Pakistan unrest world's flashpoint

As world attention remains intensely focused on the Israel-Palestine conflict, a similar but far more serious situation with implications way beyond the Middle East may be closer than most people think.Israel's Gaza action has diverted attention away from the fallout of November's carnage by Islamist gunmen in Mumbai that left nearly 200 dead. Indian authorities have submitted dossiers on investigations linking the planned, co-ordinated attacks to Pakistani nationals and their Pakistan-based sponsors. The reports have gone to the Pakistan Government and Western countries.
After more than a month of consistent denials, Pakistan has grudgingly begun to acknowledge evidence of the involvement of individuals and organisations in that country, despite the FBI, European and Russian investigators having established these links.Both the outgoing Bush Administration - rather too late in the day - and Obama's regime have acknowledged that the key to making headway in the war on terror lies in dealing with the Pakistan situation first.The biggest foreign-policy challenge awaiting President-elect Barack Obama is not Iraq or Afghanistan but Pakistan, Stephen Hadley, United States national security adviser told the Wall Street Journal last week."Pakistan's increasingly turbulent border region poses threats not just to the US mission in Afghanistan, but also to neighbouring India, as evidenced by the recent Mumbai terrorist attacks, as well as to urban areas of Pakistan itself - and the world beyond. If extremists succeed in destabilising Pakistan, the resulting chaos will threaten the entire region. That's why I think Pakistan is at the centre," he said.What he left unsaid is the intelligence agencies' fears this might already be happening. The increasingly porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border has waves of Taleban militants making inroads into Pakistan. A month ago, militants bombed a Nato depot destroying dozens of trucks and communication infrastructure besides killing three workers. As a result the Western coalition's operations in a crucial area around Peshawar were temporarily suspended.Amid rumours of possible military action by India after the Mumbai attacks, the Pakistani Army threatened to move 100,000 troops from its Afghan frontier to its border with India to the East - causing consternation through the Western countries' camp. India assured the world it was not contemplating military action but the Pakistani Army's alacrity in announcing a troop withdrawal from the western front was an emphatic signal about its priorities.The Taleban considers India one of its main enemies along with Western nations but unlike them India is within easy striking range. It is a soft target and a great one for global exposure.There is no doubt Pakistan's announcement to move troops emboldened the Taleban to infiltrate further into Pakistani territory. In fact, the Taleban leadership even issued media statements that it would fight India alongside Pakistani forces.Indian media have consistently carried reports of the increasing Talebanisation of Pakistani villages where women are barred from being seen in public and schools for girls are being razed. Men have to wear beards and recruitment into their armies continues.The legal system is being replaced by the Taleban's own brand of brutal, instant justice.Not containing the Taleban's slow, but what appears to be steady, eastward foray into Pakistan immediately puts the country's nuclear hardware and infrastructure within its greater reach with each passing month. As things stand, Taleban activity is less than 200km from some of Pakistan's nuclear installations.There is no knowing how safe and secure the country's nuclear chain of command is, what with poorly defined demarcations between the Army and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), which world intelligence agencies know is teeming with highly placed officials, many of them retired army brass, that are partial to radical Islamist causes and the nuclear establishment.It's more a question of when, not if, the Taleban infiltrates the Pakistan's nuclear defence system. Not that the Western countries are unaware of this - but the question is how to deal with the situation.While the West needs to do everything it can to keep President Asif Ali Zardari's democratically elected fledgling Government alive, the Mumbai attacks have pointed to the Government's progressive marginalisation with each passing week. The West is painfully aware that nothing can be achieved without the Army's help.It can't deal with the Army directly so long as a civilian government is in place and the Army won't listen to its own Government (its reversal of the President's assurance to send the intelligence chief to India after the Mumbai carnage is a case in point).Instead of the Gaza situation for a moment consider a scenario involving Western nations (with India included). And rather than Hamas they are dealing with a far more geographically widespread and nuclearised Taleban.
Instead of the 30-60km range rockets that Hamas has been using on Israeli targets, the scenario in Pakistan could involve dozens of 700-2000km nuclear-capable missiles ready to fly at the push of a button. What you might have is a scenario that will leave the Middle East situation looking like a bar brawl.

1 comment:

His Moeness said...

salaam - i enjoyed your blog and will come back frequently. mobasher