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Commentary Last Updated: Dec 18th, 2008 - 01:50:20

The knives are out for Pakistan
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 18, 2008, 00:40

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Pakistan�s status as an ally of the West is under threat. The signs suggest the country has out-served its usefulness to the US and its interests. There have been rumblings against Pakistan for some time from various American officials criticising its anti-terrorism efforts. But lately, in the wake of the attacks on Mumbai, India, the US president and other heads of state have joined an orchestrated complaint chorus.

Last week, George W. Bush warned Pakistan that the US �will do what is necessary to protect American troops and the American people,� while reaffirming his policy of preemptive strikes. While the US supports Pakistan�s efforts in the troublesome semi-autonomous tribal areas, Washington would take action itself, if necessary, was his message. In fact, it already has by launching missile attacks on Pakistan�s Northwest Frontier Province killing many civilians in the process.

So, who cares about the swan song of a lame duck, shoe-ducking president with one of the lowest approval-ratings ever you might think? The problem is, when it comes to Pakistan, Bush�s successor, President-elect Barack Obama, appears to be of like mind. During his days on the stump, Obama said he would be prepared to use military force against elements of Al Qaida inside Pakistan with or without the Pakistani government�s consent.

At the same time, according to a published leak in the Pakistani press, the US has sent a memo to the government of Pakistan alleging that former ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul has been supporting terrorist groups, advising the Taliban and helping to recruit anti-US insurgents. Gul has responded by calling the accusations �fictitious,� saying, �I was quite a darling of theirs at one time. I don�t know what this is about. It looks like they have a habit of betraying their friends.�

In concert with the Bush administration�s mood, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has just completed a two-day visit to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, is also wagging his finger at Islamabad.

During this highly sensitive time when Indian-Pakistan relations are tense over the Mumbai tragedy, as well as accusations by Pakistan that Indian fighter planes had violated its airspace, Brown sees fit to inject himself into the fray.

Demanding action, not words, the British prime minister has promised Pakistani Premier Asif Ali Zardari anti-terrorism technology, as well as $9 million to combat youth radicalisation and further democracy. So far so good, but why did he then throw hot pepper into the pot by announcing that three-quarters of the most serious terrorism plots investigated by the British authorities have Pakistani links? Why did he select this already highly charged environment to come up with that incriminating statistic?

The fact is Washington and its friends are veering away from Pakistan, which was warned to cooperate post-September 11 else be bombed back to the Stone Age, towards their new best friend and emerging economic power, India. It seems to me they are looking for an excuse to dump Islamabad or worse. If the past is any indicator of the future, just cast your mind back to the orchestrated blame game prior to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq played by the Bush administration, along with Britain�s Tony Blair�s government.

Special relationship

Similarly, the two countries with a so-called special relationship have in the past coordinated anti-Syrian and anti-Iranian statements. However, whatever secret plans they might have had for those regimes were thwarted for a variety of reasons. The question is when it comes to Pakistan, what do they have up their sleeves?

Whatever it is, it�s dangerous for the region and the world. Pakistan is not only a nuclear power, but throughout the country anti-Western sentiment is rife. If the US uses hard power it will open a can of worms, add grist to the extremists� mill and greatly undermine the Zardari government.

Indian-Americans have been protesting outside the New York headquarters of the UN, demanding Pakistan be declared �a terrorist state.� This would serve no purpose except to increase hatred.

I have the utmost sympathy for the pain and anger felt by the Indian people during this time, as well as their need to lash out at the perpetrators of the Mumbai atrocities. For me, it was personal, too, as I consider Mumbai as a second home and over the years have spent many months as a guest of both the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels. I know that some consider the attacks as India�s 9-11 but if that�s the case, every effort should be made not to respond in the way the US did following theirs.

Cool heads and wise minds are needed on both sides. Just about everyone agrees that Mumbai was the victim of non-state actors and it is known that Pakistan�s pro-Western prime minister is keen on resolving the Kashmir dispute, while the life of his own wife was robbed by terrorists.

Pakistan needs help, not threats or blame. And instead of allowing foreign powers to up the ante to suit their divide and control strategies, the two nuclear neighbours should come together in common cause. With talk of war polluting the air, the alternative is too devastating to contemplate.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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