Nuclear-armed Pakistan remains critically important in the war against terror, critically important in halting the ugly tide of extremists and militants, critically important to regional peace and stability and critically important to U.S. national security.
On February 10 of this year, Pakistani journalist Muhammad Khurshid joined with me to write a commentary essay for the Washington Times. We started by asking, “Given just 10 minutes with a candidate running for the White House in the United States, or ten minutes of discussion with a citizen-voter in America, what points should be made about Pakistan?”
A lot has changed in Pakistan and in the U.S. since that time. President General Musharraf is no longer the dominant political figure in Pakistan. Now, as we write, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari is in China currying favor and gaining much needed financial backing. That support from China to Pakistan is needed, in Mr. Zardari’s view, due to doubts about his U.S. ally and because of Mr. Zardari’s inability to deliver on very basic promises.
Many Pakistanis say that the U.S. is raining down missiles upon Pakistan’s innocent civilians — missiles from unmanned Predator drones. The U.S. says the cross-border attacks from Afghanistan are eliminating Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists. Terrorist inside Pakistan are waging a daily war of bombings, killing and kidnapping that have surpassed the violence in Iraq and Afghanistan. The devastation of Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel is the most visible evidence of this hate and death campaign.
The Pakistani Army has entered Muhammad’s homeland in the Bajaur Agency of the tribal areas, creating at least 200,000 refugees and displaced persons, and probably more. Muhammad has had friends and relatives killed and he has lost track of his own wife and family several times. He has taken to asking Western journalists for funds and support.
Pakistani army soldiers take up positions in the troubled tribal areas in early October.
In short, Pakistan is now at a cross roads that cannot be ignored. An uncerttain and problematic economy and government have fueled militant extremists that are exploding in numbers and ferocity.
“Given just 10 minutes with a candidate running for the White House in the United States, or ten minutes of discussion with a citizen-voter in America, what points should be made about Pakistan?”
First, we would remind both Senators Obama and McCain and all Americans that the number one task of the President of the United States is his role as Commander in Chief of the armed forces, as defined in Article II of the Constitution. Then we would suggest that the president has great singular responsibility and authority to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, ” as his oath states. He is also tasked with defending the United States “against all enemies” and is the man who, arguably, has more singular authority than anyone else for the conduct of war, the preservation of the United States and the safety of Americans against the assaults from enemies including terrorists.
More than ever we believe that Pakistan is on the “tip of the spear,” teetering between total unrest and possible take-over by militant extremists. Only close cooperation between the U.S. and the government of Pakistan can avert “loss’ of Pakistan, and emboldened Taliban and al-Qaeda, and continued and growing world=wide unrest and terror.
We ask God to watch over our friend Muhammad. But we aslo ask God to keep in the fore of our presidential candidates’ minds the ongoing global conflict which has been tipping increasingly toward Pakistan.
China and Pakistan’s Strategic Importance: Background
Violence Wounds Pakistan’s Trust in U.S.
Jason Motlagh and Ayesha Akram
The Washington Times
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan | A large advertisement on the front page of a major Pakistani newspaper recently featured an image of the Marriott hotel, ablaze in the night after last month’s suicide truck bombing.
“This war is OUR war,” screamed the headline, asking why those responsible for the attack that killed 60 people “should be allowed to overwhelm a nation.”
The media campaign reflects a growing crisis of confidence among Pakistanis. They fear more militant violence and are also increasingly uneasy about an alliance with the United States that appears to be spurring the attacks. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 64 percent of Pakistanis say the United States is the greatest threat facing the nation.
“The public is confused and demoralized,” said Ayaz Amir, a leading political columnist. “They don’t like what the Taliban is doing, don’t like what the U.S. is doing, and there is not a clear sense of direction from the new leadership. No solution is in sight.”
In an indication of the gravity of the situation in both Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan, commander of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, met Thursday in the military garrison town of Rawalpindi with Pakistan’s armed forces chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, and his Afghan counterpart, Gen. Bismullah Khan. It was the first such three-way meeting since U.S. ground forces raided Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, an area that remains a sanctuary for the Taliban and al Qaeda and may host Osama bin Laden. The Sept. 3 raid inflamed Pakistani opinion.
Last week, President Asif Ali Zardar summoned Pakistani lawmakers and top security officials to a rare, closed-door session to discuss the situation in the tribal areas. The Zardari government hopes to devise a counterterrorism strategy that will affirm the primacy of a civilian government that followed nine years of military rule in February.
“The ongoing briefing session … is a step towards strengthening the democratic system as it is aimed at taking public representatives on board on the most important challenge the country is currently facing,” Information Minister Sherry Rehman told reporters last week. “Public ownership of the war” is critical, she said.
However, several lawmakers said afterward that the briefing lacked depth and diagnosis, especially on the terms of engagement with the United States.
Meanwhile, militants appear capable of striking with impunity.
Hours before Mrs. Rehman spoke, four people were injured when a suicide car bomber attacked a police complex in a high-security zone on the outskirts of the capital.