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The Last Days of Pakistan?

The Last Days of Pakistan?

By Richard Reeves - May 5, 2009

NEW YORK -- Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord that the United States and India have plans to seize Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

I, for one, was badly shaken on Monday when Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held a news conference to report on his recent trip to Pakistan and his private meetings with President Obama and the White House's security guys, beginning with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The Associated Press headline was:

"MULLEN SAYS HE BELIEVES PAKISTAN NUKES ARE SECURE"

Believes? That's nice, especially considering Pakistani officials have been lying to the world about those weapons for more than 25 years. They denied they were trying to develop the weapons. They denied they were actually developing them. They lied about having them. They lied about where they are.

I can only pray that the government of India, the country Pakistan's nuclear missiles are aimed at, is not as credulous as Admiral Mullen. At his conference he said he did not "think" the weapons -- about a hundred of them -- would eventually be controlled by the Taliban. And I hope the Indians are not as "confident" as President Obama said he was about the missiles after meeting with Mullen last weekend. More than that I pray that Indian intelligence agencies know where the bombs are.

You can be sure that the Taliban, which is practically part of the Pakistani intelligence establishment, knows where the nukes are. And the Taliban will know in advance if the Pakistanis try to move them -- and they will try to grab one or two if they hit the roads.

"I'm confident that we can make sure that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure," Obama said last week, "primarily, initially, because the Pakistani army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands." He added: "We've got strong military-to-military consultation and cooperation."

Confident? Whatever is in their hearts about Islam, about the United States, about the Taliban, the Pakistani army can't fight. The recipient of billions upon billions of U.S. dollars and training over the decades, the great Pakistan army is essentially a national police force configured to try to keep the "masses" in their place to protect the government in Islamabad -- a government which, more often than not, has been the army itself.

Basically, since becoming a country, a haven for Muslims when the British left colonial India in 1947, the Pakistani army has fought and quickly lost three wars against the country of India. The most spectacular of those defeats came in 1970, when they lost East Pakistan, which was more than half the nation and is now the country of Bangladesh. That happened when the Indian army rolled up the Pakistani army in days.

Now, this is the situation, as reported in Monday's New York Times:

"We are largely relying on assurances, the same assurances we have been hearing for years," said one senior official who was involved in the dialogue with Pakistan during the Bush years and remains involved today. "The worse things get, the more strongly they hew to the line, 'Don't worry; we've got it under control.'"

Right. The United States government was buying that crap as long ago as the 1980s, when I was living in Islamabad. One of my neighbors, A.Q. Kahn, was going to work every morning with a military escort to a place called Kahuta, where he was in charge of developing the Pakistan nuclear bomb. Everybody knew that, including every American in Pakistan, but we were buying Pakistan in those days because we needed them in the mujahideen war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

We declared victory when the Soviets withdrew after nine years and their government collapsed. Then we went back to ignoring Pakistan, which was governed by a three-way deal between rich Westernized elites, the army and the mullahs, the clerics who control the medieval life of "the masses" -- and educated many of their children in the madrassas that graduated the Taliban.

If all this sounds "alarmist," it is meant to be. I only hope the Indians, no innocents abroad, are on this case and understand it better than we do. These could be the final days of "modern" Pakistan -- and maybe of other peoples as well.

Copyright 2009, Creators Syndicate Inc.

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