US-Pakistan alliance a ‘bad marriage’: South Asian expert

By Ashok Easwaran


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Chicago : The US-Pakistan alliance, formed after the terrorist attacks on Sep 11, 2001 as part of the global war against terrorism is an example of a "bad marriage", and Washington should take steps to end it.

So says Zalmay Gulzad, a professor of political science and economics at Harold Washington College, Chicago, and a respected commentator on South Asian politics.

According to Gulzad, the US has not made any tangible gains from its collaboration with Pakistan, and on the contrary has sullied its image in the world arena as a result of it.

"On the one hand, the US is preaching about democracy in Iraq. On the other hand, it is actively supporting a military dictatorship in Pakistan.

Pakistan is testing nuclear weapons with the blessings of the US. Pakistan, as we all know now, has acquired nuclear weapons by stealth. It is also an increasingly unstable place," he said.

The US alliance with Pakistan was formed soon after President George Bush declared his 'war on terror'. Since 2001, when Pakistan abandoned its support for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and began cooperating with the United States, US-Pakistan relations have centred singularly on US demands.

Other analysts have pointed out that six years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden is still hiding somewhere in Pakistan, the Taliban has regrouped and reconsolidated – reportedly in Pakistan – and Washington is having second thoughts about the honesty, and the utility, of Pakistani cooperation.

Gulzad said that despite being the United State's most prominent ally in the war on terror, Pakistan is nevertheless fuelling terrorist activities in the area. "It is well known that Pakistan is actively supporting terrorist organisations in India and Afghanistan, even as it brutally represses an uprising in Balochistan, while accusing Afghanistan and India of fuelling the unrest," he said.

Following the Democratic Party takeover of the US Congress last November, there has been increasing pressure on the Bush administration to re-evaluate its relationship with Pakistan. The most prominent move in this regard is the bill approved by the House of Representatives in January which stipulates that continued financial assistance to Pakistan be contingent upon a certification from the president of the United States that the state of Pakistan is doing its utmost to contain the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Gulzad noted that the Taliban insurgency has exhibited phenomenal growth in recent years, especially in 2006. There is naturally US concern that the Musharraf government is allowing Pashtun jihadists and their trans-national allies to use Pakistani soil as a launch pad for attacks in Afghanistan and beyond.

President Pervez Musharraf has not been able to block Taliban activity within the country's borders. In fact, the last three years have seen the Talibanization of the Pashtun-dominated areas on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan, said Gulzad.

"Pakistan is a big impediment to peace in South Asia," he said, adding, "I consider the present regime in Pakistan to be self destructive. If it goes out of control it could hurt neighbouring countries including India."

Gulzad, who was born in Kabul, where his father was a senior official in the government under then king Zahir Shah, has lectured extensively on South Asia and the Middle East and authored a book on Afghanistan.

He said the Afghanis have no love lost for Pakistan. "Today, if you are an Arab or a Pakistani in Afghanistan, you are dead," Gulzad said, "The Pakistani embassy in Afghanistan has been burnt down six times since 1992.

That should tell you how strong the resentment is."