- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2007

‘Tormented land’

A former Pakistani ambassador to the United States yesterday warned against more combative comments like those of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s because they have repercussions in the “troubled and tormented land” of today’s Pakistan.

Tariq Fatemi warned that turmoil over the past several months has weakened President Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism, and that accusations that Gen. Musharraf is failing to attack terrorists in his country damage him more.

“Statements made in public, even if they are part of the political campaign, do not help the cause,” he said.

Mr. Obama, in the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, last week said he would order raids into Pakistan “if we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act.”

Pressure from the Bush administration to take stronger action against terrorists in the largely lawless border region with Afghanistan is fueling a “growing perception” that the war on terrorism “is America’s war,” not Pakistan‘s, Mr. Fatemi said.

“The American administration will have to be a little more sensitive,” he added.

Mr. Fatemi, in a briefing at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, reviewed events in Pakistan since March 9 when Gen. Musharraf, still head of the military, tried to fire the chief justice of the supreme court.

That action sparked widespread protests, which invigorated both civil and religious groups against an unpopular military leader who first grabbed power in a coup in 1999. His reputation sank lower when extremists occupied a mosque in the capital of Islamabadlast month. He finally ordered the army to remove them in a bloody assault on the Red Mosque.

Gen. Musharraf “appears lost, confused and unsure of himself,” Mr. Fatemi said.

“Civil society is energized” and growing more critical of Gen. Musharraf, who suffered an additional setback when the supreme court, in a rare display of defiance against the government, ordered him to reinstate the chief justice, Mr. Fatemi added.

“The general is seriously weakened,” he said. “Nongovernmental organizations, the media and political parties are getting worked up.”

Mr. Fatemi predicted that Gen. Musharraf will have to resign one of his posts, either as chief of the military or as president. He expects new elections to be held by October.

“If the United States genuinely wants to help Pakistan, it must encourage and promote the restoration of genuine democracy in Islamabad,” Mr. Fatemi said.

He admitted that he is worried about the immediate future of his country, which separated from India in 1947.

Pakistan, today, 60 years after its birth, remains a troubled and tormented land,” he said.

Mr. Fatemi’s own relationship with Gen. Musharraf was also complicated. He served as a top aide to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who Gen. Musharraf overthrew in October 1999. Mr. Fatemi had arrived in Washington on Oct. 7, only five days before the coup, and was recalled on Oct. 17 in a diplomatic shake-up.

However, he continued serving under Gen. Musharraf, retiring in 2004 as ambassador to the European Union.

Aid to Lebanon

The United States this week delivered 80 Humvees to the Lebanese army to help it in the latest conflict with a terrorist militia inspired by al Qaeda, the U.S. Embassy said.

Formally known as High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, they are part of a package of U.S. military equipment and training worth $255 million this year. The aid represents a massive 550 percent increase in military aid since 2006, the embassy said.

“Residents may have seen them already as the [Lebanese Armed Forces] conducts operations to secure the country’s and the Lebanese people’s safety,” the embassy said.

Recently, the Lebanese army killed the second-in-command of a group called Fatah Islam, which has been battling the government since May.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.