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Pakistan Crisis Continues

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By John E. Carey
July 19, 2007

Pakistan is quickly slipping off to become a cauldron of violence. President Pervez Musharraf, who himself took control of the government in a military coup in October 1999, is under fire. Terrorists tried to kill Musharraf by shooting down his aircraft July 6. This was probably the fourth assassination attempt against the president.

At the Red Mosque or Lal Masjid, Islamic extremists conducted a days long standoff with police and military troops. The death count is said to be 102, of whom 11 are soldiers and other members of the security forces. The mosque is just a few blocks from the presidential palace.

The extremists want a government change in Pakistan in order to install a much more rigid Islamic leadership.

In the tribal areas of the area between Pakistan and northwest Pakistan, Taliban fighter have resisted all efforts to quell violence in the rugged mountains. Many intelligence leaders believe Osama bin Laden is hiding in the tribal areas caves and mountains.The United States has just expressed displeasure in its ally’s effort to pin down the terrorists in the tribal areas. Pakistan has resisted using troops in this area which is loosely governed by rival chieftains and the jirga – a tribal council of leaders.

Among those calling for U.S. troops to go into the tribal areas is former Rep. Lee Hamilton, who also served as the vice chairman of the 9/11 commission. Hamilton says the Iraq war distracted the United States when it had al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on the run in the tribal region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”This has to be carefully calibrated, worked out with the Pakistanis, but I am very concerned that you have a safe haven in Pakistan today where al Qaeda regroup regroup, rethink, and get ready for more attacks,” Hamilton said on CNN’s “Newsroom” on Wednesday.

In various parts of Pakistan terrorists are bringing pressure to bear of the government by targeting Chinese nationals. China finished the largest seaport in Pakistan earlier this year at Gwadar, a coastal town in Balochistan. The port will have a naval and commercial role.

The most recent source of stress is the July 8 execution-style killing of three Chinese nationals who owned a small business in Pakistan. About 8,500 Chinese work in Pakistan — only about 2,500 U.S. nationals work in Pakistan. Of the Chinese, 3,500 are engineers and technicians assigned to a variety of Sino-Pakistani projects. The remaining 5,000 are engaged in private businesses.

Beijing is investing about $88 billion in the development of western China, including the what is expected to be a huge reserve of untapped natural-gas and oil resources of Xinjiang.

U.S. government officials have made very strong assertions of support for President Musharraf and even praising Pakistan as a key ally in the war against terror.

On Meet the Press on Sunday, September 10, 2006, Vice President Cheney expressed strong U.S. Government support for President Musharraf of Pakistan. “President Musharraf has been a great ally. There was, prior to 9/11, a close relationship between the Pakistan intelligence services and the Taliban. Pakistan was one of only three nations that recognized, diplomatically recognized the government of Afghanistan at that particular time. But the fact is Musharraf has put his neck on the line in order to be effective in going after the extremist elements including al-Qaeda and including the Taliban in Pakistan.”

But then Cheney made a surprise visit to Pakistan in February 2006. At that time Frederic Grare, a French scholar with the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said, “Absolutely, there is growing American unease and I would certainly enlarge that to say there is a growing international unease with Pakistan” over the battle against terrorism.

Since February Musharraf’s own ability to stay in power looks more in doubt and the U.S. government has expressed more unease in Pakistan as a genuine player on the U.S. side in the war against terror.

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