Pakistan and Democracy

Filed in Case Studies by on 23rd Mar 2009

A new generation of Islamic militants is on the rise in Pakistan. These are not the Taliban militants forged by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan who controlled the country in the 1990’s. They are not even the Taliban that U.S and international allies drove across Afghanistan’s southern border into Pakistan a month after Islamic militants attacked the World Trade Centre in New York, and the Pentagon in September 2001. This younger generation of Taliban and al-Qaeda Islamic extremists is increasingly impatient with older members whom they do not feel are militant enough. Sadar (2007) says this new generation is responsible for almost daily attacks against the Pakistani army in their quest to cleanse and turn Pakistan into a pure Islamic state. “Their jihad is aimed not just at infidels occupying Afghanistan but also the infidels who are ruling and running Pakistan and maintaining the secular values of Pakistani society” (Sadar, 2007, p. 29).  Given the instability that has marked Pakistan these past few months, this neither bodes well for the country nor for the international community.

This paper maintains that as these extremists strengthen their grip on Pakistan, they will seize control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and attack India, devastating the region, and possibly precipitating the use of nuclear weapons elsewhere unless the international community acts to prevent it. Such nuclear experts as the head of the United Nations body that oversees the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Mohamed El Baradei, Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency “warn that the country’s nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands” (Zakaria, 2008, p. 54). It takes time to gather and analyse proper intelligence, debate strategy and specific procedures to follow, and set international diplomatic initiatives in motion to coordinate a multi-national military action to prevent a nuclear attack by the end of 2009, so it is important to begun as soon as possible. Given the results of the parliamentary election on the 18th of February 2008, this is an auspicious moment to take the first steps of such an international undertaking.

PakistanViolence in Pakistan has increased to “its worst level since the riots that followed its founding in 1947” (Zakaria, 2008, p. 54). Zakaria (2008) says that in the past year, more than one thousand people have been killed in 46 bombings in the country, including the assassination of the head of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, Benazir Bhutto, this past December. This does not include the several suicide attacks, each with high loss of life, that have taken place since then against the PPP. Even on the eve of the election in Pakistan, 46 people were killed in a suicide attack against a PPP candidate in northwest Pakistan. (Wade, 2008, p. 1).  “The ones blowing up Pakistanis are a new generation of young jihadists, motivated, networked and competent” (Zakaria, 2008, p. 55).  The new Taliban is also gaining greater control in the adjacent North West Frontier Province. “The insurgency is gathering strength while the Pakistani state is weakening” (Coll, 2008, p 1). Given the stakes of nuclear destruction, massive death, long-term effects of radiation on health, and environmental consequences, and considering what motivates Islamic extremism, it is only a matter of time before members of this new group of extremists try to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and launch a devastating nuclear attack in the name of Islam.

Understanding Islamic Extremism

Hachim (2001) says “the best way ultimately to defeat one’s enemies is to understand them” (Hachim. 2001, p. 13). One approach is to look at the basic problems of contemporary Muslim societies to determine what leads people to fundamentalist beliefs. LeVine (2007) lists four points which give rise to Islamic fundamentalism. The first two deal with the marginalisation of the Muslim world from economic globalisation, and the power of cultural globalisation. Simply put, globalisation has led to the exposure of western cultural values in the Muslim world but without accompanying economic wealth. The other two points are “the continued power of well-entrenched authoritarian regimes across much of the Middle East, which continue to deny basic political, civil, and social rights to their citizens or populations under their control; and the occupation of Muslim countries such as Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan by the U.S. and Israel (LeVine, 2007, p. 23). Levine (2007) points out that India’s “occupation of Kashmir” also fits this analysis.

Hachim (2001) takes a different approach. He explains that Islamic Fundamentalism is not new but tends to arise when Arab or other Muslim societies come under great stress. This was the case with the Arab defeat by Israel in 1967, known in Arabic as al nakba, the catastrophe. The defeat triggered intellectual reflection with some believing that a more advanced power had defeated the Arabs, and that it was time to modernise. Others favoured the best of all worlds with a blend of Arab, Islamic and Western cultures. Islamic fundamentalists, however, blamed the defeat on the Arab world for not having kept their own Islamic faith. Accordingly, Osama bin Laden spoke to his followers of the virtue and necessity of taking direct action against leaders who do not uphold strong Islamic values. In speaking of an individual’s religious duty to act, Osama bin Laden “avoids head-on confrontation with the state and seeks to re-Islamise individuals in their daily lives” (Hachim, 2001, p. 17). The end result is revolution based on the idea that one individual at a time will eventually bring about a more righteous Islamic state.

