Mar 15, 2005

Rice Visit to Pakistan

Rice Visit to Pakistan Islamabad, Pakistan
Condoleezza Rice arrives here Wednesday for what are likely to be some of the more important meetings she will conduct as secretary of state. Pakistan is the United States? key ally in the war on terrorism as al Qaeda has largely rebased itself in the country since the fall of the Taliban. In the past three years many of al Qaeda?s leaders have been run to ground here, while it is probable that Osama bin Laden himself is hiding out in Pakistan. Since 9/11 al Qaeda and its affiliates have also been active in the country, murdering American journalist Daniel Pearl; blowing up a group of French defense contractors, and attacking the US consulate in Karachi on three occasions. Secretary Rice will be no doubt be told by the Pakistanis that they are doing everything they can to fight the war on terrorism; hundreds of their soldiers and policemen have died fighting that war, while President Pervez Musharraf is personally determined to defeat al Qaeda having survived at least two serious assassination attempts since 9/11. All this is true and Pakistanis have some right to resent constant American demands to ?do more? on terrorism when they have paid much in blood already.

However, while recognizing those sacrifices, Rice should make three matters clear to Musharraf. First, Pakistan must come down hard on its Kashmiri militant groups, a number of which have morphed with al Qaeda in recent years. Too often crackdowns on the Kashmiri groups have ebbed and flowed in intensity, which is hardly surprising as those groups enjoyed the support of the Pakistani government for years. Musharraf should now declare that terrorism in the name of Kashmir is both counterproductive and against Islam. Musharraf has already instigated a thaw in relations with India that has important implications for the settlement of the Kashmir dispute and has also articulated a laudable policy of ?enlightened moderation,? which is opposed to extremism. Now is the time to apply that policy to Pakistan?s Kashmiri militant groups.

Secretary Rice should also tell Musharraf that AQ Khan, the notorious Pakistani nuclear proliferator, can no longer shelter behind his status as a "national hero" as a result of his role in creating Pakistan?s nuclear bomb, and must come completely clean about his rogue operation. Khan gave away nuclear secrets and technology to countries such as North Korea and Libya and he did it for the most unattractive of reasons; greed. One of Musharraf?s signature accomplishments has been his crackdown on widespread official corruption, yet Khan built a fortune of millions of dollars on precisely this kind of corruption, and so he can no longer be plausibly considered a Pakistani hero. Stripped of his present immunity, Khan must be forced to tell the international community his full story. It would, for instance, be useful to know if Khan had any dealings with anyone associated with the al Qaeda network. After all, before the 9/11 attacks bin Laden met with recently retired Pakistani nuclear scientists on two occasions in Afghanistan. A full accounting of Khan's dealings with Iran would also be of acute interest to the global community.

Finally, Secretary Rice should tell General Musharraf that he must hang up his uniform in 2007 when national elections are to be held. When Musharraf seized power in a military coup in 1999 it was to universal plaudits. It was widely believed that Musharraf would clean up the Augean stable of Pakistani politics and, to some extent, he has delivered. Corruption is down; the economy is buzzing along at a 7% growth rate, and the country enjoys some of the liveliest media in the world. However, Musharraf has made some missteps that have cost him credibility, the most important of which was to sideline the two main parties in Pakistani politics, parties led by their exiled leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, thus creating space for a coalition of religious parties to do unprecedently well at the polls in elections held in 2002. Musharraf must allow Bhutto and Sharif-- both of whom are genuinely popular leaders whom he seems to despise-- back into the political process. That is democracy.

Musharraf styles himself as Pakistan's national savior. The time has come for him to be that person and implement lasting peace in Kashmir, a full accounting of AQ Khan?s activities, and a real return to democracy. In short, its time for Musharraf to channel the shade of Pakistan's revered founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a debonair Cambridge-educated lawyer who founded Pakistan to be a home for Muslims living in harmony with India and who would have regarded the shenanigans of Khan and the actions of Pakistan's domestic terrorists to be beneath contempt.

Peter Bergen is a fellow of the New America Foundation and an adjunct professor in the South Asia department of Johns Hopkins University.