What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Blood emeralds

Now is one of those times when I will have to blog economically here, and hit entire flocks of birds with few stones if possible. No harm meant to animals of course, just trying to speak expressively.

Today, in light of recent news from Pakistan, I will refer to the literature on the political economy of armed conflict. A major, by now relatively widely known abstract explanation of conflict is the honey pot concept. Some refer to it as a "theory" or as a "hypothesis." In fact, there are two versions of it.

A stronger version is equal to the assumption that fighting occurs for the control of resources. A milder version is that fighting can, after a while, once it has broken out, occur for the control of resources that can finance the fighting. Thus, as different views have it, the honey pot is either a cause or a sustaining factor.

Guess which one it is when you read about the Taliban takeover of an emerald mine in Shangla:

"The mine had been leased to American firm Luxury International, which had been paying Pakistan Rs 40 million a year. The company had left recently because of the security situation.

The Taliban took positions around the mine on Wednesday after the security guards fled. They announced to take control of mining operations and offered the locals to work with them and share the profits. They bought mining equipment from the nearby Kotkay Bazaar.

Sher Bacha, the nazim of the area, and the locals confirmed the report and said more than 1,000 people worked on the mine on Wednesday. Only 100 people worked at the mine before the Taliban takeover."

The excerpt just shows that reality is always too complex for theory to handle. That is the essence of theory: throw away some of the complexity to have a general sense of what you need to focus on. Meeting a given case is always interesting and will always offer contrast/deviation to theory in its details...
Illustration: Swat emeralds examined at this website

Quick notes.

1. One resource the Taliban gained access to here is the allegiance of a whole area where they are now major employers (of a 1,000 people with families). Of course it will be nice for them to trade in the emeralds with places like the Gulf Arab states, too. But that's not all that there is to this.

2. Is the fighting in the FATA and the NWFP (Shangla is in the NWFP, bordering on Swat district) driven by fight for the control of resources? In a sense even that could be true, but before you see some great analogy between amber-trading Teuton Knights of medieval Europe and emerald-trading Taliban from the NWFP, pause to appreciate complexity in this case, too. It is rather a scarcity of the overall available resources in the Pakistani Pashtun areas that contributes to this in an indirect or structural way, but even that is only a part of the entire story.

Alright, I'm dropping my laptop for now. Bye.

1 comment:

Sikander Hayat said...

05th April 2009 - Another day, another bomb, another atrocity committed in the name of Islam by those who believe that apart from them all other Muslims are ‘kafirs’.


By Sikander