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Musharraf, Tight Ropes and Consequence

There is a growing dark cloud over Pakistan - and the stakes are high. Very high. The Taliban and al-Qaeda have soundly defeated the Pakistani army in both South and North Waziristan...with their eye (and arms) trained on the North West Frontier Province. A significant portion of the professional elements of the Pakistani military are currently engaged in intense and bloody fighting in the Baluchistan Province. (Note: If ever there was a 'War for Oil,' look not towards Iraq but into Baluchistan.)

Much of the rest of Pakistan's professional military (as opposed to conscripts) is along the Indian border. So while the al-Qaeda-Taliban alliance seeks the North West Frontier Province (and with it the major city of Peshawar), it is surely not their end game.

It is important to appreciate and understand events in Pakistan because it is a nuclear power currently losing battles with and ceding territory to the al-Qaeda-Taliban alliance.

From India's Observer comes an interesting commentary that also serves as a fairly good two-minute primer (within the book-ended context of the Baluchistan War) on Pervez Musharraf's rise to power and, quite possibly, his fall. Concluding what serves as Musharraf One-Sheet, Balbir K. Punj's Pakistan’s trouble with Baluchistan concludes with realistic observation.

With two failed assassination attempts reminding General Musharraf that he is skating on thin ice, the expected revolt in Baluchistan could become the last straw that could fell his regime, which needs to get a new vote in 2007. He is accused of being too close to the American regime, which is the current demon in Pakistan, especially of the mullahs and maulavis who are behind the terror machines exercising daily in that country.

The General himself has been patronising the terror machine. However, following 9/11, the Americans twisted his arms and forced him to change sides, beginning with the ouster of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. So the political environment is full of cries of “betrayal” against the General Musharraf. The army’s own loyalty to him is of suspect. The last two assassination attempts at him revealed the hidden linkages between the army and the terror groups.

There is little doubt that Musharraf is doing a tight rope-walk. He is under tremendous pressure from the global community to come down hard on the terror network. His domestic compulsions force him to take an opposite line. How long Musharraf can manage this balancing act is anybody’s guess. The fate of both—Pakistan and its current President—hangs in balance.

As do Pakistan's nuclear weapons as al-Qaeda presses evermore toward Islamabad with patience and persistence.