Sunday, December 06, 2009

revenue engine

We had a post about the MQM in Karachi and the Taliban. Strangely enough, Reuters got a fascinating interview with the MQM mayor of Karachi a couple of days later. It's a must-read - one of the main points that comes through is the way in which the struggle up on the frontier and in Afghanistan is indivisible from the trading world of the Gulf and the Arabian Sea.
The city of 18 million people generates 68 percent of the government revenue and 25 percent of Pakistan's gross domestic product but it is vulnerable to both militant attacks and political violence, said mayor Syed Mustafa Kamal.

"As Karachi is the revenue engine for Pakistan, it's the same revenue engine for the Taliban," Kamal told Reuters in an interview in his office...."People are being kidnapped here in Karachi and the ransom is taken in Waziristan," he said, referring to a northwestern ethnic Pashtun region where the army has been battling militants since October.

Four hundred million rupees ($4.8 million) had recently been sent from one Karachi bank branch to various parts of the northwest in one month, he said. "That's abnormal," he said. "For sure, the biggest chunk of Taliban war ... resources are going from Karachi."
He also has some interesting things to say about NATO logistics in Afghanistan:
Kamal said a large proportion of supplies bound for U.S.-led forces in landlocked Afghanistan arrive at Karachi's port, which he said was still vulnerable to an attack that could cripple the U.S. war effort.

"If they don't get their water supply through this route the next day they'll be drinking Afghan water and the next day half the army will have stomach problems," he said.
I don't know if we really are shipping water in through Karachi, but it's certainly an answer to the trick question about the MQM's current tactical alignment. I'm not sure what to make of Jeremy Scahill's piece on ex-Blackwater (a "media scouring" outpost in Karachi that's also a "lilypad to jump off to Uzbekistan" - jumping past other major US bases like Bagram and Kandahar, presumably?), but it's worth noting that, for what it's worth, Kestral Trading, the local firm that actually seems to handle the cargo and guard the convoys is usually accused of being part of the Musharraf family (low-grade sources, but then....)

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