In the mid 1980’s, bin Laden helped supply freedom fighters who were battling the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. For a short period, this put him on the same side as the United States since they both had a common enemy. In 1984, bin Laden set up a guesthouse in Pakistan for Muslim volunteers who wanted to fight in Afghanistan. This guesthouse in Peshawar was linked with the Jihad service bureau, “a propaganda and charity organisation whose publication ultimately attracted thousands of Arabs and other Muslims to fight in the war” (Hachim, 2001, p. 21). Bin Laden went on to form al-Qaeda in 1988 to keep track of the thousands of Islamic volunteers from such countries as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Arab states in the Persian Gulf, and Iraq who travelled to fight in Afghanistan. The organisation also helped with political support, funding and logistics for the fighters. Another goal of al-Qaeda’s leadership was “to unite all Muslims and to establish a government which follows the rule of the Caliphs. For Osama bin Laden the only way to establish the Caliphate is by force” (LeVine, 2007, p. 17).  We see bin Laden’s mindset more clearly ten years after forming al-Qaeda when he mentions in a letter that “it would be permissible for him to acquire nuclear weapons of mass destruction”, (Hachim. 2001, p. 26), an act which he sees as a religious duty for the defence of Muslims.

General Pervez Musharraf and 9/11

Pervez MusharrafThe level of shock and fear in the West was palpable when Islamic extremists attacked the World trade Centre in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington on the 11th of September 2001. Terrorist attacks in Bali, Madrid, Paris and London in the years since are witness to the continued extremist thinking of Islamic fundamentalists. Within a month after 9/11, U.S. and allied forces attacked Taliban and al-Qaeda strongholds in Afghanistan, driving the Taliban across Afghanistan’s southern border into Pakistan. The United States also quickly moved to establish a closer working relationship with the head of Pakistan’s army, General Pervez Musharraf, enlisting his aid against terrorism. Under pressure from Washington, and promises of military aid, General Musharraf agreed to prevent al-Qaeda and Taliban forces from launching cross-border raids against NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Today, however, “the Taliban are still entrenched in the Afghan-Pakistani border region, al-Qaeda’s top leaders have found a secure hideout in Pakistan, and terrorist attacks within and beyond Pakistan’s borders persist with deadly regularity” (Markey, 2007, p. 85). This has raised serious questions about whether the United States is doing the right thing by supporting Pakistan’s military as a partner against Islamic terrorism. Politics in Pakistan has been marked by increased instability over the past several months. This has ranged from several jihadist attacks, the resignation of General Musharraf as head of the military, his Decree of Emergency, the imprisonment of much of the country’s judiciary, the replacement of key members of the judiciary by others more amenable to Mr. Musharraf, and finally the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, shortly before scheduled elections. Critics, including members of the U.S. Congress have expressed doubts about Washington’s partnership with Islamabad. “They allege that recent deals between the Pakistani government and tribal elders in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the border with Afghanistan look suspiciously like capitulation to the Taliban, orchestrated by Pakistani intelligence agencies with ties to known extremists” (Markey, 2007, p. 85).  Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter-Service Intelligence, or ISI, is known to have strong ties with Islamic fundamentalists, while playing a major role in the country’s politics. The ISI is like a shadow state, acting as a watchdog for the military. “The Pakistani military has always been comfortable with the ISI military-style command, and latterly its adherence to rigid Islamic doctrine. This has been crucial in protecting “turf” the military regards as no-go areas for civilian governments: a large military budget; the secret nuclear state and all that surrounds it; and support for anti-India agitation in Kashmir” (The ISI, 2007, p. 29).

To understand why Pakistan’s military actions against the Taliban and the religious parties supporting them are so limited, it is important to understand that General Musharraf used the militants and their supporters when he came to power in 1999 “to neutralize the mainstream political parties – Benazir Bhutto’s People’s Party and the Muslim League, led by Nawaz Sharuf” (Sadar, 2007, p. 29). According to Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, a security analyst in Islamabad, the Taliban represent a future asset for Pakistan’s military. General Muscharraf was not only instrumental in forming the alliance of religious parties that now rules North West Frontier Province, “he encouraged extremists preaching jihad to infiltrate India for acts of sabotage” (Sadar, 2007, p. 29). Thus, Pakistan’s military acts against Islamic extremists in a bid to maintain order and honour his pledge to the U.S., while simultaneously supporting them in areas near Kashmir as part of a long-range plan against India.

