The Pakistan Quagmire

A tangled web of regional challenges

By Moammar Gadhafi

May 29, 2009 "
Washington Times" -- The West, particularly America, and Israel never wished for Pakistan to possess a nuclear bomb. But on May 28, 1998, they woke up to the fact that Pakistan had become a nuclear state and blamed their intelligence services for failure to anticipate the nuclear tests. Countless books, articles and speeches called Pakistan's nuclear bomb the "Islamic bomb," as loaded a term as any, as many considered it a doomsday weapon directed against their interests.

Every effort was made to dissuade Pakistan from owning the bomb. American Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger frankly told then Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, "If you make the bomb, we'll make an example out of you."

Mr. Bhutto, the founder of Pakistan's nuclear program, was, of course, hanged. Gen. Zia al-Haq, who Islamized Pakistan and consolidated its nuclear program, was murdered. More recently, Benazir Bhutto, Mr. Bhutto's daughter, was assassinated. Others still may face a similar fate.

The question, however, is: Why do neither the Americans nor the Israelis want Pakistan to possess the bomb?

Pakistan is a Muslim country. In fact, Islam is the very foundation for the existence of Pakistan. Except for religion, there really are no other factors that unite Pakistanis. This explains why the Pakistanis are fanatic about religion. It is the essence of their nationhood. Islam is for the Pakistanis as Judaism is for the Israelis, a matter of existence. This is not the same for other countries. China, for example, would be China with or without religion. Similarly, Iran would be the same even without religion. The same applies to Turkey. Pakistan is unique. There can be no Pakistan without Islam, as Islam was the basis for its separation from India and its raison d'etre as a state. Truly, the Pakistani nuclear bomb is a Muslim bomb. Islam for the Pakistanis is not a question of faith only but also a question of identity.

Pakistan is witnessing dramatic changes because of its complex demographic structure. Socially, it is composed of various ethnicities and fierce tribes - bordering Afghanistan - that have no loyalty to either Pakistan or Afghanistan. This is a heterogeneous structure comprising people who speak different tongues, which disunites them rather than bringing them together.

Pakistan faces challenges even within its region. It is threatened by the Shi'ite Muslim state of Iran and the Hindu and Buddhist India. Islam in Pakistan does not exist in a safe region. It is surrounded by a hostile environment that provokes its very Muslim essence, facing Buddhism and Hinduism as well as fanatic doctrines and intolerance.

This is the reason behind the formation of violent Muslim groups affiliated with the fierce tribes in Afghanistan as well as al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. These groups, such as the Jama Islamiya, the Association of Muslim Scholars, the Ulamaa of Pakistan, the Ahl-e-Hadith, the Islamic Movement and others, in fact, provided protection for bin Laden and his movement. They are numerous, vocally declaring their fanatic concept of Islam.

The danger such fanatic groups constitute for the Israelis and Americans is that they may hold the reins of power, to which they indeed aspire. If these groups governed the state, which is a possibility, that would be a very dangerous outcome for the Americans and Israelis. On the other hand, if political parties, such as the Pakistan People's Party, or even the army, ruled, things would be relatively safe because they presumably constitute responsible institutions. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that they can form sustainable governments.

If any of these extremist groups were to hold power, the key to the nuclear bomb would be in their hands. This has created the Pakistani quagmire for the Americans and Israelis. To address this potentially dangerous situation, they have attempted to further drive a wedge of hostility between Pakistan and neighboring India.

The Pakistanis are told that their enemy is the Hindus, not the Jews or Christians, and therefore their bomb should be directed toward them, the Pakistanis' immediate enemy, and not anyone else. Similarly, the Indians are led to believe their real enemy is Pakistan and that the Pakistani bomb was directed toward them rather than the Israelis or Americans.

This policy aims to preoccupy Pakistan with India and India with Pakistan. Perhaps this is why America has not been willing to contribute to solving the Kashmiri problem, whereas the Israelis will try to keep it always flammable.

Tension and anxiety will continue, as will the danger posed by a nuclear Pakistan. Attempts by the Israelis and Americans to extricate themselves from this quagmire, by all means, also will never cease. Either way presents a dangerous endgame to the region and the world.

Moammar Gadhafi is the leader of Libya.

 

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