Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Pakistani troubles

Just a little beneath active recognition, Pakistan is potentially shaping up to be a serious problem, and for various reason's Pakistan's troubles could be the U.S.'s problems. Last week in a government-led crackdown hundreds of media people and members of opposition parties were arrested, mostly in Punjab, the most populous province.

The arrests come in the wake of growing discontent over President Pervez Musharraf's decision three months ago to fire the country's chief justice because he was not pliable enough. Though formally term-limited, most Pakistanis believe Musharraf wants another five years in office. Musharraf has allowed elections and declared himself a firm U.S. ally in the wake of 9/11. But he came to power through the military and he rules in an increasingly authoritarian manner.

This comes at a time when al-Qaida and sympathetic forces are known to be active in the northern tribal regions bordering Afghanistan (where in truth no Pakistani government has ever really ruled effectively) and many believe Osama bin Laden is holed up there. Remember, Pakistani intelligence services were helpful in installing the Taliban in Afgfhanistan, and the military and intelligence service (ISI) harbor many al-Qaida and jihadist sympathizers.

The other complication is that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Plenty of people are worried that Iran may get nukes someday. But if a jihadist-sympathizing faction overthrows Musharraf, the day of a radical Islamist regime having nuclear weapons could be instant rather than a matter of five or 10 years depending on which dubiously reliable intelligence you believe.

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