Why our bomb may be unsafe

Published: December 10, 2011
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The writer is Director at the South Asian Media School in Lahore
khaled.ahmed@tribune.com.pk

The writer is Director at the South Asian Media School in Lahore khaled.ahmed@tribune.com.pk

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. 

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Reader Comments (43)

  • Ubuntu
    Dec 10, 2011 - 11:20PM

    Not every thing is right it seems to me u can get a good pay jobs at any anti pakistan Thank
    tank and have discussions with Nawaz Shuja, Fareed zakria, vali nisr and many more…

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  • mazen
    Dec 11, 2011 - 12:18AM

    Is it the civilian government having control of nuclear weapons or is in army’s hand. This is, somehow, true that terrorists want to take control of the nuclear weapons of Pakistan, but the simple question is this that these terrorist have the capacity to pillage these weapons? I think not…I agree with the writer’s opinion on the issue of extremism in Pakistan, but it is that simple for extremist elements to overwhelm leftist and other un-like minded in Pakistan. We need to comprehend the difference between negative hyperbole, conspiracies and well-constructive criticism- which is seldom nowadays in Pakistan. Dissemination of Indian threat is exaggerated by the Military itself for its own advantage; however, to undermine the threat is ludicrous, inane and naive thinking. We have to be think circumspectly over India’s threat. By drawing conclusion over this issue without any empirical evidence, writer is just professing the modern conventional thought shared by many in Pakistan over Indian threat perception.Recommend

  • Maria
    Dec 11, 2011 - 12:26AM

    I think you forget that Pakistan has probably the most vibrant media in any Muslim nation. When you say that Iran has institutions which are more stable than Pakistan, you clearly miss the mark. You have no idea of how different wings of the Iranian bureaucracy and institutions are at odds with each other? Ask yourself why many analysts say that Iran is on the verge of implosion at any time. I trust the Pakistani military more than any institution in the developing world to keep an eye on the nation’s nuclear assets. You have allowed yourself to be fooled by the words and thinking of biased Indian analysts like Fareed Zakaria who never miss a chance to paint Pakistan as a villain. Remind yourself of who first introduced nuclear weapons to South Asia and who threatened Pakistan with nuclear weapons. The entire Pakistani public understands why the nation needs a nuclear deterrent against India except you it seems.

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  • Falcon
    Dec 11, 2011 - 12:47AM

    This is one of the those articles where you are way off the base. To make a claim like that, you have to have good handle on socio-economic, political, and most importantly technical vulnerabilities. Just pulling together random strands of thought is not good enough. Unfortunately, the very premise of your argument (Al-Qaeda’s deep influence on masses) is misplaced.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Dec 11, 2011 - 12:49AM

    @Ubantu
    Bondu u said it now pakistan is so unsafe hahahahahahahah

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  • Truth Seeker
    Dec 11, 2011 - 12:55AM

    @Ubuntu:
    Can you please enlighten the readers with your views about RIGHTS of Pakistan.
    The columns writer’s analysis is based on facts.Refute his arguments, if you have any with rationale and don’t get bogged down in personalities which are hated in pakistan for their opinions/views.

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  • CounterTerrorist
    Dec 11, 2011 - 1:04AM

    ” India, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea”!!!!!
    What is India doing here!!!!???Remove India from the list of unstable failed nations.

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  • gp65
    Dec 11, 2011 - 1:16AM

    @Ubuntu:
    Fareed Zakaria is pro-India NOT anti-Pakistan. Of course when it comes to an issue such as Mumbai attacks, his feelings like those of any other person with Indian roots are going to hold Pakistan accountable for allowing the terror infrastructure to openly flourish.

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  • Cynical
    Dec 11, 2011 - 1:19AM

    @Ubuntu
    Get the message.Don’t shoot the messenger.

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  • Maulana Khizr
    Dec 11, 2011 - 1:35AM

    Why are Pakistanis not scared of where their country is headed?

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  • Mj
    Dec 11, 2011 - 2:23AM

    I think the article here is presenting a worst case scenario. If I had read it 7 or 8 years back I’d have dismissed it as fear mongering or sensationalism. But so much has happened in the past few years that even this worst case scenario has started to look threateningly realistic. The seeds of hate and ignorance which were sown in Zia’s era are finally bearing their (poisonous) fruit. Just as Iranians first welcomed the revolution, the same might be expected to happen in Pakistan. Now the average educated Iranian is fed up with authoritarian theocracy while the Pakistani counterpart is clamoring for it. The misadventure in Swat should have stamped out any such notions but I guess the nation is suffering from a severe case of cognitive dissonance.

