How’s the civil war in Pakistan going? 

I feel sorry for Pakistan’s civil war.


It’s the highest stakes civil war the world has seen since the Iranian Revolution, or maybe even since the Chinese Civil War turned China commie in 1949. Yet, your average John Q. Public, Joe and Josephine Average, and Jane Doe don’t even seem remotely interested.  


Part of the problem is the perception that Pakistan’s civil war lacks compelling props, settings, and characters. The French Revolution had Versailles, the guillotine and Marie Antoinette. The Russian Revolution had the Kremlin, Lenin and Anastasia. The Spanish Civil War had the foul Francisco Franco, Picasso’s Guernica mural and Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls (Spoiler alert: the bell tolls for thee).


But Pakistan does have great props and characters. With 180 million people, it’s the sixth most populous nation on Earth. There’s gotta be at least a couple telegenic charmers in there somewhere. Hell, Bin Laden’s supposedly in there somewhere, too. He’s got a video camera, right?


As for props, Pakistan has around 100 nuclear warheads. Rock beats scissors, paper beats rock, and I’m pretty sure nuclear warhead beats guillotine.


As for settings, Pakistan has some of the world’s highest mountain peaks. The fearsome K2 is in Pakistani Kashmir. Pakistan also has one of the largest KFC chains in Asia. Hemingway and Picasso would have killed for that kind of material.


I guess the never-ending War On Terror™, followed by an epic economic meltdown, have dulled our collective senses a bit. “Pakistan Shmakistan, just get me a job.”


Enough kvetching. If you’ve read this far and your last name isn’t Nouraee, chances are you’re actually interested in Pakistan’s civil war.


So what’s the verdict? How’s the war going? Better in some very important ways. And worse in others.


The mo’ betta: In the Spring, Pakistani Taliban militants conquered the Swat Valley – only about 80 miles from Pakistan’s capital. That set-off metaphorical alarms in Islamabad and Washington, D.C. Probably a few actual alarms, too. It also prompted me to make the best art for this column I’ve made all year: a pseudo-Muslimized mashup of a Sweet Valley High book cover. It was roundly ignored. But I’m fine with that. Really, I am. If you choose to ignore the fact that I may very well be the Picasso AND Hemingway of this war, it’s your loss.


Where was I? Oh, yeah. After nearly six years of steady losses of territory to the Taliban, the loss of Swat Valley (and pressure from the Obama Administration) at last prompted Pakistan’s government to fight back with all its might. With firepower they’d been saving up for a war with India, Pakistan’s army assaulted and reclaimed control not just of Swat Valley, but the entire Malakand province in which it’s located.


Then, sometime at the beginning of August, an unmanned CIA-operated plane killed the Pakistani Taliban’s leader Baitullah Mehsud. An unnamed U.S. official intelligence official told Agence France-Press that Mehsud was spotted by U.S. spy cameras receiving a leg massage while lounging on the roof of his father-in-law’s house. The Economist reports the woman giving him the massage was one of his wives.


Experience observing the Iraq war suggests the killing or capture of a single person is the “turning-point” in a war some make it out to be. But there are credible reports suggesting Mehsud’s death triggered deadly infighting among his lieutenants. You’ve heard the phrase divide and conquer, yes? If Behsud’s death divides the Pakistani Taliban, it’s a big step forward for the forces trying to crush the Taliban.


Enough mo’ betta. Now the mo’ worse. The escalating war between the Taliban and Pakistan’s military has triggered a huge refugee crisis.


The United Nations estimates 2 million Pakistani civilians were pushed from their homes during the fighting. As Pakistan forces have consolidated newly secured territory, some 800,000 have returned home. But that leaves 1.2 million innocent people homeless as Pakistan begins into its notoriously unforgiving fall and winter.


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