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Allison Kilkenny

Allison Kilkenny

Posted: September 29, 2010 07:24 AM

But the Air Base Is Safe, Right?

What's Your Reaction:

For some reason, the locals are getting angry.

The Pakistani military, angered by the inept handling of the country's devastating floods and alarmed by a collapse of the economy, is pushing for a shake-up of the elected government, and in the longer term, even the removal of President Asif Ali Zardari and his top lieutenants.


The military, preoccupied by a war against militants and reluctant to assume direct responsibility for the economic crisis, has made clear it is not eager to take over the government, as it has many times before, military officials and politicians said.

But the government's performance since the floods, which have left 20 million people homeless and the nation dependent on handouts from skeptical foreign donors, has laid bare the deep underlying tensions between military and civilian leaders.

Alternative phrasing: A fifth of Pakistan is under water, and while Zardari schmoozed with world leaders in France, the Pakistan military busied itself accommodating U.S. air strikes instead of helping flood victims.

This war-over-survival prioritizing seems so unusual to sane observers that a former Pakistani prime minister has called for an inquiry into an incident at Shahbaz air base. Allegedly, flood waters were diverted to save Shahbaz, which houses fighter aircrafts, and some groups allege is used by the U.S. to launch drone strikes. (The Chief of the Air Staff denies that the air base is under U.S. control.)

Diverting the flood waters displaced half a million people.  I guess "inept" is one way to describe this handling of a national tragedy. "Criminal" is another good word.

American leaders are reportedly "increasingly disillusioned" with Zardari I'm sure in the same way they were shocked -- simply shocked! -- that the bipolar Don Karzai ended up being a disaster for Afghanistan. Like Karzai, Zardari is a spectacularly corrupt autocrat (the man bans books...in 2010!) who ascended to power via pity vote following his wife's assassination.

Ineptitude and corruption don't really concern U.S. officials. What concerns them is that Zardari cannot bring stability to a region that is the newest playground for the U.S.'s ever-evolving War On Terror.

Zardari has certainly played the dutiful puppet thus far. He even said "Collateralal damage worries you Americans. It does not worry me" during a discussion about drones. But without the support of Pakistanis (76 percent viewed him unfavorably in July,) and now declining support of the military, even the bestest puppet cannot maintain power long.

For Zardari, the gig won't be up because of the 21 million injured or homeless people that continue to roam the barren wasteland of their former homes, contracting cholera and other waterborne illnesses, but if any of those shiny aircrafts get wet. They're expensive, you know.

Cross-posted from allisonkilkenny.com

 

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