Pakistan and India – The Great Divide

Relations between Pakistan and India have been hostile since the two countries were first formed in 1947. Muslim Pakistan has never been at ease with India, a Hindu nation, having control over the Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir. Since Pakistan acquired nuclear weapons, it has been increasingly involved in the insurgency in Kashmir. This has affected Pakistani-Indian relations. We see this impact during the crisis which arose between India and Pakistan over India’s Punjab state, which lies on the border of Pakistan’s Punjab province, in January 1987 when India conducted its largest peacetime military exercise ever. In an interview in March of that year, a scientist with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme said that Islamabad had everything it needed to make nuclear weapons. “Fear of inadvertent nuclear war would make the Indian government more reluctant to respond militarily to Pakistan’s support for this insurgency” (Ganguly & Wagner, 2004, p. 485). In 1990, India and Pakistan became involved in another crisis, this time over the Indian-controlled portion of Jammu and Kashmir. “The Pakistani leadership of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, sensing an opportunity to exploit the existing discontent within Kashmir, quickly entered the fray. By the spring of 1990, Pakistan was organising, training and otherwise actively aiding the Kashmiri insurgents” (Ganguly & Wagner, 2004, p. 488). However, when India’s forces did not attack, Pakistan’s leadership inferred that it was because Islamabad possessed nuclear weapons.

After both India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in May 1998, there was considerable diplomatic pressure from the United States for them to resolve their differences diplomatically. After India and Pakistan agreed in February 1999 to new measures to avoid conflict and build confidence, India let down its guard along the line-of-control in Kashmir. Pakistan then launched an incursion in Kashmir’s Kargil region in May 1999, taking India by surprise. Although India sustained heavy casualties, and eventually forced Pakistan into asking Washington to intervene on its behalf, New Delhi stopped short of opening a second front. Washington effectively persuaded Pakistan to withdraw its forces unconditionally, drawing both nations back from the brink of nuclear conflict.

Before Pakistan’s assault on Kargil, India would traditionally retaliate with attacks that forced Pakistan to fight on two widely-separated fronts. India’s reticence to engage in its regular behaviour prompted Pakistan’s leaders to conclude that their “acquisition of nuclear weapons had neutralised India’s conventional superiority” (Ganguly & Wagner, 2004, p. 490). This assessment was shared by independent analysts, notably Rahul Bedhi, a correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly who wrote after the conflict that “Pakistani military planners realised that weapons of mass destruction presented them an opportunity to force a limited, conventional war in Kashmir whenever [they] wanted and began seriously preparing for the Kargil intrusion” (Ganguly & Wagner, 2004, p. 491).

Prior to 1989, Pakistan tried to compensate for India’s superior conventional forces by developing nuclear weapons. Islamabad also relied on radical Islamic groups to destabilise Kashmir. However, after 9/11, Pakistan’s inability to control its allies raised fears in Washington over instability in Pakistan and the possible use of nuclear weapons. In referring to the use of nuclear weapons, Tucker (2003) says that “during the conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir that became news in May of 1991, the Pakistani Air Force reportedly assembled and loaded nuclear weapons onto F-16 aircraft without so much as informing Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto” (Sagan, 2002, cited in Tucker, 2003, p. 61). This gives credence to one of India’s defensive nuclear options as set out by Ramana (2002) of the Programme on Science and Global Security at Princeton University. “The first postulates that when one of the many thresholds is crossed, Pakistan would use tactical nuclear weapons on some military target – as a warning signal. India’s response to this would likely involve the use of nuclear weapons, potentially leading to further escalation” (Ramana, 2002, p. 1). India’s second option is that Pakistan would use nuclear weapons against an Indian city, triggering a response in kind. Given Pakistan’s mindset regarding the first use of nuclear weapons, plus the military’s links with its intelligence agency, its relationship with Islamic fundamentalists, and high level of instability in the country, the prospect of Islamic fanatics seizing control of Pakistan’s nuclear arms can not be taken lightly.

The Implications of Intervention

After the events of 9/11, while Washington’s tolerance for Pakistan’s support of Islamic terrorists in Kashmir declined, Islamabad’s actions against India increased. Within weeks after 9/11, Pakistani militants attacked the legislature in the Kashmiri capital of Srinagar, prompting India to ask the United States to pressure Pakistan into ending its support for Islamic militants operating in Kashmir. In an interview with theNew York Times, India’s former minister for home affairs, L.K. Advani, said that while he could understand the US need to rely on Pakistan in the war on terror, “for [ common Indians] and the government of India also, Pakistan is a terrorist state” (Ganguly & Wagner, 2004, p. 495). However, the United States was not in a position to publicly agree with India. Islamabad continued to support militant action in Kashmir resulting in several terrorist attacks for the remainder of 2001 and into the spring of 2002, drawing India and Pakistan once again to the brink of nuclear war.

