- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Pakistan in crisis

Three politicians in Pakistan yesterday described a nation in crisis, struggling against poverty and terrorism as a new civilian government takes over after years of military rule.

During a teleconference with guests of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in downtown Washington, the politicians also faulted the United States for failing to secure Afghanistan and creating more instability in their neighboring country.

“You can’t blame Pakistan for the problems we are facing,” Mushahid Hussain of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q said from Islamabad.

“We have been at the eye of the storm since 1979,” he added, citing the spillover effects of the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Western and Arab nations funneled millions of dollars to Afghan freedom fighters to defeat the Soviets in the 1980s, and then the United States withdrew until al Qaeda terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The Bush administration responded by invading Afghanistan and liberating it from the brutal Taliban rule, which sheltered al Qaeda.

Since then, Mr. Hussain said, the United States “has outsourced” the war to NATO. He criticized the United States for “fire brigade” policies and NATO for failing to “show the will to win” against resurgent Taliban terrorists.

Afrasiab Khattak of the Awami National Party, speaking from Peshawar, noted that “millions of petrodollars” intended for the fight against the Soviets ended up in the hands of al Qaeda, helping to create one of Pakistan’s current threats.

The party officials also agreed that Pakistan’s intelligence service shares some of the blame by supporting Islamic extremists.

Despite their partisan affiliation, they agreed that President Pervez Musharraf has failed miserably to combat terrorism and stabilize Pakistan.

“Musharraf used terrorism as a political card,” Ahsan Iqbal of the Pakistan Muslim League-N charged from Lahore.

Advice to Arabs

The U.S. envoy to Kosovo is urging Arab governments to invest in Europe’s newest Muslim-majority nation.

Ambassador Frank G. Wisner called on the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to build on its statement of support issued after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on Feb. 17.

“I think Kosovars are ready for that and want it,” Mr. Wisner told America.gov, a U.S. State Department Web site.

Mr. Wisner, a former ambassador to India, the Philippines and Zambia, as well as to the OIC, argued that Kosovo is a good place for foreign investment.

“It’s a good investment in the future,” he said. “It’s a profitable investment in terms of the eventual economic evolution of southeastern Europe, and I hope a strong economic signal will accompany a political signal.”

He argued that the creation of the Kosovo republic has implications beyond Europe.

“To be able to secure a Muslim-majority state inside the European whole is a terrific signal that the Muslim world and the non-Muslim word can live side by side in peace and cooperation, one with the other,” he said.

“I believe that for most of the Muslim world, it’s very important that one looks at [Kosovo] as a matter of justice.”

So far, however, Kosovo’s declaration of independence has sparked rioting from Serbs, who consider the ancient province part of Serbia’s historical heritage. Russia, Serbia’s main ally, has criticized the United States and other nations for recognizing Kosovo.

Kosovar militants rebelled against Serbian domination in 1999 but were crushed by a fierce Serbian counteroffensive that led to charges of “ethnic cleansing” against Kosovars and the intervention of NATO forces. Since 2004, Kosovo was administered by the United Nations.

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

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