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On Pakistan: More Questions than Answers

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On Pakistan: More Questions than Answers
By John E. Carey

In the convoluted world of politics, the war on terror, and international intrigue, it is often difficult to determine the truth. We all read and hear whatever is pushed at us, subject to our own filtering systems.

After last week's dramatic bagging of suspected airline bombers, one of the subtexts of the story that is still emerging is the key cooperation and involvement of Pakistan's government and intelligence services.

Widespread media reporting on Pakistan's role as super-partner of the U.S. and Britain in the war against terror needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
The complexities of Pakistan are not well understood in the west. As Sumit Ganguly, author of "Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947," reported in Foreign Affairs, "Given the signal importance of Pakistan to U.S. foreign policy these days, the lack of informed commentary on the country is striking."
Pakistan's military government is headed by President/General Pervez Musharraf. He took power by military coup and heads a difficult coalition that enforces loyalty to one man and one country.

But there is no one country. Pakistan has a well known underground of Islamic extremists and terrorists and has long been suspected of harboring Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.

Pakistan also has developed nuclear weapons and long range ballistic missiles - and not without major controversy.

The "Father of Pakistan's Nuclear Bomb" is A. Q. Khan. He was sacked from the position unceremoniously in January 2004 during an investigation into allegations that he gave or sold nuclear secretly to nations and groups outside Pakistan. He confessed and apologized.

Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker in March 2004, "His confession was accepted by a stony-faced Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's President, who is a former Army general, and who dressed for the occasion in commando fatigues. The next day, on television again, Musharraf, who claimed to be shocked by Khan's misdeeds, nonetheless pardoned him, citing his service to Pakistan (he called Khan "my hero").

This kind of two-faced action is indicative of Pakistan and its President Musharraf in particular.

A smooth, urbane man, Musharraf has carefully developed his relationships with the west, including with President Bush, FBI Director Mueller and many others.

A year after Musharraf's coup to assume power in Pakistan, the BBC started a report on Pakistan this way: "A year after the coup, the military authorities in Pakistan are under pressure from the international community to speed up the restoration of democracy."

The questions are: what happened to Pakistan's drive toward democracy and what happened to the west's, particularly the U.S. interest in democracy in Pakistan?

President Bush has reiterated several times that a key element to the war against terror is the fostering of democracy. Last May in a Chicago press conference, the president summed up his rationale in a few short words: "democracies don't war with each other."

So why has the U.S. ignored Pakistan's lack of democracy and apparent disregard for nuclear non-proliferation?

Some of the answers lie in Pakistan's secret intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Widely reported as one of the heroes in thwarting the London airline pilot plot, the ISI has a record shrouded in secrecy and double dealing. The ISI helps keep Musharraf in power even as he cultivates the west. Many believe the ISI also allows Islamic extremists and Al-Qaeda to operate within Pakistan.

Just after the terror train bombing in India on July 11, 2006, India's well respected Hundustan Times reported, "[Indian] Intelligence agencies on Thursday confirmed that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was the 'mastermind' of the blasts that killed about 200 people."

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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