In January 2002, General Musharraf gave a speech on national television saying that although he condemned terrorist acts, including 9/11, he promised that Pakistan would continue to support Kashmiris. Ganguly & Wagner (2004) say that statistical evidence suggests a directed strategy by various insurgent groups to sabotage any efforts to restore normal ties in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir. In May 2002, after months of escalating war rhetoric from India and Pakistan, the United States once again intervened to prevent nuclear conflict by pressuring General Musharraf to calm Islamic militants in Kashmir, and persuading New Delhi to withdraw its forces from along the Pakistani border.

The U.S. diplomatic interventions with Pakistan and India raise an important issue for the Indian sub-continent. Washington’s concern over an inadvertent nuclear conflict in the area implies that it might take action to prevent such as outcome. India and Pakistan may have an incentive to create a conflict to force the U.S. to choose one side or the other. However, “if one believes that conventional conflict could lead to inadvertent nuclear war, then US concern about the possibility of inadvertent war in South Asia could in fact make it more likely” (Ganguly & Wagner, 2004, p. 500).

From the Pakistani perspective, nuclear weapons protect it from a major conventional attack by India, allowing Pakistan’s military to continue its support of Islamic militants in Kashmir. The Pakistani military is essentially walking a tightrope trying to keep Islamic militants sequestered in north-western Pakistan so as to live up to its obligations to the United States in fighting against the global war on terror. The Director of the University of Nebraska Programme Centre for Afghanistan, Thomas E. Gouttierre, says Pakistan’s interest in the Taliban stems from its rivalry with India. Since Pakistan had already lost three wars with India, “Pakistan hoped to use Afghanistan as a platform from which to move commercially – and perhaps, politically against India” (Halter, 2001, p. 89). At the same time, the July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate points out that al-Qaeda remains the most serious threat to U.S. National Security and continues to operate from north-western Pakistan. “We assess the group has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safe haven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership (NIE, 2007, p. 1). By giving in to U.S. pressure to defend the global war on terror, Musharraf was forced to take action against the Islamic fighters he encouraged as part of a long-range Afghanistan strategy against India to advance Pakistan’s interests in Kashmir. A Pakistani military analyst, Hassan Askar Rizvi explains that “Musharraf cannot pursue a counter-terrorism policy at home when many of the religious parties are in favour of al-Qaeda and his foreign policy goals are unachievable because the mullahs don’t want them” (Beinart, 2004, p. 7). While Musharraf’s loyalties are pulled in opposite directions, extremist attacks within Pakistan are on the rise in reaction to his acquiescence to the United States.  This complexity places Washington in a precarious position in efforts to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into extremist hands. Even though, U.S. intervention has twice prevented the outbreak of nuclear war in South Asia, growing instability in Pakistan suggests that the United States may have to take a different approach. Despite Indian and Pakistani rhetoric, direct diplomacy with Islamabad and New Delhi was feasible in 1999 and 2002. Dealing with terrorism and nuclear weapons now is far more sensitive. “The availability and ease with which terrorists can obtain nuclear and radiological weapons makes their employment more feasible today than ever before-hence, the United States and its allies/coalition partners need to begin thinking systematically about prevention on the one hand and how their foreign policies “may” contribute to their use on the other” (Seminar Six, Lecture Ten, p. 1). This aspect of whether intervention can prevent or trigger the use of nuclear arms bears closer investigation.

During the Cold War, two contradictory arguments were prevalent regarding the use of nuclear weapons. One was that neither Washington nor Moscow would launch them for fear of a counter-attack by the other’s second-strike capability. The other argument was that East and West were in danger of nuclear war, prompting strategic arms-reduction talks by the U.S. and Soviet Union in an effort to reduce the inadvertent use of nuclear weapons.

