Jul 17, 2008

Pakistan in Peril

By Chuck Missler

President Pervez Musharraf's days as the leader of Pakistan may be numbered. It seems to be only a matter of time before he is removed from power. His political opponents, who took control of the legislature in February's elections, are working hard to force him from office. Meanwhile, the lack of strong leadership in Pakistan has created a power vacuum, making the situation there even more dangerous.

This past week marked the one year anniversary of the siege on the Red Mosque. During the siege Pakistan's army stormed the famous mosque located in the capital city of Islamabad. The Red Mosque is a safe haven for Islamic radicals and a breeding ground for terrorists. The bloody siege lasted almost ten days and resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people - including the Red Mosque's radical cleric leader. The incident at the Red Mosque triggered a new wave of violence - the fragile 10-month-old peace agreement between the government and extremists was shattered. Since the siege, at least a thousand people have been killed in terrorist attacks, more than half of which were the victims of suicide attacks and other bombings.

On the anniversary of the siege thousands of Islamic fundamentalists took to the streets in protest of President Musharraf's rule. According to press reports, the protesters called for him to be publicly executed. Shortly after the protest ended a suicide bomber targeted a group of police officers near the Red Mosque, 18 policemen were killed and at least 40 people were injured.

What Did He Know?

In addition to all of this, Musharraf must now answer accusations that he knew about black market sales of Pakistan's nuclear technology. On the 4th of July, the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, scientist and black-marketeer A.Q. Khan, dropped a bomb on Musharraf and his Western allies. Until now, Khan has always said that he is solely responsible for selling nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. However Khan now claims that Musharraf and Pakistan's politically powerful army had "complete knowledge" of the shipment of centrifuges to North Korea. Khan has confirmed what many in the intelligence community have long suspected: that Khan could not have sold Pakistan's nuclear secrets and technology without the army's consent and involvement.

Not surprisingly, President Musharraf denies these claims. Until recently Musharraf was a General and the chief of the army. He insists that he knew nothing about Khan's proliferation activities and says that "the matter is closed." Khan's public revelation about the army's involvement in black market proliferation activities is, without a doubt, inconvenient and embarrassing for Pakistan's western allies (particularly the United States). In the past, the US government has publicly defended Musharraf, who is officially "frontline ally" in the war on terror.

The outcome of Pakistan's internal conflict could have global repercussions. Pakistan is the only Islamic nation with a declared nuclear weapons program. Pakistan began its secret nuclear weapons program in 1972, and now has between 65 and 90 nukes.

Related Links:

Weapons Proliferation - Strategic Trends
The Rise of Islam - Strategic Trends
Strategic Perspectives III - DVD Set - New!
Strategic Perspectives III - Audio CD Set - New!
Pakistan Denies Khan Nuclear Claim - Aljazeera
Suicide blast at Red Mosque - The Austrailian
Pakistan-Afghan Border A Problem - Bloomberg