- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

Pity the hapless Pakistani leader hoist on his own petard. To his west, in the forbidding, mountainous tribal areas that straddle the Afghan-Pakistan border, a sort of no-man's-land under nominal Pakistani control, the U.S. has been pressing Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to use his army to hunt down the al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists he once supported. To his east, the U.S. and India expect him to rein in the Kashmiri terrorists he once trained and called, until recently, freedom fighters. It's hard for Mr. Musharraf to keep the players straight as both sets of terrorists are blood brothers and call themselves jihadis (holy warriors).

Internally, Mr. Musharraf is also pulled apart. His 10 corps commanders tell him not to waste military assets chasing a handful of al Qaeda holdouts through ravines and crevasses between 10,000-foot peaks. All available forces are needed to face a menacing India along the Line of Control (LOC) separating Pakistani Kashmir from Indian Kashmir. Besides, several thousand Taliban and al Qaeda have long since disappeared into Pakistan's cities, protected by some 500,000 jihadis trained in Saudi-funded madrassas (Koranic schools). One of Pakistan's most powerful tribal leaders, who is also a national political figure, told this writer on April 23 that Osama bin Laden has been hiding in Peshawar, the capital of the Northwest Frontier Province, since Dec. 9. This week, he repeated by telephone that bin Laden was still in Peshawar, and that hundreds of sympathizers are protecting him and "moving him when necessary." More than 80 percent of adult Pakistani males believe bin Laden is a "freedom fighter," according to a poll taken late last fall.

Mr. Musharraf ordered the army to clamp down on terrorist infiltrations into Indian-controlled Kashmir. But the army has limited sway against fighters who were, for the most part, trained either by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency or by retired ISI officers who were with them during their training, either in Afghanistan or in Pakistan. The president then ordered ISI to put a stop to "cross-border terrorism," as the Indians call it.

Next, ISI called a meeting to inform the political leadership of the Kashmiri guerrillas that a "cessation of all infiltrations will be strictly enforced by the army."

The Kashmiri responded this was an open invitation to India to slaughter the several thousand guerrillas now operating behind Indian lines and walked out of the ISI meeting.

It has become increasingly clear in recent days that Pakistani extremists want a military confrontation between India and Pakistan that they reckon would be short-lived and end with a Pakistani defeat. This, in turn, would enable the fundamentalist extremists to topple Mr. Musharraf from power and compel the corps commanders to replace the chief of staff with a fundamentalist general.

This week, the extremists took heart from the television pronouncements of Saudi Arabia's top Muslim cleric, the imam of the grand mosque at Mecca, Islam's holiest shrine. Sheikh Abd-al-Rahman Al-Sudays called on the Islamic world to unite against a worldwide conspiracy of Hindus, Christians and Jews that is threatening Islamic moral values. The live sermon was broadcast on the official Saudi TV channel, which is seen all over the world via satellite.

Jews, said the Wahhabi holy man, had been cursed and turned into "pigs and monkeys" by Allah. He could not have taken to the kingdom's airwaves without a green light from the House of Saud. The "sublime" truths of Islam, he said, will prevail over secular supporters of "fake globalization that wastes human values." Hindus also came in for a tongue-lashing when he said, "the idol-worshipping Hindus indulge in their open hatred against our brothers and sanctities in Muslim Kashmir, threatening an imminent danger and a fierce war in the whole Indian Subcontinent."

It is the Saudi clergy's generous funding from the kingdom's absolute monarchy that has educated some 4 million young Pakistani males during the past 12 years to not only learn the Koran by heart, but also to hate America, Israel and India. Between 10 percent and 15 percent of them volunteered to become "holy warriors."

So far, there is little sign of geopolitical wisdom in the Subcontinent. A petition is now circling the globe on the Internet that requests President Bush to seize control of Pakistan's nuclear assets "before the irreparable occurs." The petitioners believe that "decisive action by the U.S. will reduce the threat of a nuclear cataclysm in the Indian Subcontinent and will lead to a lasting global peace."

The petitioners also urge Mr. Bush "to place these assets under protective custody and establish a stringent weapons inspection program in order to ensure that Pakistan's military rulers do not engage in nuclear adventurism and brinkmanship."

In his recent interviews, Mr. Musharraf has played down the hypothetical threat of a nuclear showdown between India and Pakistan, saying it is immoral to even think of such an eventuality. But even if the U.S. knew precisely the six secret locations of Pakistan's 30-odd Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons, neutralizing them would be a major military undertaking and would bring hundreds of thousands of Muslim hotheads to the ranks of jihadis, not only in Pakistan, but also throughout the Islamic world.

India and Pakistan need to rise above history, as France and Germany did after World War II. France had annexed Saarland around Saarbrucken as reparations for the German occupation of France. Eventually, a plebiscite was held and the majority of the population opted to return to Germany. Another tough territorial nut was Trieste, annexed from Italy by Yugoslavia. That, too, was returned to Italy.

After the terrible bloodletting that killed more than 1 million Hindus and Muslims at the time of partition, the U.N. Security Council agreed in 1948 that a plebiscite should be held in Kashmir to determine the wishes of Kashmiris. India has steadfastly rejected any idea of self-determination, basing its claim to the territory on the wishes of one man long gone the maharajah of Kashmir, who acceded to India at the time of partition. Hardly worth a nuclear showdown that could kill several million human beings.


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