If Pakistan Collapses
By Antonio C. Abaya
Written on Nov. 19, 2007
For the Standard Today,
November 20 issue
The ruling neo-cons in Washington DC are facing a geopolitical dilemma: what to do if the government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf were to collapse.
Pakistan has replaced Iran as the Crisis-of-the-Month. The Americans (and the Israelis) have been itching to bomb Iran back to, at least, the pre-industrial age. Iran has one of the largest known oil reserves in the world, which the Americans covet, and is developing the technology to build nuclear weapons, which the Israelis fear will be used against them.
Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has after all said on many occasions that the state of Israel should be wiped off the map.
On the other hand, Pakistan may have no oil, but it does have nuclear weapons and the delivery systems with which to lob them to as far as the Mediterranean Sea.
(Oil deposits that have been discovered in Central Asia are programmed to be piped across Afghanistan to the Pakistani port city of Karachi. That is why some 30,000 troops from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are fighting Islamic militants in Afghanistan, thousands of miles away from the North Atlantic. Like Iraq, Afghanistan is also about oil.)
In any order of battle, therefore, Pakistan is now Top Priority. If the government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf were to collapse, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and ballistic missiles would be in danger of falling into the wrong hands.
Not into the hands of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who is trying to wrest power from Gen. Musharraf through middle-class People Power street protest action, with the help of hundreds of nattily dressed lawyers protesting Musharraf’s moves against the country’s Supreme Court chief justice (whom he had fired earlier over a constitutional point.) .
The fear of the neo-cons is that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and ballistic missiles might fall into the hands of Islamic militants, who are also trying to overthrow Musharraf, but for their own sectarian goals: the establishment of an Islamic state under Sharia law.
A nuclear-armed theocratic state in Pakistan would be the unforeseen realization of the neo-cons’ worst fears about Iran. Except that it would exist in the here and now, not something that could happen in two, five or ten years.
In addition, a nuclear-armed Pakistan in the hands of Islamic militants would ratchet up the simmering conflict with India over Kashmir, and would embolden the Talibans in Afghanistan to finish off the NATO contingents..
It would also give the Al-Qaida’s Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who are believed to be holed up in the mountainous tribal areas in northeast Pakistan,. more room for maneuver as they plan their next moves against the Crusaders and the Zionists.
What to do? An article in the Nov. 18 issue of The New York Times, written by Frederick W. Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon, may suggest what the US response might be.
Neo-con Kagan was the chief architect of the Surge Plan which President George W. Bush put into play last January and which has achieved a measure of success in Baghdad and neighboring Anbar Province. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, was a signatory to the Project for the New American Century declaration of 2000, which set the neo-con parameters for American defense policies under George W. Bush, one year before 9/11.
In their joint article, Kagan and O’Hanlon suggest that the US could send Special Forces to seize Pakistan’s nuclear facilities and ship the “nuclear material to someplace like New Mexico,” but acknowledge that “even pro-American Pakistanis would be unlikely to cooperate. More likely, we would have to settle for establishing a remote redoubt within Pakistan, with the nuclear technology guarded by elite Pakistani forces, backed up (and watched over) by crack international troops….” Another Coalition of the Willing to which President Arroyo would conceivably send 51 fearsome Filipino policemen.
“A second broader option would involve supporting the core of the Pakistani armed forces as they sought to hold the country together in the face of an ineffective government, seceding border regions and Al-Qaida and Taliban assassination attempts against the leadership…”
In December 2005, Gen. Musharraf survived TWO assassination attempts in TWO weeks, believed to have been hatched by members of his own military’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), a pro-Islamic militants agency which had helped organize the Taliban in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation (1979-1989).
If Musharraf were assassinated the third time around, Benazir Bhutto and the middle class lawyers would not likely inherit the seats of power. More likely, Pakistan may fragment into smaller states, with the Islamic militants grabbing what can be grabbed. For us, this would be bad news because the Islamic militants in Mindanao, Basilan and Sulu have organizational links with Islamic militants in Pakistan, not with those in Saudi Arabia or Egypt..
Wrote Kagan and O’Hanlon: “The great paradox of the post cold-war world is that we are both safer, day to day, and in greater peril than before. There was a time when volatility in places like Pakistan was mostly a humanitarian worry. Today it is as much a threat to our basic security as Soviet tanks once were. We must be militarily and diplomatically prepared to keep ourselves safe in such a world.. Pakistan may be the next big test.” *****