Monday, December 31, 2007

After Bhutto: a Nuclear Pakistan?

An Interview with Adrian Levy


"In the wake of Bhutto's tragic assassination, renewed international attention focuses itself on Pakistan's political instability and nuclear capabilities. The United States and President Musharraf adamantly state that the Pakistani military represents the only stable safeguard against potential radical extremists and Al Qaeda sympathizers taking over Islamabad and controlling Pakistan's nuclear weapons and technology. Playwright Wajahat Ali received an exclusive interview with Guardian journalist Adrian Levy, author of the explosive new book, "Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons," to discuss Pakistan's political past, present, and future regarding nuclear proliferation and its volatile relationship with the United States.

ALI: Adrian Levy, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. All around the world, Benazir Bhutto's assassination tops the headlines. You've done extensive and exhaustive research on Pakistan's international and domestic policies. What are the repercussions of this tragedy in relation to Pakistan's current political stability?........

First, please explain the relationship of Musharraf and Bush post 9-11 and specifically how it relates to Pakistan's nuclear capability and ambitions? Second, one argument is that Musharraf's military dictatorship, although it is hardly labeled as such by the White House, must be supported out of necessity to ensure nuclear technology does not fall in the hands of extremists and Al Qaeda. Basically, the line goes: if no Musharraf, then Al Qaeda has a nuclear bomb. How legitimate is this threat and assertion?

It's completely false, a completely false assertion put forward by two groups of people: a circle of neo-conservatives from the Vice President's office and the Pentagon. They didn't want to get involved in the messy business of building a democracy, and they did want to get involved with dealing with a dictatorship, because it is easier to talk down on the phone to a General than it was to talk about a messy democratic system. They were on the verge, before 9-11, in proclaiming Pakistan a terrorist state for supporting Al-Qaeda, for nuclear proliferation. In fact, if we look at all the facts, we had a military regime that was suppressing human rights, that was proliferating, that was supporting terrorism, that had a threatening link to 9-11. That was not Iraq. It wasn't Iraq. There was only one country that ticked all of those boxes: Pakistan. And yet, a group of neo-cons around the President had an agenda that went back to 1992 and that agenda was Iraq. They thought Saddam should be the next suitable target. Consequently, all information on Pakistan were downscaled. Quite honestly, the greatest threat was instability in Pakistan, and yet that's something American didn't want to get involved with........"

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