- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 18, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan When jubilant Afghans in the streets of Kabul screamed "Death to Pakistan," many here saw it as confirmation that their politically fragile country had been duped as a hostile force took power in a country Pakistan has long sought to dominate.
When the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance entered Kabul last week, the corpses of several fighters of Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group lay sprawled in the capital's park and gutters.
Feeling liberated from five years of often-sadistic Taliban rule, Kabul residents crowded around the bodies and spat on them, claiming the dead men were Arabs, North Africans, Chechens and Pakistanis.
The fast-moving political events across the border have left many Pakistanis uneasy and uncertain, even as they confront serious social and economic problems at home. The political dynamic in Pakistan could prove key over the next few years to stability throughout the region, analysts say.
Over the past few years, thousands of pro-Taliban Pakistanis traveled to Afghanistan to join the ranks of al Qaeda and fight an international holy war against America. Earlier, in the mid-1990s, Pakistan helped the Taliban take over Afghanistan and construct their fundamentalist regime.
Pakistan now fears it will be forced to deal with a hostile regime in Kabul with close ties to archrival India, with whom it has fought three major wars since achieving independence in 1947.
"Seeing any Pakistani being beaten up or seeing a Pakistani dead body lying on the roadside or being taken prisoner is upsetting," said Shireen M. Mazari, director-general of Pakistan's Institute of Strategic Studies.
"Pakistan needs to focus on and assert its own priorities, keeping in mind the new situation in Afghanistan, which has brought a hysterically anti-Pakistan Northern Alliance to Kabul," she added. "India has invested a huge amount of resources in men and material in this alliance."
India gave military and diplomatic support to the Northern Alliance, especially the ethnic Tajik tribe within the loose grouping. In addition, Russia, Iran, Turkey and other nations also pumped up the Northern Alliance, making Pakistan fear the force is made of puppets and warlords.
Bloodshed in Afghanistan, including the U.S. bombardments, also has contributed to instability in Pakistan by repeatedly producing new floods of refugees across the porous border between the two countries.
"For security reasons, there should be a multinational force in Kabul and this city should be demilitarized," said Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Khan.
Much of this country's current plight began when the U.S. bombardment of Afghanistan forced Pakistan to decide between two dangerous paths: continue to support the Taliban and risk being seen by the United States as a supporter of terrorists, or turn on its ally in Kabul and join America's new war.
Many Pakistanis feel betrayed by Washington and are eager to blame President Pervez Musharraf for wrongly betraying the Taliban.
"There may even be a sense in Islamabad that the U.S. has let it down on this particular issue, and those who oppose Pakistan's backing of the campaign against terrorism will recall all previous instances of 'betrayals,'" said Tahir Mirza, columnist for the respected Dawn newspaper.
"For the Bush administration, this may be temporary embarrassment. For Pakistan, it poses a new dilemma," Mr. Mirza said.
More than 20 years ago, Pakistan helped the United States build up Afghan Islamic fighters seeking to end the Soviet Union's 10-year occupation of Afghanistan, beginning in 1979.
"The installation of a favorite government took [nearly] 25 years, but all these efforts ended in smoke," said former Information Minister Mushahid Hussain Syed.
Conforming to America's needs, President Musharraf all but ended Pakistan's diplomatic, commercial and intelligence links with the Taliban virtually overnight and allowed American military planes to use Pakistani bases and airspace.
In return, Mr. Musharraf suffered weeks of anti-war demonstrations by Pakistani and Afghan Islamic extremists, who supported the Taliban and opposed the U.S. bombardment. Those demonstrations drew tens of thousands of people.
Though the protests were contained by security forces, demonstrators grew increasingly hostile toward Mr. Musharraf, threatening his fragile junta.
"We were expecting that probably President Musharraf would find out a way to pull the country out of the coalition and adopt a strict attitude toward the United States, keeping in view the feelings and sentiments of the country's masses," said Pakistan-Afghan Defense Council leader Maulana Samuel Has, who supports the Taliban.
Mr. Musharraf, the country's top military officer, seized power in a bloodless 1999 coup after toppling an elected government widely seen as corrupt and inefficient. Pro-democracy activists and Islamic extremists now oppose him from different ends of the political spectrum, though they disagree with each other on virtually all other issues.
In exchange for siding with Washington, Islamabad was promised millions of dollars in grants, loans, rescheduled debt relief and other financial sweeteners, the first installments of which were recently announced by President Bush.
Critics said Mr. Musharraf sold out the country's future stability for a pile of fast cash. The nimble Mr. Musharraf so far has been able to ride out complaints about his new alliance with the United States, basking meanwhile in the international status of a visit to Washington where he met President Bush.
The Northern Alliance's unexpectedly swift capture of Kabul, however, has yanked the political carpet from under the Pakistani leader, making it appear to many here that he had been duped.
Angry ethnic Pashtuns along both sides of the border, meanwhile, may be unwilling to work with the Northern Alliance and the United Nations in crafting a broad-based government.
The Taliban regime and the al Qaeda terrorist network of Osama bin Laden who may themselves seek sanctuary in remote parts of Pakistan are another potential woe.
They could fuel a new zone of instability among Pashtun tribes who dream of an independent "Pashtunistan," straddling both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, which was drawn by British colonialists and never accepted by many Pashtuns.


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