Monday, 18 May 2009 00:00
By Fadel Lamen*
Exclusive for Al Waref
Pakistan continues to be the common constant in every presidential daily briefing received by President Barack Obama. While the western media and politicians are becoming forever fascinated with pirates of Somalia or Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a “failed State.”
The Taliban is not an Afghani phenomenon anymore; right now it’s a Pakistani dilemma, not just involved in a contained low intensity conflict, but threatening the very existence of the Pakistani state and the international community at large. The latest threats to Islamabad by the Taliban underscore the deterioration of the situation there and the dire need for drastic measures to be taken. Thomas Fignar, the former head of National Intelligence Council, considered Pakistan as “the most challenging region in the planet.”
This claim was made rightfully so, as Pakistan today is not only a haven for terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, where they plan and operate, but is also administered by one of the weakest governments ever to rule Islamabad. This same government controls nuclear weapons while its security and intelligence services continue to foster covert relations with terrorist organizations in order to destabilize its neighbors. Imagine the Taliban and Al Qaida armed with nuclear weapons; a recipe for disaster to say the very least!
The weak civilian and military leadership ruling Pakistan today seems unable to provide the necessary security for its citizens nor hold the country together. The military failed and continues to fail at defeating or at least containing the Taliban and radical extremists. This can be seen within Swat, Buner and the Malakand Division. At the same time the civilian leadership failed to develop and implement a clear strategy to save the country from a complete meltdown. Instead they come to a compromise with the Taliban in order to appease them. Islamabad seems to have its priorities mixed up. Apparently, competition with India means more to them then the destruction of their nation-state by terrorists groups like the Taliban and Al-Qaida.
Many Pakistanis dismiss the current crisis in the country as something Pakistan had seen before, claiming that many people have previously predicted the breakup or the collapse of the country into independent Pashtunistan, Baluchistan, Sindh and Punjab. This dismissive attitude is both dangerous and reckless. Dismissing or underestimating the threats to the country is not only a sign of poor leadership, but a sign of reckless disregard for life. Either way, this should not be the behavior of a leadership with nuclear power. Pakistan needs to become more responsible and priority needs to be given to the issue of the NWFP and FATA.
Last week the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari finally caved into the pressure of signing away the beautiful Swat valley to the Taliban after failing to defeat them. Swat Valley is only 100 miles away from the capital Islamabad. The emboldened Taliban commander Mullah Nazeer Ahmed issued a direct threat to the rulers of Pakistan: "The day is not far when Islamabad will be in the hands of the mujahideen.”
Pakistan is a threat not only to itself but to the whole world. The nightmarish scenario of extremists and radicals who have the opportunity to lay their hands on weapons of mass destruction and will not hesitate to use them is no longer a nightmare but a very dreadful reality.
*Writer and journalist based in Washington DC specialized in the Middle East and the Muslim World. His Op Ed pieces appear in the Pan Arab newspaper Asharq Al-awsat.