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January 16, 2006

A strategic view from Peshawar

It is generally difficult for those without Arabic, Urdu or Pashtoo language skills to guage public opinion the swath of the greater Middle East that represents the heartland of political Islam. But for those English-speakers curious about the Islamist worldview, and especially that of Al Qaeda and its Afghan and Pakistani sympathizers, there is hope in the form of Pakistan's Peshawar-based Frontier Post. Like any newspaper, it reflects the attitudes and values of its readers, who happen to also represent the regional constituency most sympathetic to Al Qaeda and the former Taliban rulers of Afghanistan.

The Frontier Post has recently run an editorial about US involvement in the region, titled "How the US views India and Pakistan?" The question mark seems to be a pure formality, since the author, Mohammad Jamil, prefers the declarative mode, and hammers in his points with authority. He sees the US manipulating India against Pakistan, in effect betraying Pakistan, loyal ally in the Cold War struggle in Afghanistan and in the War on Terror. Indeed, far from commited enmity, the piece strikes a tone of hurt betrayal.

Jamil writes about the indignities and double-dealings Pakistan has suffered at the hands of the US:

Anyhow, the way the US has treated a friend that stood by its allies for about half-a-century, got dismembered as a result of its involvement in military pacts, and even risked its very existence by becoming the frontline state against another super power during the Afghan crisis is deplorable. By entering into strategic partnership with India, the US leadership has not only disappointed Pakistan but also spawned despondency in Kashmir, as the Kashmiris always considered the US a country that stood for the right of self-determination of the suppressed nations.
It is surprising to note the double speak of the US administration. On the one hand it acknowledges Pakistan’s prodigious role in the war on terror but on the other it shows lack of trust when US-led forces enter Pakistan in hot pursuit of Al Qaeda operatives or Taliban remnants. Recently, when Washington was lauding President Pervez Musharraf’s determination against terrorism, and Pakistan forces’ action against terrorists in a briefing, eighteen people were killed and many injured in powerful explosions destroying one house and damaging other hutments in Bajaur Tribal Agency near Peshawar reportedly by the US-led allied forces.

It appears that even in Al Qaeda's backyard, it is specific policy positions and behavior - like Friday's missile strike - that motivate hostility, moreso than ideological or religious hatred.

Posted January 16, 2006 04:25 PM

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