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U.S. Personnel Inside Pakistan ‘Securing’ Nuclear Weapons

Weeks ago, I wrote that the extent of the U.S. presence inside Pakistan is often underestimated.  Days after that, Sen. Diane Feinstein [re-]revealed that the Predator and Reaper drones are launched from a base inside Pakistan.

Here comes another bombshell from Richard Sale:

“…under the terms of secret [U.S.-Pakistan] agreements, U.S. personnel have been stationed in Pakistan whose sole function is to guarantee and secure the safety of Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal and keep it out of the hands of terrorists, according to several serving and former U.S. officials.

Some of the American technicians have had direct access to the nuclear weapons themselves, these sources said….

The United States then used Special Forces ‘snatch teams’ to kidnap Pakistani scientists who were peddling Pakistan’s nuclear technology or knowledge of it to undesirables. For example, a group of such scientists abruptly disappeared while traveling in Burma, these sources said.

Under U.S. pressure, within two days of the [9/11] attacks, Pakistan’s military began to secretly relocate critical nuclear weapons components to six new secret locations, U.S. sources said…”

Playing dumb, I ask, “Why are all these revelations coming out now?”

Prime Minister Malala Yusufzai

Watch this video.  It will be difficult to get Ziauddin Yusufzai and his daughter, Malala, out of your mind.  Learning of their story inspires hope and produces anguish at the same time.

I hope the young, brave girl follows her father’s wishes and becomes a politician.  Pakistan would be well-served by a Prime Minister Malala Yusufzai — not an underachieving brat of a discredited politician.

Deferral Till Death

Last August, I wrote:

About deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry: it is strange how so many powerful Pakistanis fear one good judge.  It is a testament to how much political and financial power are contingent upon a state of lawlessness and graft.  It is also strange that the rule of law movement is being opposed so vigorously when Baitullah Mehsud has accelerated his plans to establish his own judicial system across the tribal areas.  In a sense, Pakistanis face a choice between Iftikhar Chaudhry and Baitullah Mehsud.  Eliminating the former is a vote for the latter.

Today, President Asif Zardari is on the verge of making peace with Mehsud’s [ex?-]associate Maulana Fazlullah.  Without trying, Zardari has given up on establishing an effective civil judicial system in the greater Swat area.

At the same time, Zardari has declared war on a movement focused on establishing the rule of civil law, led by deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

The formula of [Judicial System - Leading Rule of Law Movement Symbol = No Competition for Medieval Militants] has essentially been realized.

The Peoples Party has used a strategy of deferral till death (or death by deferral) for ‘contentious’ issues, such as restoration of the restored judges.

But look at the costs.  Law Minister Farooq Naik has been sitting on a “judicial reform” plan for around half a year.  Reforms that would produce speedy, effective civil justice — such as establishing night courts — are being delayed so they can be packaged with a boat load of other goodies (such as lowering the judges’ retirement age from 65 to 62 to expedite CJ Iftikhar’s retirement to December 2010).

These goodies will be packaged with another set of goodies for other political parties (Pakhtunkhwa for the ANP; provincial autonomy for the ANP & MQM) to create a mega-constitutional package.  The idea is that other political parties, save for the PML-N, will be satisfied enough as to go forward with neutering the courts (by removing the chief justice’s suo moto power) and not ask for a reduction in presidential powers.

[Regarding the presidential powers, note that on the very day Zardari was sworn in as president, Jehangir Badr began equivocating on the issue of nominalizing the presidency.  Neither the ANP nor the MQM have proposed a reduction in presidential powers.  Also, keep in mind that Washington does not trust Gilani.  He is seen as not being able to keep a secret from the ISI.]

The cost of Zardari’s power grab and war against Iftikhar is clear.  The ultimate victims of Zardari’s strategy of deferral till death are the Pakistani state system and the people it should be serving.

Update: 2/28 (12:25PM EST) — Babar Sattar, one of my favorite Pakistani columnists, writes:

“Our present system of governance is simply not sustainable and will need to be changed. But if the lawyers’ movement for reform fails, the only type of change that could follow would be the Taliban-style presently being endured by Swat.”

Zardari Plays with Fire: Sharif Brothers Disqualified

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has ruled Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif ineligible for electoral participation.

As a result, Shahbaz Sharif is no longer chief minister of Punjab.  The court decision is effectively a coup by the Peoples Party-led center against the government of the largest province, Punjab.

Sharif legal and political associates state they do not recognize the authority of the Supreme Court, which is led by a judge appointed by former President Pervez Musharraf after he sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and declared emergency rule.

Fire has ceased in Swat, but the war in Punjab, and perhaps even Islamabad, begins.

