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West's policy failures in Pakistan : Double Game of Pervez Mushharraf

Reader comment on item: Red Mosque in Rebellion

Submitted by Dalba (India), Aug 21, 2007 at 14:48

In the murky world of geopolitics, Pakistan is both an ally in the "war on terror" and a fountainhead of Islamist militancy. Since 9/11, General Pervez Musharraf's Government has arrested a significant number of al-Qaeda operatives, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the attacks on the United States that day. Yet General Musharraf's domestic political compulsions have also seen him do deals with Taliban sympathisers. The theory is that giving them a stake in power will tone down their demands for an Islamic revolution. Arrest of 24 Britons suspected of plotting to bomb transatlantic passenger planes has once again put Pakistan centre-stage. America's ABC network reported that two of the ringleaders recently travelled to Pakistan and had received funds from there.

Like the world-weary police chief in Casablanca, Pakistani officials have moved quickly to round up "the usual suspects". Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam claims Pakistan's "active intelligence co-operation" helped foil the conspiracy. Yet Pakistan's role as an unofficial exporter and inspirer of Islamist militancy, which began with its role in the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, seems to be perennial. A small number of Islamic schools there continue to enrol hundreds of foreign students, defying a deadline set last year for their expulsion. Two of the four British-born bombers who paralysed the London Underground system last year visited such schools before mounting their attacks. For a quarter of a century, radical Islamists have also found a home in Pakistan's intelligence and security services, from where they lent strong support to militants in India and Afghanistan, including the Taliban.

Sporadic crackdowns of the kind currently under way bear the hallmarks of political window-dressing designed to placate foreign governments and the media, rather than a serious effort to uproot militant networks. Groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Righteous) — now known as Jamaat-ud-Dawa (Society of the Call) — merely change their names and re-emerge as charities. Lashkar's founder, a former engineering professor called Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, was placed under house arrest in Lahore this week, but his detention is unlikely to last long. Privately, Pakistani officials express the fear that a more thorough crackdown could cause a backlash and exacerbate the problem. Nobody pretends there are easy answers to these problems, and it is true that some rusted-on militants will attack us no matter what we do. But almost five years since 9/11, the policies of Western governments have clearly exacerbated rather than diminished the terrorist threats we face.

Good work by Western intelligence agencies has managed to prevent scores of terrorist plots. But by skimping on their financial and military contributions to Afghanistan and squandering resources on a reckless war in Iraq, our governments have failed in their duty to protect us. The Taliban's current revival, continuing chaos in Iraq and the persistent threats to Western citizens are all testament to policy failure in Washington, Canberra and Islamabad. The "war on terror" is long on tactical alliances and short on strategy. By painting a doomsday scenario of how much worse things could be if they acted decisively, Pakistan's leaders have persuaded us that the survival of an undemocratic, nuclear-armed and increasingly militant Pakistan is essential to our security. Clinging to a dictator who blocks the revival of genuine democratic politics while, according to his critics, playing a double game in the fight against terrorism merely perpetuates the military-militant nexus that created the Frankenstein monster of Islamist extremism in the first place

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