Pakistan, the World’s Boxing Ring

Imagine that one of your neighbours had a disagrement with another neighbour.  Imagine, say, that the neighbour on one side of your house had a disagreement with the neighbour on the other side.  Now imagine that they decided to settle the dispute by fighting.  Further imagine that they decided to fight it out in your back garden, even though you had nothing to do with the original dispute.

Congratulations: now you know how Pakistanis feel.

It has long been the fate of this corner of the world to become the battleground for wars that do not immediately concern it.  Pakistan has played host to more proxy conflicts than one would expect.

Think about it.  Alexander the Great breezed through here, his army passing a few kilometres north of where I am currently typing, on his way east.  The Mongol Emperor Timur came down from Central Asia, crossed the Indus in what is now Pakistan, and went on to capture Delhi.  The Persian Emperor Nadir Shah came through on his way to sack Delhi a few centuries later.

The British later arrived, trekking through from west to east in their ill-fated invasion of Afghanistan in 1839.  Pakistan then became the location of the Great Game as Britain and Russia fought out their differences in the late 19th century.  Then came 1989 and the war in Afghanistan, with Pakistan becoming a place for refugees, for arms storage, and training.  These days we see drone strikes and an increasing sense that the rivalry between the Saudis and the Iranians is being fought out in Baluchistan and, ideologically, the madrassas of Pakistan.

Perhaps the main problem is Pakistan’s conveniently strategic location, on the main route between East and West.  That is only going to increase as China invests in Pakistan in order to circumvent India and as foreign troops leave Afghanistan.  It is deeply unfair that the problems of the world are dumped in the lap of the Pakistanis and even more remarkable that they are still so welcoming to foreigners, considering what they’ve been through…

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