Speaking in Paris, France today, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf insisted the remnants of the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan is the "most serious issue" plaguing the country. He told reporters, "The 100,000 troops that we are using ... are not going around trying to locate Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri, frankly. They are operating against terrorists, and in the process, if we get them, we will deal with them certainly." However, the President still rejected claims that the violence was a sign of resurgent Taliban, insisting, "There is no Taliban offensive ... being launched. These are pinpricks that they keep doing — and we have to manage all of that." According to BBC News, the President also stressed on Tuesday that it was impossible for "militants to gain any access to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal." More specifically, he stated, "There is a zero percent chance of either one of them, they (the weapons) cannot fall into any wrong hands...We don't think it is possible that this Al Qaeda or Taliban can take over in Pakistan. We cannot be defeated like this."
An article in today's NY Times, entitled, "Musharraf Trip Shadowed by Troubles at Home," commented on the "troubles" in Pakistan as the President continues his four-nation tour in Europe, where he intends to show his resolve in fighting terrorism and to "talk up investment opportunites." However, noted the Times, "his pitch, after the assassination of the opposition leader Benazir Bhutto will be made in the shadow of a rapidly escalating jihadist insurgency, an economy suffering from sudden power and wheat shortages, and worries that elections, which have been delayed to Feb. 18, will not be free and fair." Both supporters and critics of Musharraf feel that his past "pillars of strength" as a leader are now being severely challenged."
Today's NY Times editorial also discussed the issue of Pakistan, particularly the rise of violence and the Islamist militancy, developments that are problematic for the country's future. On the topic of U.S. involvement in Pakistan, the Times' editors advised, "The United States, already bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, must be extremely careful about further military entanglement in Pakistan. As a long-term solution, it must encourage political and legal reforms in the tribal areas and spend as quickly as possible a new $750 million allocation by Congress that could improve the lives of Pakistanis and deprive militants of new converts."
I have attempted to provide daily news briefs to keep readers of this blog updated on the media's portrayal of the current events in Pakistan. What has struck me while monitoring the press is that in the struggle between militants and Pakistani security forces, we, as Pakistanis, seem very divorced from this conflict. If you look at the Iraq war, and the way the American media addresses that conflict in the United States, there seems to be unflinching support for U.S. troops - American citizens and lawmakers may criticize the administration's strategy in the war, but never will they "be against" the soldiers fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. In contrast, the military also seems isolated in their fight against Taliban-linked militants. Maybe I'm wrong, but why are we so divorced from the struggle of our own troops? Is it because we do not identify with the Pakistani military, an institution in the country that has acted largely of its own accord, or is it something else?