January 12, 2004
By Peter Brookes
Overstatement? Consider this: Militant Pakistani affiliates of
al Qaeda have tried to assassinate Pakistan President Pervez
Musharraf twice in just the last month. A successful hit on
Musharraf could reverse the significant progress made in the War on
Terror, undermine nuclear nonproliferation and snuff out the
nascent Indian-Pakistani peace initiative.
* War on Terror: Pakistan is a key frontline
state in the international terrorist struggle. After 9/11,
Musharraf did a one-eighty on the Taliban and let U.S. forces
operate from Pakistani soil against the Taliban/al Qaeda axis in
Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. It arrested hundreds
of al Qaeda, including vaunted ops boss Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
But Pakistan is still awash in Taliban (and Taliban
sympathizers) and al Qaeda (and al Qaeda wannabes.) In early
October, Osama bin Laden's deputy thug, Ayman al Zawahiri, called
for them to overthrow Musharraf for "betraying" Islam. Secular
Pakistan is now on al Qaeda's official hit list.
Pakistan's Northwest Frontier province is the stomping grounds
of public enemy numero uno, Osama bin Laden, and former Talibanista
Mullah Omar. Musharraf has realized that Islamic extremists,
including those in the military and the dreaded Pakistani
Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) organization, are the greatest
threat to a stable, peaceful Pakistani future - not India. (Nothing
like a couple of near-miss bomb explosions to clear the head . . .
* Nuclear Nonproliferation: Pakistan is the
only nuclear weapons state in the Muslim world. Unfortunately, the
father of the Pakistani bomb, A.Q. Khan, is also a sire of the
Iranian, North Korean and Libyan nuclear-weapons programs.
Moreover, Khan is rumored to have considered sharing nuclear
weapons technology with Saudi Arabia, which is antsy about a
nuclear Iran controlling the Persian Gulf.
Pakistan's proliferation transgressions have been aired publicly
of late and Musharraf has opened an investigation into the
technology transfers, vowing to stop the proliferation. (We'll
see.) Meanwhile, al Qaeda and Pakistani Islamic radicals would love
to get their slimy mitts on the Pakistani nuclear stockpile or
enabling nuclear technology. Just think: al Qaeda with the
* Indian-Pakistani peace: India and Pakistan
have fought three wars since splitting in 1947 - two of them over
the disputed, divided province of Kashmir. The province continues
to be one of the world's most serious military flashpoints, with
India and Pakistan almost coming to serious blows again in 1999
(Pakistan's incursion into Kashmir) and 2001/2 (a terrorist attack
on the Indian parliament and Kashmiri Assembly.)
And since both nations are members of the nuclear club, they
also share the dubious honor of being the two states most likely to
engage in the world's first atomic exchange.
Recently, Musharraf seems to have had an epiphany of sorts about
the counterproductiveness of Pakistan's insurgency (and terrorism)
in Indian Kashmir, which dates back to 1989. He has agreed to start
formal peace talks with Delhi next month - the third set of peace
talks in 40 years. Expect hard-line Pakistani elements to do what
they can to undermine the prospects of peace - and to shorten
Musharraf 's life expectancy.
Gen. Musharraf is no choirboy, having deposed President Nawaz
Sharif in a bloodless military coup in 1999. And, like earlier
Pakistani leaders (and the Saudis), he made Faustian bargains with
Islamic radicals that have now come back to haunt them. He must rid
the ISI and the military of al Qaeda and Taliban supporters and
clamp down on the Kashmiri extremists. This will be no walk in the
Islamabad must also address the madrassas (religious schools)
that are mongering hate to young Pakistanis and a reported 16,000
foreign students, serving as a breeding ground for future
jihadists. (Part of the problem is that Pakistan doesn't have
anywhere near enough schools besides the madarassas.)
Not just the War at Terror, nuclear proliferation and peace on
the South Asian subcontinent are at issue in Pakistan. So, too, is
Musharraf 's regime. For the moment, he is the best hope for
maintaining a secular, moderate Pakistan and prosecuting the War on
Terror in that troubled part of the world.
Musharraf wants better relations with the United States. And a
constructive, cooperative relationship with a secular Pakistan is
in America's - and the world's - best interest.
But moving the US-Pakistani relationship from one of short-term
necessity to long-term friendship should be based upon his
government's ability to deliver on the critical issues of
terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation and a lasting peace with
First appeared in the New York Post.
Pakistan may be the most important country Americans don't know is important. What happens in Islamabad profound affects the War on Terror, nuclear proliferation and the prospect of nuclear war.
Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
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