - April, 2016
Web Log - March, 2016
Web Log - February, 2016
Web Log - January, 2016
Web Log - December, 2015
Web Log - November, 2015
Web Log - October, 2015
Web Log - September, 2015
Web Log - August, 2015
Web Log - July, 2015
Web Log - June, 2015
Web Log - May, 2015
Web Log - April, 2015
Web Log - March, 2015
Web Log - February, 2015
Web Log - January, 2015
Web Log - December, 2014
Web Log - November, 2014
Web Log - October, 2014
Web Log - September, 2014
Web Log - August, 2014
Web Log - July, 2014
Web Log - June, 2014
Web Log - May, 2014
Web Log - April, 2014
Web Log - March, 2014
Web Log - February, 2014
Web Log - January, 2014
Web Log - December, 2013
Web Log - November, 2013
Web Log - October, 2013
Web Log - September, 2013
Web Log - August, 2013
Web Log - July, 2013
Web Log - June, 2013
Web Log - May, 2013
Web Log - April, 2013
Web Log - March, 2013
Web Log - February, 2013
Web Log - January, 2013
Web Log - December, 2012
Web Log - November, 2012
Web Log - October, 2012
Web Log - September, 2012
Web Log - August, 2012
Web Log - July, 2012
Web Log - June, 2012
Web Log - May, 2012
Web Log - April, 2012
Web Log - March, 2012
Web Log - February, 2012
Web Log - January, 2012
Web Log - December, 2011
Web Log - November, 2011
Web Log - October, 2011
Web Log - September, 2011
Web Log - August, 2011
Web Log - July, 2011
Web Log - June, 2011
Web Log - May, 2011
Web Log - April, 2011
Web Log - March, 2011
Web Log - February, 2011
Web Log - January, 2011
Web Log - December, 2010
Web Log - November, 2010
Web Log - October, 2010
Web Log - September, 2010
Web Log - August, 2010
Web Log - July, 2010
Web Log - June, 2010
Web Log - May, 2010
Web Log - April, 2010
Web Log - March, 2010
Web Log - February, 2010
Web Log - January, 2010
Web Log - December, 2009
Web Log - November, 2009
Web Log - October, 2009
Web Log - September, 2009
Web Log - August, 2009
Web Log - July, 2009
Web Log - June, 2009
Web Log - May, 2009
Web Log - April, 2009
Web Log - March, 2009
Web Log - February, 2009
Web Log - January, 2009
Web Log - December, 2008
Web Log - November, 2008
Web Log - October, 2008
Web Log - September, 2008
Web Log - August, 2008
Web Log - July, 2008
Web Log - June, 2008
Web Log - May, 2008
Web Log - April, 2008
Web Log - March, 2008
Web Log - February, 2008
Web Log - January, 2008
Web Log - December, 2007
Web Log - November, 2007
Web Log - October, 2007
Web Log - September, 2007
Web Log - August, 2007
Web Log - July, 2007
Web Log - June, 2007
Web Log - May, 2007
Web Log - April, 2007
Web Log - March, 2007
Web Log - February, 2007
Web Log - January, 2007
Web Log - December, 2006
Web Log - November, 2006
Web Log - October, 2006
Web Log - September, 2006
Web Log - August, 2006
Web Log - July, 2006
Web Log - June, 2006
Web Log - May, 2006
Web Log - April, 2006
Web Log - March, 2006
Web Log - February, 2006
Web Log - January, 2006
Web Log - December, 2005
Web Log - November, 2005
Web Log - October, 2005
Web Log - September, 2005
Web Log - August, 2005
Web Log - July, 2005
Web Log - June, 2005
Web Log - May, 2005
Web Log - April, 2005
Web Log - March, 2005
Web Log - February, 2005
Web Log - January, 2005
Web Log - December, 2004
Web Log - November, 2004
Web Log - October, 2004
Web Log - September, 2004
Web Log - August, 2004
Web Log - July, 2004
Web Log - June, 2004

Copyright © 2002-2016 by John J. Xenakis.