Don't Rush to Judge Pakistan

Wednesday, 11 May 2011 02:47 PM

By Tawfik Hamid

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The U.S.-Pakistan relationship has turned cold after the killing of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. Many could not believe that bin Laden stayed for years inside Pakistan without the knowledge of the leaders of the country or its intelligence.

An investigation has been ordered into how bin Laden managed to hide under the nose of Pakistan's military in Abbottabad for this long period of time. In addition, the Obama administration is facing a clash with Congress where pressure is building to slash the huge aid budget to Pakistan as punishment for harboring bin Laden.

Generally speaking, there are two main possibilities regarding the knowledge of the Pakistanis of the whereabouts of bin Laden.

The first possibility is that perhaps only low-ranked intelligence officers knew about his location. Maybe they were supporters of bin Laden and kept such information private.

The second possibility is that some high-ranked officers in the government or intelligence knew about bin Laden's location. In this case, this knowledge is likely to be limited only to these individuals as it is very unlikely that the government as a whole will risk its relation with the U.S. and lose the billions of dollars given to them for the sake of bin Laden.

It is also fair to say that the government of Pakistan that chose secular government officials such as Salman Taseer, the prominent governor of Punjab Province, who was recently killed by religious extremists for standing against the blasphemy law in Pakistan, is unlikely to hide a terrorist like bin Laden. However, it is more likely that the government has been infiltrated by al-Qaida sympathizers who may have aided bin Laden.

Until more informnation surfaces, it is unfair to accuse the government of Pakistan as a whole of assisting the hiding bin Laden. However, it is fair to say that the government of Pakistan must take steps to stop infiltration of its system by radicals and to get the radicals out of the government.

Accusing all the Pakistani government of assisting Bin Laden and stopping the U.S. support for the country can push Pakistan toward more radicalism. This case scenario is frightening knowing that Pakistan is a nuclear power and pushing it to become more radical could help terrorist groups get a nuclear bomb. Furthermore, if Pakistan becomes an ally of Iran, counterterrorism efforts will be that much more complicated and could actually help Iran become another nuclear power.

Working with the seculars in the Pakistan government to decrease infiltration of the radicals is more pragmatic approach to deal with this complex situation.



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