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  • Chulbul Pandey
    Dec 11, 2011 - 2:37AM

    Khaled Ahmed ji,

    It is a wonder to me how you have not been labeled an agent of RAW or CIA yet. One can clearly see the frustration with the current affairs vis-a-vis Pakistan in your articles. That, you have not stopped pointing out wrongs in your country, clearly signifies that you have not given up hopes. Kudos to you!

    Mere mortals like us are not so optimistic about Pakistan!

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  • American Desi
    Dec 11, 2011 - 3:18AM

    @CounterTerrorist: Read properly please! “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”. India has been rightly clubbed with other states who have nuclear ambitions and author has not said these are the failed states.

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  • Nadir
    Dec 11, 2011 - 5:45AM

    We will eat grass, but make the bomb!! The “bum” has more rights and priveledges than Pakistanis. Pakistanis themselves appear to be a nuisance in the way of preserving our bums and looking other states in the eye!

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  • vasan
    Dec 11, 2011 - 6:51AM

    “From the opinion being expressed in the media, one can say that any revolution will have to take the following shape: ”
    If the opinions expressed under this line are any indication, doomsday is not far off for Pakistan.,

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  • reformistani
    Dec 11, 2011 - 7:27AM

    Prior to our deterrence capabilities, India encroached, invaded and dismembered Pakistan at will. From Kashmir, Gurduspur, Siachen, East Pakistan, Kargil (in 1971), this was the case.
    You are attempting to solve problems by addressing the symptoms instead of the root causes.

    The problem is not our deterrence capacity. The problem is governance. The onus to solve this problem is on us. WE THE PEOPLE. Stop voting along ethnic lines. Stop voting for the usual suspects. Stop voting for pirs and landlords. Vote in patriots, vote in the incorruptible, more importantly vote for shrewd strategists and brilliant tacticians. Choose them irrespective of denomination and affiliation. Protest territorial violations of NATO and India. Protest against Israelis in Palestine, Indians in Kashmir, Americans in Iraq. But don’t forget to also protest the destruction of girl’s schools by Islamic extremists.

    Do the right thing and watch our talented nation blossom and flourish.
    Change comes at the grassroots.

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  • Feroz
    Dec 11, 2011 - 8:21AM

    Nobody excluding a beauty queen likes a mirror being put in front of them, the responses will reflect that. If I am brought up being fed only lies, for me the truth however stark it may be is a lie. Free and rational thinking can only come from societies where information is freely traded and knowledge is keenly sought. America, Germany and Japan will continue to be pioneers in path breaking technologies because they encourage disruptive thinking, even when their general population may be mathematically weak.
    While most forward looking nations base their ideology on economic and social progress weak nation states have to search for excuses for non performance – taking succour from imaginary external threats. Forces within Pakistan are threatening its existence and making rapid and dangerous inroads into its vital Institutions – Political structure, legal and judicial system, Bureaucracy and Security set up. This is giving the World sleepless nights considering every one who has a gun wants to use it to enforce his own view point.

    This is a Nuclear armed country we are talking about. Often one needs to come out of the environment of a problem to see its true dimension and solve it. The time for the country is now because the World cannot rather may not want to remain a silent spectator as a Nuclear armed country goes into a violent meltdown. My prayers are with the country but God may want to see signs of more than that to help.

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  • asif
    Dec 11, 2011 - 8:52AM

    CounterTerrorist gets 20 recommendations – paid indian media cell workers or ‘India Shinning’ brigade is reporting for duty. These folks take themselves too seriously – too bad we don’t.

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  • narayana murthy
    Dec 11, 2011 - 9:49AM

    @Maria

    Pakistan is the villain.

    You know the biggest trait of any villain? Denial. You show me one good thing that Pakistan has contributed to the world in the last 60 years. You will only find horrible things coming from Pakistan. In fact, you will only find horrible things.

    But, more denial means, it’s a downhill journey for you people.

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  • rk
    Dec 11, 2011 - 9:54AM

    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.

    Dear Mr.Khaled Ahmed, your article is really a very potent commentry on pakistan. I guess you are one of the few columnists who are not afraid of speaking truth. Unfortunately, even Imran Khan, who could be a liberal leader is now looking more and more like Taliban mouth piece.

