- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2003

Editorial, Pakistan and terrorism

Yesterday's editorial "Pakistan's net," while correctly appreciating Pakistan's efforts in the coalition campaign against terrorism, unfortunately reiterates past speculations and conjectures about the sincerity of commitment on the part of Pakistan's intelligence services.

There is no denying that the majority of the intelligence coups and successes in the counterterrorism campaign have been due to the singular efforts of the intelligence services of Pakistan, specifically the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI).

The United States and Pakistan have been intelligence partners since the early days of the Cold War (not many remember that Francis Gary Powers' U-2 took off from Peshawar) and especially during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. During that time, the ISI and CIA together were the spearhead in effectively implementing President Reagan's Rollback Doctrine. The fruition of that effort was the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

Even now, the U.S. intelligence community is confident of and fully satisfied with the capabilities and performance of the ISI and robust intelligence cooperation between the two countries in the counterterror campaign. Like any respectable and responsible intelligence agency, the ISI is under the firm and total command and control of the government, and the question does not arise that it has an agenda of its own or is permeated with elements who are at variance with the goals and objectives of the government.

Last, one has to realize that the "slaughter of the innocents" in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir has been perpetrated by Indian security forces. More than 70,000 people have died since 1989 the graveyards of Srinagar Valley attest to the indigenous nature of the freedom struggle. Both Indian and international human rights organizations and independent journalists have attested to the fact that collective punishments, gang rape, disappearances, torture and staged encounters and extrajudicial executions by Indian security forces and the notorious Special Operations Group are a manifestation of state-sponsored terrorism.

The struggle of the Kashmiri people for their five-decade-old U.N.-mandated and guaranteed right of self-determination is a just and bona fide effort and simply not a case of terrorism.


Press attache

Embassy of Pakistan


The editorial "Pakistan's net" hits the nail on the head. Indeed, Pakistan has long been trying to finesse its anti-terrorist actions to exclude the Kashmiri terrorist groups based out of that nation. However, time and again it has been shown that the Kashmiri groups have intimate ties with al Qaeda.

For example, one such group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, is responsible for the murder of Christians in Pakistan, as well as the brutal killing of journalist Daniel Pearl. Another Kashmiri group, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, was found to be hiding Abu Zubaida, a senior al Qaeda leader. Yet another group, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Incredibly, even after banning these groups, Pakistan has refused to prosecute their leaders. Just as incredibly, they are let off the hook despite the existence of laws that prohibit private militias. These actions fly in the face of Pakistan's claims of being a frontline ally in the war on terrorism.

Pakistan must realize that there are no good terrorists.



Columnist unfairly criticizes TSA

Michelle Malkin's column "Taxpayer soaking agency?" (Commentary, Tuesday), on our company's effort to help the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recruit and hire airport baggage screeners, tries to be clever in its assertions but ends up playing fast and loose with the facts. Your readers deserve better.

While it is easy to take pot shots at the costs involved, TSA's recruitment of screeners was the largest peacetime mobilization effort in this country's history. Without any blueprint for success, Pearson Government Solutions helped TSA find, screen and qualify a pool of 130,000 applicants and hire a 64,000-person work force in 10 months, meeting an ambitious Nov. 19 deadline.

Did it cost more than originally estimated? Yes, but the model used by TSA to hire and recruit changed as well, necessitating the use of assessment centers around the country. The Telluride, Colo., assessment center, of which Mrs. Malkin is critical, was the only hotel in the area that met the TSA's requirement of being within two hours of the five airports for which we were screening applicants and the only hotel that could accommodate the telecommunications requirements of the secure assessment exam being administered.

We think applicants and taxpayers would be pleased to know TSA was being fair in its recruiting by choosing a central location and diligent about protecting the security and privacy of the data being gathered.

Mrs. Malkin tries to imply that there was waste in staying at a resort, but the facts don't support that allegation: Rooms were obtained at a government rate of $147 per night, considerably below the published rate. Further, to allay any fears that staffers might be lounging around, there wasn't much time for it: Applicants needed to go through a 12-hour, multistep assessment process.

Certainly there were challenges to a recruiting effort that had not been attempted in peacetime. However, the congressional mandate of hiring an entirely new federal airport screener force was met, and the public has a very well-qualified force. We're proud to have played a key role in helping achieve that success.



Pearson Government Solutions


Taxing questions about gas

More than 40,000 Americans die each year on our nation's highways. Nearly 15,000 of those fatalities are caused by poor road conditions or outdated alignments. Ben Lieberman failed to recognize this serious public health problem in calling for a cut in federal and state gas taxes ("Misperception at the gas pump," Commentaryyesterday).

The simple fact is that the federal gasoline tax, unchanged since 1993, has nothing to do with the recent increases at the pump. As Mr. Lieberman correctly observes, the price is determined by global supply and demand.

Since 1982, the U.S. population has grown 20 percent, the number of licensed vehicles has increased 36 percent, and vehicle miles traveled have ballooned 72 percent. Over that same time, we have added less than 5 percent to road capacity and even less than that to public transit. Given these facts, the focus should be on increasing investment, not reducing it.

Reps. Don Young, Alaska Republican, and Jim Oberstar, Minnesota Democrat, have announced a bold proposal to address growing traffic congestion and improve safety on America's roads. It calls for a one-time adjustment in the federal motor-fuels user-fee excise of about a nickel per gallon and then indexing the fee to the Consumer Price Index to maintain its purchasing power in the future. The investment levels in their plan are what the Bush administration says are necessary to maintain current conditions and system performance.

It's also worth noting that two of the last three times the U.S. government increased the federal motor-fuels excise, retail gasoline prices fell in the following months, including December 1990 just six weeks before the start of the Persian Gulf war.

Voters are clamoring for solutions to the nation's transportation problems. Nearly 70 percent of Americans responding to a Zogby International survey conducted last month in the midst of rising gas prices said they believed America was facing a transportation capacity crisis. Sixty-four percent said they would support a small annual increase in the federal motor-fuels user fee if the money would be used exclusively for road and transit improvements.

Providing and maintaining transportation infrastructure is and always has been a feature of most civilized and progressive societies and a core function of government. Transportation investments, like defense investments, ensure that America will be strong now and in the future.


Vice president of communications

American Road & Transportation Builders Association


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