Politically, the Sharifs and their faction of the Muslim League (PML-N) — Pakistan’s second largest party — are isolated. Their major allies are those outside of parliament: the lawyers, Jamaat-e Islami, and Tehreek-e Insaaf.

And Pakistan effectively has a national unity government — sans the PML-N.  The PPP-led coalition consists of the Awami National Party (ANP), Fazlur Rehman’s faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (JUI-F), and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).  Despite Shahbaz’s last ditch attempts toward rapproachment with the MQM, neither it nor any of the other coalition members will abandon the PPP.  The ANP is focused on its government in the North-West Frontier Province.  The MQM is uninterested in joining the opposition.  And Fazlur Rehman and family are content with their Pajeros and farm houses.  The fractured and discredited Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) could also join the central government.  Shujaat Hussain, the head of the PML-Q, expressed his support for the court’s decision.

The PML-N is a few seats short of a majority in the Punjab Assembly.  The PPP is positioned to form a government with the PML-Q there.

Zardari is politically secure.  The Pakistani president has Musharraf-era constitutional powers (the hyperpresidency), a docile (though occassionally rebellious) prime minister, a healthy coalition in the center, a share in all provincial governments, a pliant Supreme Court, an army stuck in the barracks, and support of major Western governments.  An influx of foreign aid could bolster his hold on power.  Also, the PPP will likely be the largest party in the Senate after elections in March.  Zardari — if he makes the right deals — could get a constitutional amendment passed that would fall short of restoring the presidency to its original nominal status.  In short, Zardari could have his cake and eat it too.

However, there is a huge disparity between the Zardari’s political security and popular opinion toward him. Simply put, Zardari is hated inside Pakistan, particularly in Punjab. This has always been the case, except for the burst of sympathy after his wife’s murder.  Public goodwill toward Zardari dissipated by the following summer when he violated a series of popular agreements with Nawaz.  Subsequently, Zardari made a power grab and took the presidency.

Public opinion polls commissioned by the International Republican Institute indicate that Zardari — after a month as president — was as unpopular as Musharraf at his nadir.  But it took Musharraf eight years to reach that point.  Those polls also indicate Nawaz is Pakistan’s most popular politician.

So the big question are: How long can the contradictions between Zardari’s political strength and massive unpopularity last?  And can Pakistan achieve political stability with its second largest party shut out of the corridors of power?  We’ll get the first test in early March, when the PML-N and the lawyers go on their Long March.

TPPB’s Twitter

If you haven’t noticed already, there’s a new widget on the left sidebar for my Twitter entries.  I’m experimenting with the service.

Microblogging seems like overkill.  I think it might produce a new fad in a few years — a reversion to paper, face to face conversations, and the landline phone.

With that said, I will keep the Twitter widget if I feel it is a useful way to post and present short insights.  This would let me share my thoughts more frequently and, at the same time, keep the main page for more substantive entries.

Clear Contrasts

Terrorists affiliated with the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan likely kidnapped John Solecki, the senior UNHCR official in Balochistan, and murdered his Pakistani driver, Syed Hashim Raza.

Solecki dedicated his life to helping the world’s dispossessed.  Compare that to “Maulana” Fazlullah of Swat who, after dropping out from school and becoming a chairlift operator, is now on a campaign to destroy schools and murder.  The contrast is clear: one person builds, the other destroys;  one came from thousands of miles away to aid people not his own, the other has made his own vicinity (the Switzerland of Pakistan) hell on earth.

Columbia Univeristy Professor Richard Bulliet writes on Solecki, his former student, in the International Herald Tribune. A key passage:

“When he was in New York City recently he told me a bit about his job in Quetta. He said that the Baluch nationalists that sometimes agitate for autonomy from Pakistan are not suspicious of him and his work. The Afghan Taliban, too, did not strike him as threatening. He said they were everywhere in Quetta. They set off from there on raids into Afghanistan. But for them Quetta is a quiet rear area, not a place to stage an international incident.

On the other hand, he spoke warily of the Pakistani Taliban. These, he explained, are Pakistanis who share the religious dedication and militant determination of their Afghan counterparts. But their objective is undermining Pakistan’s government, not Afghanistan’s.”

Our prayers are with Solecki, Hashim Raza, and their families.

Editor:

Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

For Media and Consulting Inquiries:
E-mail // Tel: +1(202) 713-5897

On Twitter:
@PakistanPolicy

On the Radio:
Arif Rafiq regularly appears on the John Batchelor Show Friday nights from 09:30-10:00pm Eastern Time. Tune your dial to 770AM in New York or 630AM in DC. The show appears on affiliates in other cities. Listen live online at WABCRadio.com.
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