Right Wing Nut House

7/14/2005

PAKISTAN: WITH US OR AGAINST US?

Filed under: WORLD POLITICS — Rick Moran @ 5:55 am

The recent revelations that one and possibly two of the London bombers visited Pakistan and may have trained at al Qaeda camps underscores the dilemma facing the United States when it comes to our relationship with Pakistani dictator General Pervez Musharraf. On the one hand, he and his military have been extremely cooperative in rounding up al Qaeda terrorists, including some of the group’s top leadership. On the other hand, Musharraf’s promised political and social reforms that would have neutralized Islamic extremists have not been forthcoming and, judging by recent developments, may have been a sham all along.

Since the attacks of 9/11, Pakistan has received $2.64 billion in aid, $113 billion of that in security assistance. What have we gotten to show for that money?

As mentioned, the Pakistani security services have rounded up a dozen or more of top al Qaeda leadership including the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. KSM has since begun to talk and his insights into al Qaeda have been invaluable. The Pakistani’s also claimed to have killed 600 al Qaeda soldiers as well as hundreds of Taliban holdouts.

Pakistan has also operated as a forward base for our assistance to Afghanistan as both a center for international aid and a military staging area for Afghan operations.

The Pakistani’s have lent valuable assistance to Afghanistan in the training of both the army and internal security services.

Musharraf shut down al Qaeda training camps operating in Pakistan as well as promising to crack down on extremist schools - the madrasses - that indoctrinate hundreds of thousands of poor Pakistani children with a philosophy of hatred of the non-Islamic west.

As for the minuses, there are plenty:

1. Despite its extreme poverty, Pakistan continues to spend enormous amounts of money on its nuclear program that threatens an important emerging ally of the United States in India.

2. After an initial burst of reforms when Musharraf came to power in 1999, human rights groups in Pakistan complain that the pace of reform has slackened and, in some cases, regressed under pressure from Islamist elements in the Pakistani parliament and the military.

3. Instead of shutting down the madrasses, Musharraf’s government has allowed them to flourish and has done nothing to cut off the flow of foreign money pouring into the establishment of these schools.

4. Musharraf has deliberately weakened pro-democracy political parties which has allowed a coalition of extremist Islamist parties to gain ascendancy in parliament and in the countryside. The most radical of these parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, or MMA, controls two provinces in the mountainous northwest of the country on the border with Afghanistan where it’s believed Bin Laden may be hiding and it’s thought that the Taliban utilizes as a safe haven against coalition attacks. It’s debatable how much real control Musharraf maintains over these provinces as he has forbidden any coalition military operations there.

5. After shutting down al Qaeda training camps following 9/11, there is evidence that many of the camps have reopened with the government’s blessing.

Admittedly, Musharraf is in an extraordinarily dangerous predicament both for his government and his personal safety. The army - especially the intelligence service - is riddled with Taliban sympathizers according to many reports. And he has been forced to forgo important reforms because of the dicey political situation. In short, he is unable to make any headway against the traditional “mullah-military alliance” that has governed Pakistan since his predecessor General Zia turned Pakistan into an Islamic republic during the 1980’s.

This Newsweek article spells out some of the risks to Musharraf’s rule:

Senior government officials told news-week that the president worries that demolishing Zia’s legacy too rashly could spark widespread violence. Musharraf must also contend with elements of the armed forces who are steeped in General Zia’s culture. “Breaking away from deeply held customs will take some time,” argues General Sultan. “We believe in bringing change not through revolutionary but evolutionary means.”

Government critics point as well to other worrisome developments. While secular opposition parties are prohibited from holding public demonstrations, the MMA can call its people to the streets without the threat of a police crackdown. Pakistan will soon issue new machine-readable passports to its citizens. The government had planned to exclude any mention of the passport-holder’s religious affiliation on the document. But Muslim groups objected, and last month the government acquiesced to their demands. The new passports will not only identify the religion of every Pakistani, but also his or her sect. Religious minorities fear the passports will widen the sectarian divides that plague the country.

And this backsliding does not bode well for the United States in the War on Terrorism:

Gen Musharraf promised a policy of enlightened moderation but little has been done. Thousands of religious schools still spew out hate against non-Muslims and leaders of militant groups still wander the country giving sermons.

Gen Musharraf has squandered the lavish aid and support given to him by the US and Britain after September 11. Extremism continues to flourish and democracy is further away than ever.

This month the widely circulated magazine Herald reports that a dozen training camps for militants, which closed down after September 11, were revived in May with official blessing.

Last month several Pakistani-Americans arrested on terrorism charges in California, admitted to training in such camps. The London bombers were probably in touch with a local Pakistani group rather than al-Qa’eda.

President Bush has cut Musharraf an enormous amount of slack. It’s time for the Pakistani president to either put up or shut up with regards to democratic reforms and carry through on his promise to crack down on the madrasses that are poisoning the minds of young Pakistani’s and radicalizing another generation of Islamic militants.

And President Bush should absolutely and without delay tell Musharraf to shut down the al Qaeda training camps… or we will do it for him.

It’s time for Pakistan and its president to decide once and for all: Are they with us or against us in the War on Terror?

1 Comment

  1. Vice Chancellor of Beef Burritos

    Today’s dose of NIF - News, Interesting & Funny … It’s Stop the ACLU Thursday

    Trackback by NIF — 7/14/2005 @ 8:54 am

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