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Letters from Tokyo
USA Is Worried about Events in Pakistan
By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent
Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton,
US secretary of state

The United States is clearly at odds with the government of Pakistan because it appears that the government of Pakistan is playing a very dangerous game. This applies to the government of Pakistan allowing the Taliban a free reign in the Swat valley and surrounding region. Therefore, senior political leaders in America want greater action in Pakistan and this applies to dismantling the Taliban and other radical Sunni Islamic forces. Yet will central forces in Pakistan respond?

In recent days Hillary Rodham Clinton, US secretary of state, sharply rebuked the government of Pakistan. Her words were very harsh and hard-hitting because Clinton stated "I think that the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists."

Clinton also added that the Taliban and growing instability "poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world."  

She further upped the ante by stating that "If you talk to people in Pakistan, especially in the ungoverned territories, which are increasing in number, they don't believe the state has a judiciary system that works ... It's corrupt, it doesn't extend its power into the countryside. So the government of Pakistan, however it is constituted, which is of course their business, not ours, must begin to deliver government services."

However, while America may be alarmed by current events it is clear that radical Sunni Islamic forces have been emboldened. For example, Sufi Mohammed, a Muslim cleric, stated that "The Koran says that supporting an infidel system is a great sin ... and un-Islamic laws and customs will be abolished." Sufi Mohammed was mainly relating this to the Swat region but in time he believes that this will apply to other regions.

Muslim Khan, a Taliban spokesman, is clearly gearing up for further gains because he commented that "When we achieve our goals in one place, we need to struggle for it in other areas." More alarmingly, Muslim Khan stated that "Sharia does not permit us to lay down our arms if the government continues anti-Muslim policies." Therefore, in the eyes of radical Sunni Islamists they want to "enforce the rule of Allah on the land of Allah," and this is just what Muslim Khan stated.

Once more, the US special envoy, Richard C. Holbrooke, is clearly unhappy with the central government. Holbrooke warned against giving in to the Taliban but the leaders of Pakistan either ignored him or they believe that their options are limited.

Therefore, Holbrooke stated that recent events must be a "a wake up call to everybody in Pakistan that you can not deal with these people by giving away territory as they creep closer and closer to the populated centers of the Punjab and Islamabad." Yet it would appear that the central government of Pakistan is not listening or that they are playing a dangerous game in order to get further economic support?

After all, if you listen to the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, he states that "If we lose, you lose" and "If we lose, the world loses." So clearly Zardari is playing the "Islamist" and "nuclear card" by blackmailing the international community in order to obtain more international finance.

Given the geopolitical importance of Pakistan and the nuclear factor, not to mention the global terrorist network and narcotics angle, then clearly the stakes are very high. Yet surely it is up to the government of Pakistan to clear up their own mess?

However, because events have spiraled so quickly and because of the seriousness of the crisis, then the international community is being pushed into a corner. If the international community sits back and does nothing, then we have "a real nuclear nightmare" and yet another breeding ground of radical Sunni Islam.

In recent times both America and Japan have each pledged $1 billion US dollars each over the next two years and Saudi Arabia also offered economic support. Similar economic support is also coming from the European Union and a host of other nations. Yet, given the past, then will this money be yet another "economic black whole?"

Whatever the future holds, it is clear that the stakes are very high but it is also obvious that "the muddy water" is "even cloudier" given the past links between the government of Pakistan and Sunni Islamic terrorism. For now it is a case of wait and see but in truth, the Taliban could only topple the government of Pakistan if the army changed sides.

Therefore, it is now "a battle of hearts and minds" and it is worth remembering that Pakistan is a mosaic of different ethnic groups and Islam is "not a single thought pattern." Given this, moderate and traditional views must challenge the Talibanization of parts of Pakistan.

Also, like Clinton states, it is essential that the central government adopts robust policies which work. This applies to helping the people of Pakistan with regards to real "bread and butter" issues. So will the government of Pakistan rise up and challenge both the internal threat and at the same time, modernize the nation via real economic and educational policies which benefit the people of Pakistan?



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Lee Jay Walker serves as Tokyo Correspondent of The Seoul Times. He specializes in int'l relations and geopolitics. He is also involved in analyst work and research on business. After finishing BA degree in East European Studies at the University of London, He earned MA degree in Asia Pacific Studies in Nottingham Trent University. He also studied business at London Institute.

 

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