Pakistan is world’s most dangerous nation: Newsweek


Washington : Pakistan poses a bigger threat than Afghanistan and Iraq in the US war on terror as the Taliban cannot ask for a better nation to hide in and “come and go as they please”, according to Newsweek.

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In a cover story titled “The Most Dangerous Nation in the World Isn’t Iraq. It’s Pakistan”, the Oct 29 issue of the US magazine looks at how Pakistan has become a safe haven for Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists.

After the Sep 11, 2001, terror attacks, the US successfully deposed the fundamentalist Taliban leadership in Afghanistan, it says. But in the years since then, there have been an increasing number of signs of a resurgence and the influence of Taliban has crossed the border into neighbouring Pakistan, which many now fear has become a safe haven for terrorists.

Today no other country on earth is arguably more dangerous than Pakistan, according to the magazine. Unlike countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, Pakistan has everything Osama bin Laden could ask for: political instability, a trusted network of radical Islamists, an abundance of angry anti-Western recruits, secluded training areas, access to state-of-the-art electronic technology, regular air service to the West and security services that do not always do what they are supposed to do.

Then there is the country’s large and growing nuclear programme. The conventional story about Pakistan has been that it is an unstable nuclear power with distant tribal areas in terrorist hands, the magazine says.

What is new, and more frightening, is the extent to which Taliban and Al Qaeda elements have now turned much of the country, including some cities, into a base that gives terrorists more room to manoeuvre, both in Pakistan and beyond. Taliban fighters now pretty much come and go as they please inside Pakistan, Newsweek says.

Their sick and injured get patched up in private hospitals there. “Until I return to fight, I’ll feel safe and relaxed here,” Abdul Majadd, a Taliban commander who was badly wounded this summer during a fire fight against British troops in Afghanistan, is quoted as telling Newsweek after he was evacuated to Karachi for emergency care.

“Pakistan is like your shoulder that supports your RPG,” another Taliban commander Mullah Momin Ahmed told Newsweek, barely a month before a US air strike killed him last September in Afghanistan’s eastern Ghazni province. “Without it you couldn’t fight. Thank God Pakistan is not against us.”

According to Newsweek, reporters in Peshawar, a strategic Pakistani border city some 80 km east of the historic Khyber Pass and the Afghan border, say it’s not unusual these days to receive phone calls from visiting Taliban commanders offering interviews or asking where to find a cheap hotel, a good restaurant or a new cell phone.

Armed militants have also effectively seized control in places like the picturesque Swat Valley, where a jihadi leader named Mullah Fazlullah rides a black horse and commands hundreds of men under the noses of a nearby Pakistani Army division that seldom leaves its barracks.

Newsweek cites Bruce Riedel, the former senior director for South Asia on the US National Security Council, as suggesting that Pakistan’s large and growing nuclear programme is another cause for concern.

“If you were to look around the world for where Al Qaeda is going to find its bomb, it’s right in their backyard,” he is quoted as saying. And despite the US government’s assertion that Musharraf’s government has tight control over its nuclear-weapons programme, radicals would not need to steal a whole bomb in order to create havoc.

Pervez Hoodbhoy, a noted nuclear physicist at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, is also quoted as saying that outside experts don’t really know how much highly enriched uranium Pakistan has produced in the past and how much remains in existing stocks.

“No one has a real idea about that,” he says. “That means that stuff could have gotten out. Little bits here or there. But we really don’t know.”