After 9/11, the United States reserved the right to strike first. “U.S. military forces and appropriate civilian agencies must have the capacity to defend against WMD-armed adversaries, including in appropriate cases through pre-emptive measures” (National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, 2002, p.3). However, in Southern Asia the situation is reversed with India saying it will not use nuclear arms unless Pakistan launches a nuclear attack against it first. Pakistan’s position is to use nuclear weapons if India launches a conventional attack against it. “General Khalid Kidwai, the Director of the Strategic Plans Division of the Pakistani Army, has been quoted as saying that Pakistan would use nuclear weapons against India if India conquered a large part of Pakistan’s territory, destroyed a large part of its military forces, strangled Pakistan economically, or caused large-scale internal subversion in Pakistan” (Garguly & Wagner, 2004, p. 483). If U.S. efforts to prevent nuclear war in South Asia inadvertently convey the impression to Pakistan that India is more worried about nuclear war than it actually is, that could increase the probability of conventional war, against which Pakistan says it maintains the nuclear option. However, it could also mean that India will limit itself to doing the minimum necessary to protect its half of Kashmir. “In south Asia, unlike Europe during the Cold War it is the state that has disavowed the first use of nuclear weapons (India) that has the credibility problem – in India’s case, what is at issue is the credibility of its threat to respond with conventional weapons to Pakistan’s support for insurgents in Kashmir” (Garguly & Wagner, 2004, p. 486). This renders Pakistan more credible in its vow to use nuclear arms first against India while backing the use of Islamic militants as “agents provocateurs” in Kashmir. This ensures a greater level of instability but one that Pakistan appears to deliberately maintain. Thus, we come full circle with Pakistan’s obligation to act against Islamic extremists as part of the global wear on terror, while supporting religious parties, such as the Jamat-e-Islami party in North West Frontier Province as a means of fulfilling a long-standing dream of annexing Kashmir from India.

How Events Could Unfold and Alternative Responses

Islamic extremists have launched suicide attacks throughout the country and are no longer limited to actions in Waziristan or North West Frontier Province, making an attempt to seize Pakistan’s nuclear facilities more likely. Therefore a more concerted action is needed against the terrorists themselves. “The war against terror involves the use of intelligence assets and military, legal and financial means all at the same time, in a broad-based synergistic campaign” (Hachim, 2001, p. 32).  Such a campaign would involve diplomatic discussions with Pakistan’s new civilian government, with an offer of aid to help with strengthening democratic institutions, restoring the judiciary and increasing trade. Close links must be maintained with both political parties currently engaged in talks to form a new coalition government so as to have greater leverage in diplomatic talks. An important part of this offer would be the presence of international armed forces to ensure an end to Taliban extremism in Waziristan and North West Frontier Province, and additional security personnel for Pakistan’s nuclear installations until the Taliban is fully routed. In view of the expressed desire of Pakistan’s new leader, Asif Ali Zadari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto and head of the Pakistan Peoples Party, “to take a new approach to fighting Islamic militants by pursuing more dialogue than military confrontation” (Gall & Perlez, 2008a, p. 1), it is important to also establish strong links with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the new chief of Pakistan’s army. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, who disagreed with the “Musharraf-centric” approach of the Bush administration, says that General Kayani “appears to be a promising partner for the United States” (Gall & Perez, 2008b, p. 1). It is important to balance diplomatic approaches with the coalition parties of the nascent government, and the military. Mr. Biden Jr. says General Kayani is “a rational man who understand the obligations and limitations of the military” (Perlez & Gall, 2008b, p. 1). In the likely event that Taliban extremists do not take to dialogue, this would ensure lines of communication with both the government and the military which could be used to pursue the concept of a multi-national force in Waziristan and North West Frontier Province.

An international diplomatic offensive is needed to renew links between Pakistan, the United States, England, and neighbouring powers such as Russia, Iran, China and India. This would inform them of the stakes for each should nuclear terrorism erupt in Pakistan, and suggest a multi-national campaign aimed at preventing such an occurrence. It is important to impress upon surrounding countries the need to end the disruptive influence of the Taliban. Russia and China have publicly agreed with the war on terror, and have acted against terrorists within their own jurisdictions. This suggests that they could supply military equipment, as well as financial and intelligence aid to Pakistani forces on the front lines against the Taliban. This would be especially relevant for China to prevent a northern exodus of Islamic extremism from crossing its border with Pakistan. It is also not in China’s interest to have a nuclear attack near its territory any more than it is for Pakistan or India. China, however, would not be part of the multi-national force. “Neighbouring nations should not be used in any type of enforcement operations because of the danger – whether perceived or real – that the neighbouring nation could make political or economic gains at the expense of the country in which the operation is being conducted” (Marshall, Kaiser & Kessmeier, 1997, p. 14).

Diplomatic efforts need to be strengthened to impress upon NATO the need to maintain a sustained offensive against Taliban forces infiltrating southern Afghanistan from Pakistan. With NATO on one side of the border and Pakistan, U.S. and other international allies in Waziristan and North West Frontier Province, the Taliban could be defeated as an extremist force. At the same time, given that English is an official language in Pakistan, international efforts from countries with a parliamentary tradition such as Britain, Canada and perhaps Australia would proceed to improve educational and democratic standards in Pakistan.