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  • lawangeen
    Dec 11, 2011 - 10:26AM

    The whole war in our region is meant to defang our lunatic nation that celebrates nukes to any kind of development.If we are to survive this war, Iran must get some of our weapons in return for oil and gas.They need deterrance against the plots being hatched and we need diversion away ——————— of Western attention.

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  • Dec 11, 2011 - 10:40AM

    This is something which needs to be said in Pakistan, heck, the World is already saying it.

    @Maria:

    “I think you forget that Pakistan has probably the most vibrant media in any Muslim nation. “

    Vibrant? Free you can call it, certainly not vibrant. Vibrant is when the media will have the power to hold Government accountable when scams surface, or make sure they surface and the public finds out, like it happened in India with 2G scam and CWG one; When it has the power to concentrate public opinion and has the power to force the Government to bring in legislation like the Lok Pal bill.

    The Pakistani media is free because it is so pro-Establishment. If someone is so fond of you and constantly praises the Establishment(Military) and overlooks your fault, why change the status-quo! Only English publications are critical of the Military, but thank God that only a handful percentage of Pakistanis read them!

    So, if Iran is on the verge of implosion and indeed implodes, then Pakistan will border 2 failed states, not considering the fact that it is indeed one itself.

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  • great
    Dec 11, 2011 - 10:50AM

    good prediction……this statement filled the real gap created by IMRANIC VERSION OF REVOLUTION….

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  • PoorPeace!
    Dec 11, 2011 - 11:17AM

    @Maria:
    “I think you forget that Pakistan has probably the most vibrant media in any Muslim nation”

    WRONG. Turkey has the most vibrant, unbiased and independent media than any other muslim nation.

    “Remind yourself of who first introduced nuclear weapons to South Asia and who threatened Pakistan with nuclear weapons”

    There other countries in S.Asia too. Why didn’t they went the nuclear way? Pakistan is threatened by its own insecurity and not by India.

    “You have no idea of how different wings of the Iranian bureaucracy and institutions are at odds with each other?”

    This is far more true for Pakistan or how else will you explain your leader’s statement that some elements of ISI at lower rung might have known about Osama’s stay in Abbotabad?

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  • A Fahran
    Dec 11, 2011 - 11:43AM

    @Maria:
    World will laugh at what you said. Seriously!!!!

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  • Vigilant
    Dec 11, 2011 - 12:02PM

    For educated Pakistani class like Nuclear Scientists Al-Qaeda is not a role model…..how many of Pakistani nuclear scientist do u know who are Al-Qaeda Affiliated….if capital flowing out of Pakistan…..what about $11 billion sent by Expats…..Half of india is controlled by maoists & they are the ones who introduced nukes in South Asia…..on what bases Pakistan Army should base it’s Nuke strategy…Al-Qeada???Recommend

  • AN
    Dec 11, 2011 - 12:24PM

    @Maria:
    So strange that you think you need a deterrent against India. being poor and afiling and leading to a implosion and failing is far worse than a nuke bomb. And far more dangerous. No one will buy eating grass for a thousand years any more. Only the better off people completely divorced from the reality of poverty can pontificate on behalf of those eaking out a miserable existance day in and day out.
    Get the message. A vibrant media of the shreiking kind is hardly a strength. on the contrary it is creating a shrill rhetoric and adding to delusion.
    Pak army is the only one in the world that lords over all institutions and controls with a martial hand, all levers of state. Its stranglehold on resources is leading to a awful meltdown of Pak society.
    Forget India and focus on the west. that along with jihadi culture is singeing the country today.

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  • Sanjay Sharma
    Dec 11, 2011 - 1:30PM

    Keeping its nuclear assets safe is the biggest challenge for any country in the world, whether it is a declared nuclear power or not. India must also be worried for the safety of its nuclear arsenals. But when if a person like Khaled Ahmad raises such a difficult issue, anybody could stop and think what will happen to the region if the safety of nuclear assets is compromised by the inheritors of such a divine power which can destroy anything within its reach. I presume that neither Pakistan nor India, nor China has will to destroy any of its neighbours unless these arsenals are taken over by mad and insane personalities. The cost of maintaining these arsenals is mind boggling. Only those nations, with pan-continental ambitions, would require these assets who have enormous additional financial base, and in order to safeguard their financial interests they can have the luxury of keeping them in their backyard. Otherwise nuclear arms’ safety will always be the greatest worry of leadership and intelligentsia of any economically growing nation. Mr Kahled Ahmad’s article is reflective of that worry.

