Pakistan is in turmoil, and has been for a long time. The assassination of former and probable future prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has only stirred the pot to past the boiling point.
Given Pakistan’s crucial role in the war in Afghanistan in particular, and the war on Islamic terrorism in general, the response to the crisis there expressed by leading U.S. figures in politics and the media has revealed a shocking level of ignorance and prejudice.
A prime example of both has been the rash of anti-Pervez Musharraf propaganda that erupted from the political left in the immediate aftermath of the Bhutto assassination. The thrust of all this anti-Musharraf propaganda has been that he was somehow responsible for her death and must therefore go and the U.S. must take a hand in driving him from office.
On the morning that the news of Bhutto’s death broke, for example, in a series of interviews liberal commentator Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show made no effort to conceal her contempt for Musharraf, repeatedly asking one after another of her interviewees if they believed that the Pakistani president was somehow behind the assassination of his rival – a conclusion that she had obviously reached.
Should her view, shared by many in the anti-Bush movement, prevail, U.S. support of Musharraf, one of our most reliable allies, would slacken, forcing him from office -- to be replaced by probable chaos and the Talibanization of Pakistan.
It is said that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. That goes in spades for Mika Brzezinski, who seems to have forgotten what happened when Jimmy Carter arranged the ouster of the Shah of Iran. The grim consequences that followed included the jihadist mullahs, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- and the Iranian supplied IEDs that are killing American soldiers and Marines in Iraq.
She should remember that – at the time her dad, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor.
Later, during a TV interview, New Mexico’s Governor and Democrat presidential candidate Bill Richardson said that the solution to the crisis was to replace Musharraf immediately with some kind of amorphous committee composed of a group of unnamed democracy-oriented Pakistanis -- in other words by organized chaos.
What has been ignored in all of these responses is the actual situation in Pakistan. At the very time when the strongest hand must be at the helm, the anti-Bush American left would hand it over to the weakest.
In a nutshell, what Musharraf faces is a population in which, according to the polls, a near majority favors al-Qaida, and where two of the key provinces bordering on Afghanistan are firmly in the hands of al-Qaida and the Taliban.
In e-mails to her friend, legendary American journalist Arnaud deBorchgrave, Benazir Bhutto wrote: “It may sound dramatic but the picture here is frightening. Pakistan is slowly disintegrating and it seems everyone is paralyzed into ignoring the calamity that is coming. The district headquarters of Shangla Hills fell today. The local population was ready to resist but didn't have the resources. The government didn't send any reinforcements and the local administration disappeared. In fact, it seems like the buddies of the militants had already been appointed."
In a November 19, 2007 interview with NewsMax, deBorchgrave explained that the Islamic militants “control the key tribal areas, known as North and South Waziristan, and to a lesser degree, some of the other tribal agencies that border on Afghanistan.
But it’s total control in North and South Waziristan, which are the key areas for us in terms of Afghanistan … and “in the Swat Valley, which is a highly prized tourist attraction in Pakistan and still inside Pakistan proper -- in other words inside the northwest frontier province. The army has gone in there and taken casualties and then backed away as reinforcements arrived for the Taliban youths from other provinces who were doing the fighting.
“In other words the army backed down. The army is pretty fed up at this point because they feel that they’ve been carrying out America’s orders transmitted by General Muscharraf.”
Few among those in the U.S. who suggest that the army under Mussharraf’s successor as Army chief, General Pervez Kyani, and not Musharraf needs to control the situation are aware of the circumstances vis-à-vis that army because they are blissfully unaware of the recent history of the Pakstani military.
According to deBorchgrave, the U.S encouraged the formation of the extremist Islamic madrassas on the border as a block to the penetration of communist ideology at the time of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Said deBorchgrave, "We worked very closely with the Pakistanis and the Saudi's then in encouraging Islam as a means of undermining the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and as a means of preventing the penetration of communist ideology into Pakistan.”
Those madrasses, he said have “become a Frankenstein monster,” about 12,000 of which have spread all over the country, and nothing has been done about them despite U.S. aid to produce reforms. “They produced a lot of plans for reform but nothing has really happened because the extremists among the clerics are against it and it’s extremist clerics who control the madrassas.
“So you’re still having hundreds of thousands of kids turned out to hate America and to hate Israel. And then in the army, going back to (former dictator General ) Zia’s time, Zia encouraged Islam inside army ranks. He was the one who got Muslim chaplains appointed throughout the military establishment. So these young officers who were heavily influenced by Islam at the time of Zia are today colonels and generals.
“So the army clearly is divided between those who are Western oriented, have been to staff schools in the United States, and others who are hard-lining in terms of Islam. They are the ones who don't want to take on al-Qaida, don't want to fight Taliban - after all Taliban was originally invented by the ISI -- by the Interservices Intelligence agency -- right after the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan, which was February 15th 1989.
“ISI, for instance, at one point was run by General Hamid Gul who hates America with a passion. Hamid Gul is an Islamist extremist and he’s also the strategic advisor to the six political religious parties in the MMA coalition [Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a coalition of six religious parties]. And the MMA coalition actually governs two of Pakistan's four provinces.”
The charges that President Musharraf, himself the near-victim of nine assassination attempts, failed to protect Bhutto adequately and ignored the danger that she might be killed, overlook the fact that after a failed attempt on her life in October that killed 120 people, he twice confined her to house arrest, explaining that it was his intention to shield her from assassination.
In the face of mass protests from the anti-Bush left in the U.S., he released her; she went on the campaign trail surrounded by huge crowds, and now she’s dead at the hands of assassins.
Pervez Musharraf is not perfect, in American eyes he is a dictator, yet he is all that stands between a Pakistan allied to the U.S. and a nuclear-armed Pakistan in the hands of al-Qaida and the Taliban.
Asked by NewsMax what kind of future he saw for Musharraf, deBorchgrave said, “It’s pretty cloudy. I would imagine that a man who has survived nine assassination attempts will have to face his tenth. The last assassination attempt was when he was taking off from the airport when an anti-aircraft gun fired a round from a rooftop at his plane. They missed.
“Musharraf is still the principal barrier to the process of Talibanization of his own country. He is, in my judgment the only one who can make democracy happen again. Allowing Benazir Bhutto back from exile was a sensible first step, but that’s gone now, so again I think the future is unpredictable.”
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