Given Pakistan’s resistance to foreign soldiers on its soil or even special teams to secure its nuclear facilities, an approach to the United Nations and its overview body for non-nuclear proliferation, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is warranted to ensure that Islamabad fully understands the seriousness with which the international community views the vulnerability and exposure of southern Asia if Islamic extremists seize control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. For Pakistan’s benefit, an international and sustained diplomatic offensive must stress that concerted military aid to Pakistan, and the availability of western, Russian and Chinese financial aid advances the cause of security against nuclear terrorism for all.

As the Pakistan military moves to control terrorist acts by Islamic extremists, it is encountering more terrorist acts. This suggests that one way to deal with Islamic extremists in northwest Pakistan, and in North West Frontier Province is to take away the conditions that drive them to extremism. In open societies, leaders depend on the support of the people through elections. To keep the peoples’ support, leaders must be responsive to the electorate, deliver on their promises of good education, improve living conditions, respect core human values and ensure future opportunity and economic growth. If duly-elected leaders fail to live up to these expectations, the people have the constitutional right to choose new leaders in the next election. However, in a society run by religious extremism, leaders use harsh measures to maintain control over the population, and to ward off dissent. Thus religious leaders present an extremist form of belief as a code for people to live by. These extremist leaders “kill and imprison dissidents, empower a secret police, and indoctrinate the masses” (Sharnaky & Dermer, 2007, p. 29). Islamic groups brought up under such a system do what their leaders fail to do, namely build schools, operate health clinics and provide food to the poor. In return, those who benefit from such aid pay a heavy price by being subjected to indoctrination against the west, and against those who are not Muslim, or who do not uphold the same Islamic values as their leaders. However, if accountable, elected governments provided the population with good schools, opportunities for jobs and prosperity, and the people were free to make their own choices, they would choose development, turning away from religious indoctrination.  “Most important, the capacity of mosques and madrasshas to indoctrinate the masses would be seriously diminished” (Sharansky & Dermer, 2007, p. 30).

The openness of repressed Muslim populations to democracy has been well documented. Thousands of Afghans stood in line despite widespread threats to vote in the presidential election, which chose Hamid Karzai as president of Afghanistan in October 2004. A parliamentary election was held in Afghanistan almost a year later in September 2005.  In Iraq, in January 2005, eight-and-a-half million Iraqis ignored threats of terrorism and violence as they lined-up and waited patiently for hours to vote for a new government after the years of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. “There is something real there, something that could not have happened only three or four years ago” (Ibrahim, 2005, p. 10). In spite of the various problems associated with bringing democracy to a repressed state, these examples clearly show a desire on the part of ordinary Muslims to live in an accountable society in which they can choose their own leaders.

While several countries would share defence costs for multi-national military action against the Taliban, it is also important to put more resources into improving educational standards throughout Pakistan. While western military efforts are continued in Afghanistan, international reconstruction aid will be needed in northwest Pakistan. “Such a policy should address even such micro-issues as the so-called Islamic schools (madrassahs) in Afghanistan and Pakistan where very young children are indoctrinated into the belief that terrorism is just, that death in the service of their version of religion should be their highest aspiration” (Hachim, 2002, p. 32). This would be a long-term campaign requiring a range of expertise from the international community including educational and judicial endeavours to strengthen democracy.

In addition to strong democratic growth in the rest of the country, the multi-national military action against the Taliban in northwest Pakistan is a clear indication that terrorism will no longer be tolerated. This is especially important in the context of Osama bin Laden’s entreaty for Muslims to acquire nuclear weapons. It is thus important for the international community to uphold policies that rely on the use of deterrence. “At a minimum, for deterrence to succeed, the United States must have – and be perceived as having – the capability and will to retaliate against an enemy by holding at risk assets of value that can be attacked and destroyed if the enemy undertakes the action that was to be deterred” ( Joesph & Reichart, 1999, p. 26). However, the various tribes in Waziristan and North West Frontier Province must also feel that they can benefit from increased access to better educational and job opportunities. Rakhshanda Naz, the president of the NGO, Aurat Foundation, which defends the rights of Pakistani women, says not only do local illegal radio stations regularly insult women, the Jamat-e-Islami party which has been governing North West Frontier Province as part of a coalition for the past five years, closed 230 girls’ schools due to lack of funding. Yet, she says, they have given grants of $30 a month, to any boy who attends a madrassha. (Ouimet, 2008, p.A3). “The Taliban have declared Waziristan an “Islamic emirate” and are trying to establish a parallel administration, complete with sharia courts and tax system” (Sadar, 2007, p. 29). The new generation of Taliban bombs stores that sell music and films from outside, as well as intimidates lawyers to apply Sharia law rather than the British-based law that is used in Pakistan’s courts. Action to promote education for all and access to other influences must be stepped up.

