NEWS & ANALYSIS: The problem in Pakistan

The problem in Pakistan

The bottom line in Pakistan, where all opinion polls find Osama bin Laden an overwhelmingly more popular figure than President Bush, is that even the urban middle class opposes Pakistan’s frontline role in fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It is a war that most Pakistanis see as benefiting a hostile U.S. agenda — even those Pakistanis who want no truck with Shariah law themselves. Indeed, savvy middle class Pakistanis know all too well that the whole jihadist infrastructure of madrassas and paramilitary organizations was first created in the northwest as part of a U.S.-Saudi program to create the infrastructure for an insurgency against the Soviets in Afghanistan. They’ll know, also, that the Pakistani military nurtured this element as a proxy force against India in Kashmir, just as it nurtured the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, Pakistani politics has been horribly disfigured, not only by the venal ineptitude of the Benazir-Nawaz brand of politician, but also by the role Pakistan has been expected to play, for a half century, in U.S. geopolitical plans. [complete article]

Bush more emphatic in backing Musharraf

President Bush yesterday offered his strongest support of embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying the general “hasn’t crossed the line” and “truly is somebody who believes in democracy.”

Bush spoke nearly three weeks after Musharraf declared emergency rule, sacked members of the Supreme Court and began a roundup of journalists, lawyers and human rights activists. Musharraf’s government yesterday released about 3,000 political prisoners, although 2,000 remain in custody, according to the Interior Ministry. [complete article]

An unlikely visitor gives Musharraf support

A few days before Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte traveled to Islamabad last week to impress upon General Pervez Musharraf the need to restore democratic rule in Pakistan, another American envoy quietly landed in the capital to chat with the Pakistani president and army chief.

With the blessing of Washington, Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress’s Council for World Jewry, traveled halfway across the globe for a face-to-face meeting with Musharraf, who he had hailed two years ago as a courageous leader and driving force in Jewish-Muslim dialogue. [complete article]

Imran Khan released from prison

The Pakistan opposition politician, Imran Khan, has been released from prison in southern Punjab where he has been held under anti-terrorism laws.

The former cricketer was arrested by police last week after attending a protest at Punjab University in Lahore. [complete article]

Pentagon: Double funds for Pakistani force

The Pentagon wants to nearly double the funding to train and equip a Pakistani paramilitary force, saying the locally-based fighters are more effective in the difficult region bordering Afghanistan.

The U.S. military has asked to spend $97 million in 2008, compared with $52.6 million this year, on training and equipping the Frontier Corps, which has personnel of the same ethnicity as the recalcitrant tribes along the border. [complete article]

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