Why our bomb may be unsafe

The weapon of choice for al Qaeda to avoid ‘regime-change’ will be the nuclear weapons of Pakistan.


Khaled Ahmed December 10, 2011

It appears that ultimately it is not the security safeguards around Pakistan’s 100-odd nuclear warheads but the character of the state of Pakistan which is causing worry.

Out of the ‘troublesome trio’ — Iran, North Korea, Pakistan — the last named is internally threatened with political instability. North Korea is a totalitarian dictatorship with complete political control over its population. Iran is a totalitarian state with an oppressive hold on its dissenters, while its population attaches its nationalism to the bomb Iran hopes to acquire. In Pakistan, political instability has resulted in an almost spontaneous ascendancy of the army. The Pakistan Army has been known to base its tactical policy vis-à-vis India on nuclear weapons and indulge in risk-taking which can threaten the world with nuclear conflict in South Asia.

Out of the four states with nuclear ambition — India, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea — Pakistan is the only one with a weak writ of the state. There are regions in the country where the state does not exist, which means that the municipal law is not respected. The cities have duplicated this lack of writ by developing no-go areas of their own. In Balochistan, there is an ongoing conflict inviting foreign interference. In the tribal areas, the state is struggling to re-extend its lost control. Cities like Peshawar and Karachi are subject to mafias and jihadi groups with strategies of ‘revenue collection’ through kidnappings and robberies. Except Pakistan, no other ‘troublesome’ state is afflicted with the presence of foreign terrorists on its soil. The presence of globally feared groups worsens the already weakened writ of the state. It has changed the concept of ‘ungoverned space’ by filling it with alien control, threatening the ‘governed space’ too. The foreign elements look at Pakistan as a base from where to launch their attacks at global targets. There is some proof that they would like to have access to nuclear weapons. Some jihad-inspired nuclear scientists of Pakistan had established links with al Qaeda under the Pakistan-dominated Taliban government in Afghanistan.

Pakistanis talk about revolution more than ever before because they want the current order to change. From the opinion being expressed in the media, one can say that any revolution will have to take the following shape: 1) It will be against democracy and in favour of Islamic reform; 2) It will be anti-America and also generally anti-West, with India thrown in as the palpable enemy next door, while Israel acts as the notional enemy giving a sharp global pan-Islamic edge to the revolution; 3) Since Pakistanis feel that the sharia is not in force in Pakistan — it is, under the Federal Shariat Court written into the Constitution! — the ideology of the revolution will come from al Qaeda; and 4) any revolutionary government will have to be directionally presided over by al Qaeda. The weapon of choice for al Qaeda to avoid ‘regime-change’ will be the nuclear weapons of Pakistan.

It is not so much for the outside world to worry about the drift towards ‘revolution’ in Pakistan as it is for the Pakistanis to see what is happening to them. And it is not only extremism that is happening to them. Capital is fleeing Pakistan in anticipation, which is the businessman’s way of telling Pakistan it is drifting towards chaos. Those who support this revolution — like Imran Khan — admit they cannot declare themselves openly against the state-protected ‘non-state actors’ for fear of being killed. Since the much-bandied revolution has al Qaeda behind it, it is devoid of all intellectual content.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2011. 

COMMENTS (43)

Ali | 9 years ago | Reply

@Maria: Yes, everyone, including Fareed Zakira is out to get Pakistan. BooHoo! Pakistan has done nothing wrong. Except shown that its agression towards it neighbors (all the wars were started by Pakistan, including Kargil) and doesn't even have writ over its own territory, cannot provide law and order which is the first duty of a country. I love Pakistan. But the child has been spoilt and its people like you who keep defending it that keep it from reforming, by blaming others for our problems.

You Said It | 9 years ago | Reply

What the world finds alarming about Pakistan is widespread support for radical Islam, frequent escalations in conflicts and rattling of nuclear sabres. The problem for Pakistan is not just a desire to project power out of proportion with its economic and military power. This is compounded by a paranoia about both its existence and its nuclear arsenal.

The inconsistency causes a "cognitive dissonance", which results in attempts to cure symptoms rather than the cause -- ghairatmandi, banning BBC, Haqqani's removal, attitude towards civilian governments, etc.

Keeping in mind these issues, Pakistan's insistence that "the Afghan government be friendly to it", is read as a government that may be susceptible to Pakistan's problems. Hence the skepticism about Pakistan's influence in the future of Afghanistan. An attempt to limit this influence may further escalate Pakistan's distrust of US/India/etc. But given that may potentially escalate anyway, the distrust will probably not change the ground reality in any way.

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