An important aspect of an international operation is long-term commitment, especially on the part of the United States so as not to undermine Pakistani confidence. « If members of the Pakistani army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) retain ties to militant groups, including Taliban sympathizers, they do so as a hedge against abandonment by Washington” (Markey, 2007, p. 58).  After 9/11, the United States gave aid to General Muscharraf and Pakistan’s military but did not openly interfere inside the country. After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and growing terrorist attacks throughout the country, however, Washington pressured Pakistan to allow US troops to fight terrorism inside the country. “Though Pakistan has rebuffed these advances, it has shown signs of taking the terrorist threat more seriously, responding quickly and forcefully to militants’ increasingly bold attacks” (Sappenfield, 2008, p. 6). Meanwhile, it is important to continue diplomatic efforts in Europe to maintain and improve NATO’s operations to provide security for Afghanistan. “The porous frontier and the history of recent years make clear that elements in Pakistan can interfere in Afghanistan anytime they choose to do so” (Wisner, et al, 2003, p. 14). Given the coming spring offensive, it is clear that this new generation of Taliban will infiltrate the border and attack NATO troops in southern Afghanistan. Ijaz Khan, a political scientist at Peshawar University says that in tactical terms, “Pakistan and Afghanistan are not different” and “should be seen together” (Sappenfield, 2008, p. 6). Thus a well-coordinated plan of NATO action in southern Afghanistan and multi-national and Pakistani military action in Wazirstan and North West Frontier Province is called for. This is especially important given that Washington’s international diplomatic offensive was instrumental in ensuring enough security in Afghanistan to ensure democratic elections and the subsequent installation of a democratically-elected government. This offensive involved high-level contacts with neighbouring countries to ensure they did not hinder Afghanistan by supporting groups within the country. “Losing the peace through inadequate support for the Kazai government would gravely erode U.S. credibility around the globe and make it far more difficult to obtain international support in dealing with similar crises in the future” (Wisner et al, 2003, p. 7). Such broad diplomatic initiatives must continue to ensure that democracy can thrive both in Afghanistan and throughout Pakistan.

One of the strategically sensitive parts of an international plan involves India. In the same way that Israel was asked not to react to scud missiles from Iraq during the Gulf War of 1991, India must be diplomatically prevailed upon to show restraint at military action in Pakistan’s northern reaches, even though that action is close to the disputed Kashmir. In the years since the U.S. intervened to persuade Pakistani and Indian forces to pull back from the brink of nuclear war over Kashmir, the two countries have taken steps to improve their relations. “Removing barriers to the movement of goods and services across the Indo-Pakistani border could link Pakistan‘s economy into India’s massive growth engine and enhance the potential for significant South Asian-Central Asian energy trade. It would also open educational and cultural opportunities to Pakistan‘s growing population, of which 85 million are now estimated to be under the age of 19″ (Markey, 2008, p. 93). This is an opportunity for the United States to slowly increase its engagement in persuasive diplomacy to ensure that India understands the benefits of increased trade in the region. This is especially important since India also stands to suffer should Pakistan become more unstable that it currently is. This would help India and Pakistan strengthen their rapprochement. In the meantime, India must show restraint or risk triggering inter-state, as opposed to terrorist nuclear war from a Pakistan that is already under tremendous internal and international pressure. It is also important for the United States to impress upon India that U.S. and international military aid to Pakistan is solely part of a coordinated plan against the Taliban. At the same time, Washington has to ensure that Pakistani generals do not use the military aid and funding to destabilise Kashmir. “Apart from alienating India, past US efforts to orchestrate an India-Pakistan balance have actually accelerated the arms race in the region. India has responded to US weapons aid for Pakistan by increasing its own military purchases, especially from Moscow, and Pakistan has tried to keep pace by adding Chinese military aid to what it has received from the US. (Harrison, 2002, p. 11).  This complicates an already sensitive situation.

