For more than two decades now, the West has been occupied with nuclear programs of classic anti-Western forces, such as Iran, the now-toppled Gaddafi regime of Libya and North Korea. Nonetheless, the West has been overlooking an Islamic country that already has nuclear arms rather than nuclear ambitions: Pakistan.
Pakistan is a nuclear power that might swiftly fall into the hands of Islamists. If that happens, Pakistan might well be the most dangerous country in the world. That is so because if the Islamists take control of Pakistan, they will not worry about the consequences of launching a nuclear attack even on other nuclear powers.
In fact, the prospect of retaliation action might feed into their sense of being on a martyrdom mission. They would consider a global nuclear catastrophe as saving the world from its sins.
American diplomacy is indeed concerned with Pakistan’s nuclear power falling into the wrong hands. A U.S. embassy cable –made public by Wikileaks–discussed the possibility of Islamists gaining power in Pakistan, leading to a tense nuclear stand-off with India. This reveals, however, that the U.S. concern for Pakistan’s nuclear power is still limited to the regional level.
That is naïve.
Pakistan is already developing a long-range delivery system for its nuclear weapons, particularly the Hatf-7 – a missile with an estimated range of 1,500 miles. The missiles name translates as “Doom” in both Arabic and Urdu. The Pakistani Air Force also operates state of the art F-16 fighters; Pakistan’s F-16Cs are very advanced and are capable of carrying and delivering nuclear missiles.
So, will Pakistan’s Islamists actually come to power? Is there much the world can do to prevent to prevent it?
The biggest difference between Pakistan and most Muslim states is that Pakistan has a functional electoral system that actually works. That also means it could bring the Islamists to power. Luckily, thus far, the Islamists have not yet been able to control the Pakistani electoral scene. A 2008 poll showed a minority of Pakistanis supported Islamist militants, were critical of the U.S. and sought a “moderate Islamic state.” That minority, however, is window for the Islamists waiting to be opened.
Another warning sign is that Pakistan’s Taliban is considered a unified entity with Afghanistan’s Taliban and is not by any stretch less active.
On the other hand, Pakistan has a strong military institution that seems to control the country’s politics. In 2008, Al-Jazeera aired a documentary about Pakistan titled, “An Army That Owns a State,” in which it argued that the entire Pakistani state is just a façade for the military institution which actually has the final say on the country’s politics. True or not, the Pakistani army has been successful at keeping the Islamists out of controlling the government as well as a serious partner of the West in its war on terrorism.
Nonetheless, some say the Pakistani military has also been supporting the Islamists at the same time. For example, the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp, told this author that both the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani Intelligence– better known as the Inter-Services Intelligence — had been supporting the Islamists at the same time they were supporting NATO operations against them. There seems to be much to support General Kemps’ views. Countless reports seem to confirm Pakistan’s involvement in supporting the Taliban, including a U.S. cable made public by Wikileaks, which was circulated by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Last May, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, for example raised more questions regarding Pakistan’s true stance on terror. Bin Laden was located in an suburban area barely 30 miles away from Pakistan’s capital, and only a few hundred yards away from Pakistan’s top military academy, the Pakistani version of West Point.
At the time, some U.S. officials said the Pakistani government will have a lot of explaining to do, though no serious questioning or explaining it seems was ever done. The U.S. and NATO apparently feel that Pakistan was too important of an ally in its war on terror to offend.
It is safe to assume that the Pakistani military and intelligence officers realize their importance to the U.S. in its war on terror, and are not afraid to push the envelope in both aiding the terrorists and joining the war on terror at the same time in order to gain more significance to the U.S.
Who knows if those strong men will be willing to push the limit with their nuclear power as well?
With both Pakistan’s strongmen and its Islamist forces ready to take anti-Western action, the U.S. and the West must reconsider the amount of attention they pay to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
About the Author: Mudar Zahran is a Palestinian writer and academic from Jordan, who now resides in the UK as a political refugee.
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