Q&A Friday #77: I Worry About Pakistan.

Question: “I worry about Pakistan. It seems the gov’t is divided upon itself and the Mr Mushareff is not necessarily as in control of the situation as we’d like him to be. Do you have the same worries, and what are the outcomes of Mr. Mushareff losing control?” — rmiller

Answer: There’s good reason to worry about Pakistan. It’s an unstable, poor country with nuclear bombs that has a radical Muslim population, a significant Al-Qaeda presence in areas that are not controlled by the government, and it’s run by a dictator.

Furthermore, there are no easy answers to the dilemmas we face in that country.

* We will not be able to get them to give up their nukes because they would, very reasonably, be afraid of the threat posed by their nuclear-weapon-wielding neighbors in China and India.

* Al-Qaeda is hiding in the tribal regions and attacking more settled parts of the country, but Musharraf simply cannot publicly give us permission to go after them, nor can he risk a bloody, sustained fight using the Pakistani military, because it might topple him from power.

* Musharraf is a dictator and technically, we should be pushing him to step down and allow democratic elections. However, given that Pakistan has nuclear weapons and a radical population, democracy could be very dangerous for us in that country. Moreover, we need Pakistan’s cooperation in fighting Al-Qaeda and we need permission to use their airspace to supply our troops in Afghanistan.

* Keep in mind that Musharraf could be assassinated tomorrow, run out of power in a month, or he could be around another decade. It’s almost impossible to say in a country like Pakistan. However, if Musharraf goes, it’s entirely possible that he would be replaced by someone who is much more friendly to Osama Bin Laden than the United States.

Most of the problems we see in Pakistan today have been there in some form or another since the first moment we decided that Musharraf “may be a son-of-a-b*tch, but he’s our son-of-a-b*tch.” That being said, the situation in Pakistan seems to be deteriorating at an increasing pace and how it will end up is anyone’s guess.

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