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  • Bangladeshi
    Dec 11, 2011 - 2:28PM

    @PoorPeace!: lol you call secular turkish media vibrant. The turkish media is anti islam, anti AKP & anti democracy. This most vibrant turkish media of yours collaborated with the saint secular turkish ARMY to try & bring down AKP in 2007. This vibrant turkish media actually wanted army coup & dictatorship.

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  • Asim Hameed
    Dec 11, 2011 - 3:06PM

    @Sanjay Sharma: I completely agree with you Sanjay. nuclear disarmament is the only ‘sane’ avenue if truly there exists any genuine intention of peace. Where I disagree with Mr. Ahmed is that his article almost justifies nuclear ambitions for other countries. I think one can not state it better than your last statement, ‘nuclear arms’ safety will always be the greatest worry of leadership and intelligentsia of any economically growing nation’.

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  • PoorPeace!
    Dec 11, 2011 - 4:03PM

    @Bangladeshi:
    You seems to know more about Turkey and Pakistan than about your own country.

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  • Raja Arsalan Khan
    Dec 11, 2011 - 4:27PM

    Ubuntu: Answer the following. Don’t make noise and plead your case if you have a solid argument. The writer has rightly given possible scenario, to which completely agree. If you do not agree, refute with logic.

    “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.”

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  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam (retd)
    Dec 11, 2011 - 4:31PM

    I must give credit to the Intelligence of the majority of the participants who have dubbed this ARTICLE unnecessary, frivolous, Illogical & lacking common sense. The very idea that the Al-Quaeda will take over the Islamic Republic & command its Nuclear Assets expresses his own inner fears of living in an
    Islamic State.
    He cannot fathom living in a truly Islamic Republic & following its Fundamental principles. Their kind would love to live in a Secular Pakistan where there are no boundaries & no prohibitions.
    By Allah’s grace this Nuclear Capability which we have acquired is against all odds.We will InshAllah rise as a Nation once we have taken care of the Fifth Columnists, the Looters & Plunderer’s within us.

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  • Jayan
    Dec 11, 2011 - 5:00PM

    India should not have worried about pak nucleur bombs if it is ruled by a strong civilian govt. The problem with pakistan is nobody knows who is in control there? If it is a strong military with a clear cut policy of not appeasing any kind of terrorism then also India has nothing to worry. Recommend

  • Bangladeshi
    Dec 11, 2011 - 5:36PM

    @PoorPeace! : I definitely don’t know much about PAK & turkey and also I have yet to know much about my own country as well. But I have interest in geo politics and do keep track of things. I hate secularism from the bottom of my heart and when someone falsely glorifies the secular turkish media it makes my blood boil with anger.Recommend

  • enegiss
    Dec 11, 2011 - 5:40PM

    The few times i have traveled to Pakistan, were extraordinary, i met peoples who were of the best i have ever met anywhere, i Hope to travel again to Pakistan and back into the Azad Kashmir foothills, a truly Great experience, and it is tragic that there seems to be such criticism of Pakistan around the world, i for one wish it the Best. and Hope to Allah that a lasting peace will prevail in the end,

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  • Anonymous
    Dec 11, 2011 - 8:43PM

    Best analysis every line is true and wisely crafted.

    Finally one day structure based upon hypocrisy and deceit will fall down. how many sand walls you will erect around falsehood of ideology based upon hatred?

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  • sri
    Dec 11, 2011 - 11:03PM

    @bangladeshi-good you care too much about turkey ,,but it taste really very good.

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  • mazen
    Dec 11, 2011 - 11:39PM

    My Indian buddies seem overwhelmingly ecstatic after reading this article; the interest and merriment of my beloved Indian fellows is directly proportional to the negative agenda against Pakistan. It is nice to see many Indians commenting in response to these kind of articles.

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  • Dec 12, 2011 - 2:55PM

    Security / politics is not his forte he should do linguistics something that he is good at . If he continues to indulge in it he will have nothing but mud on his face . But then it is every body ‘ s natural desire to be somebody else . So welcome to the mess .

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  • Realist
    Dec 12, 2011 - 6:21PM

    Its a lost cause. There are still people here answering in total DENIAL and blaming all on the west, india and israel. Its none of them blowing up girls schools, scuicide bombers, taliban crazies running around with guns killign pakistanis, harassing women who dont wear viels etc etc etc……

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  • You Said It
    Dec 13, 2011 - 2:18AM

    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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  • Ali
    Dec 13, 2011 - 11:12PM

    @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.

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