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Pakistan: Addressing A Failed Nuclear State

At the Center for Security Policy, Salim Mansur raises the uncomfortably obvious.

If Iran's race for acquiring nuclear weapon capability puts the West in a quandary, then consider how much greater dilemma will be when the clerical regime in Tehran has its fingers on nuclear weapons.

Such a scenario is real when it comes to Iran's neighbour, Pakistan, and neither the present occupant of the White House nor future aspirants have a clue how to deal with a nuclear weapon state named again in the top tier of the recent Foreign Policy journal's "failed states index" for 2007.

The scenario is very real, and one which few care to delve into for long. It's not a pleasant exercise.
  • Pakistan has nuclear weapons.
  • It is also the current home to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the epicenter of the global jihadiyun movement.
  • The Taliban has recently taken to seeking its enemies by reportedly deploying suicide bomber teams on distant shores.
  • Al-Qaeda is considered to have surpassed its pre-9/11 capabilities since migrating to its sanctuaries in Pakistan in 2001-2002.
  • The Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance fields an armed fighter force of over 200,000 men on Pakistani soil.
  • The alliance has been steadily gaining territory ceded to them by Pervez Musharraf, as he has been incapable of defeating or even stemming the rising tide of Islamists inching ever closer to Islamabad.
  • As Mansur states bluntly, Musharraf "has run the country for over seven years and his welcome has run out" among the general population, not just the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance.
  • And, again, Pakistan has nuclear weapons.

It truly is a conundrum.

If we stream across the border in an attempt to smash the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance, this surely hastens the end of Musharraf's days as the only reliable buffer between al-Qaeda and Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. (Any buffer beyond Musharraf is couched quite necessarily in "known unknowns," a scary proposition for nuclear weapons security.)

If we stop short as we are presently, al-Qaeda and the Taliban only grow stronger inside Pakistan and continue to ever patiently inch closer to Islamabad.

And any number of US actions in the world - a withdrawal from Iraq or an offensive attack elsewhere - could be interpreted by the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance as a green light for the final push on Musharraf, Islamabad and Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

Notice soberly that there is no discussion on how to prevent the fall of Musharraf or how to stop al-Qaeda (and aligned movements) from taking Islamabad. There is, alternatively, speculation on whether (or not) another Pakistani military commander will secure Pakistan's nuclear arsenal after a coup/assassination. There is, alternatively, speculation on whether (or not) we know where each one of Pakistan's nuclear weapons are stored and whether (or not) we can seize/destroy them in place.

We are, in short, ceding the inevitability of Pakistan's collapse. There is quite little we can actually do to stop it short of a miraculous groundswell of popular Pakistani support for Musharraf that seems as likely now as an honorary O.J. Simpson Day in Brentwood, California...a subject most Americans are far more knowledgeable on.

Yet there will no doubt be disbelief and surprise on the faces of Americans across the country the day Pakistan collapses into the waiting arms of the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance, likely with Hamid Gul taking his 'seat of destiny' in Islamabad. In 2004, Gul "forecast a future [Pakistani] Islamist nuclear power that would form a greater Islamic state with a fundamentalist Saudi Arabia after the monarchy falls." He, of course, has also long desired a Pakistan-Iran military alliance.

Regrettably, the loudspeakers in a slumbering America are calling out, "Attention K-Mart shoppers: Welcome to the Real World."

Too few are listening.


Your article has serious errors in it and stems from a basic lack of knowledge about Pakistan or the South Asian Subcontinent. It is a wet dream of some powers to think of all states in the region as states that will collapse and find themselves into the fold of the hegemonistic power. It has not happened in the past 60 years and never will. Pakistanis are smart people and have made the country impregnable. This Paki-bashing is not new, it has been going on for more than six decades. In 1947 it was said that Pakistan would not last more than 3 month. 60 Years later Pakistan continues to grow and prosper.

If any state is a failed state, it is India. The country is beset with more problems than any country can ever have. 50 million WHite widows, a naxslite insurrection, independence movements in Kashmir, Nagaland,Mizoram, Tamiland, Aassaam to name a few. The Dalits or the untouachables are nation by themselves.

Perhaps you missed it, but I do believe that the thrust of what is written here makes it clear that the collapse of Pakistan would place it distinctly outside "the fold of the hegemonistic power." But that's OK.

However, I'm not quite sure how this can be construed as "Paki-bashing." Unless, of course, one identifies the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance as distinctly representative of Pakistanis. Perhaps that is possible, John? The movement is preparing to swallow the whole of Pakistan.

And of course the Pakistanis are smart. Their scientists, among other things, mastered the full nuclear cycle and weaponization from scratch.

But then, the Japanese are smart, too. And before there was Sony, there was World War II and human experimentation and torture in China. And the Russians are smart too. But before there was chess champion Gary Kasparov and during the priceless productions of the Bolshoi Ballet, there were gulags.

But, unless you indeed identify the Taliban-al-Qaeda terrorist movement as distinctly and proudly Pakistani, I'd say that your smart Pakistanis and their "impregnable" country have been, well, breeched.

So which is it, 'John'? Do you identify with the Taliban and al-Qaeda and thus their Pakistani heritage, or has "impregnable" Pakistan been breeched by terrorists?

Can't have it both ways, now.