Pakistan's Strategic Goals and the Deteriorating Situation in Afghanistan

Posted in Broader Middle East | 23-Mar-07 | Author: Dr. Harsh V. Pant

Pakistan is reeling under a host of problems and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf seems unable to tackle them. With this, the frustration in the West is rising along with skepticism about Pakistan's role in Afghanistan. The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has been openly blaming Pakistan for the deteriorating security environment in his country. A few months ago, the BBC acquired a paper written by a senior official at the Defense Academy run by the U.K. Ministry of Defense. The paper alleges that Pakistan's intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (I.S.I.), has been indirectly supporting the Taliban. The paper continues to argue that Pakistan's promotion of terrorism cannot be tackled unless the I.S.I. is dismantled and Pakistan moves away from the rule of the military.

While the Bush administration continues to support Pakistan's government publicly, during a recent trip to Islamabad U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney invoked the U.S. Congress' growing frustration with Pakistan by underlining the Democratic Party's threat to make aid conditional on a crackdown of Islamic militants in Pakistan's tribal areas, which are located on the border with Afghanistan.

As if this were not enough, Musharraf's decision to sack the chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, has ignited widespread public protests around the country and his government's heavy-handed handling of the protests has made his position all the more tenuous. The protests are now acquiring pro-democracy overtones and have ripped off the thin veneer of democracy that Musharraf had given his regime.

Given Musharraf's self projection as a force that stands between the West and a group of nuclear-armed mullahs, he must be keenly aware that this uproar on the streets of Pakistan is not good for his own future as well as for regional stability.

Pakistan's Role as a Western Ally

Musharraf has touted his role as a close ally of the West ever since the Bush administration presented a clear choice to the Pakistani government of either supporting the United States in its invasion of Afghanistan and the larger global war on terrorism, or being accepted as a supporter of radical Islamic extremism.

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