After an official visit to India in November 2006, China’s president, Hu Jintao, visited Pakistan where he “signed a Five-Year (2007-2011) trade and economic cooperation agreement and reaffirmed China and Pakistan’s “strategic relationship” (Ali, 2007, p. 30). Also in November 2007, the U.S. Senate passed the Bush administration’s proposal to provide India with U.S. nuclear technology and fuel as a source of energy for its growing economy. “The overriding consideration, however, is that the arrangement will help the United States assist India to become a strategic regional counterweight to China” (Ali, 2007, p. 30). While Russia, China and the United States continue their efforts to curry economic favour with India and Pakistan, consistent international diplomacy is needed to reinforce and ensure that the U.S., Russia, China, Pakistan and India all understand clearly that their overall goal is to prevent nuclear terrorism.

What if this approach is wrong?

Zakaria (2008) maintains that the thing that worries the U.S. the most, namely terrorists gaining control of nuclear weapons, is not really probable. “Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is, by all accounts, firmly embedded in the command-and-control structure of its military, with multiple supervisors and ultimate oversight by the prime minister and president” (Zakaria, 2008, p. 58). This question of whether Pakistan’s military command structure for nuclear weapons is reliable raises another question about those in control of the command system, and whether they can be trusted. “The worst-kept secret in the world is that we are not allowed to debrief A. Q. Khan [the father of Pakistan’s nuclearprogramme, now under house arrest for selling nuclear technology to other states], because he’d tell us what we already know and fear to confirm: [Pakistan’s] generals were in on the proliferation scam with him” (States of Insecurity, 2006, p. 38).

One of the most important issues is whether an ultimate decision is needed to destroy Pakistan’s nuclear facilities to limit damage caused by the terrorist use of nuclear weapons. In 1981, Israeli planes bombed Iran’s nuclear facilities to prevent Teheran from using nuclear missiles against Israel. However, a similar pre-emptive move by the United States against a full strategic array of nuclear missiles, of which Pakistan has approximately sixty, is a much more complex issue that would risk an unacceptably high number of casualties, severe ecological damage and long-lasting repercussions. The U.S. had no wish to be seen as an aggressor in other situations of potential nuclear conflict. “U.S. military planners worried that China would lash out across the Taiwan Straits and that North Korea would head south against Seoul. (Ramberg, 2006, p. 55). A related and crucial consideration is that Pakistan has the capacity to strike out at India should the U.S. take military action against its nuclear facilities, making such a pre-emptive decision a zero-sum game.

General Musharaff’s decision to accede to the United States in the global war on terror did not endear him to his countrymen, even those living outside areas increasingly controlled by the Taliban. A poll conducted by the International Republican Institute in late January of this year found that “more than 80 per cent of Pakistanis feel Musharraf’s government is headed in the wrong direction; only 9 per cent believe the government should cooperate with the U.S. in the war on terrorism” (Flintoff, 2008, p. 1). This was borne out the day after Pakistan’s parliamentary election on the 18th of February 2008. “Pakistan’s ruling party conceded defeat on Tuesday after opposition parties routed allies of President Pervez Musharraf in parliamentary elections that could threaten the rule of America’s close ally in the war on terrorism (Economic Times, 2008, p. 1). Given the current reaction of Pakistan’s public against having U.S. troops in the country, pushing multi-national military intervention could have the opposite effect. “Any attempt to crack down on Pakistan will exacerbate distrust, resulting in increased Pakistani support for jihadists; coercive threats will undermine confidence without producing better results” (Markey, 2007, p. 85).  Another concern is that Islamic extremists in Waziristan and North West Frontier Province will take over the entire country. “The election’s other major upset was the ignominious defeat of the religious parties that have ruled North West Frontier and Baluchistan provinces since 2002. In their place came secular Pashtun nationalists and the PPP – a welcome development for western countries hunting Taliban and al- Qaeda militants in the area” (Guardian, 2008, p. 1).

These points taken together, plus the reticence of European members of NATO to commit more combat forces in Afghanistan suggest that a Pakistani campaign against Islamic extremists would be more acceptable to international and Pakistani public opinion than a multi-national military intervention in Pakistan.


The consequences of nuclear terrorism would be devastating for Pakistan and India. It could also trigger the use of nuclear weapons elsewhere. The need for multi-national action is clear. The way to prevent such an occurrence is to take away the conditions leading to extremism. Even if the premise of Islamic terrorists seizing nuclear weapons seems exaggerated to some, it serves as leverage for persuading Pakistan’s new leaders to accept international aid bringing greater stability to the state. If a multi-national military intervention is unacceptable to Pakistan’s new government, it is important to at least make the effort so as to reduce any resistance to such an approach in the event that terrorists do launch a nuclear attack. In the meantime, international efforts must continue to defend democracy, and to promote better access to education and good living conditions, effectively taking away the poverty and ignorance that fuel Islamic extremism.



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