Thursday, March 12, 2009

Musharraf, Kasparov and the Tree of Terrorism

Russian Grandmaster's question about terrorism makes Pakistani General uncomfortable

If Russian President Vladimir Putin is paying any attention to the international exploits of his chief political rival, he may well feel just as uncomfortable as former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf did recently.

Speaking alongside General Musharraf at a conference in New Delhi, Kasparov asked him a question that made him noticably skittish.

In the question, Kasparov likened terrorism to a problematic tree. He noted that when dealing with such a tree -- perhaps one whose roots threaten to grow through the foundation of a house -- the best strategy wasn't to periodically trim the leaves, but rather to deprive it of its water source.

Reportedly, Musharraf attempted to avoid answering the question, insisting that the Pakistani government doesn't provide support to terrorists, and insisting that it was the Afghan drug trade that was supplying terrorists.

Kasparov's terror tree has recieved support from Pakistan's military, mainly from the Inter-Intelligence Service (ISI). While Pakistan's official policy -- both under Musharraf's regime and under the current Pakistani People's Party government -- is to oppose terrorists, it hasn't always done a convincing job of doing this in practice.

Of course, it's another thing if the tree proves to be somewhat useful. Islamic militancy and terrorism has certainly been a fruit-bearing tree for Musharraf -- it's helped him justify coup d'etats in Pakistan.

The ISI has been known to provide material support to terrorists. Whether its out of sympathy for their aims or because the Pakistani military has found them useful -- justifying ever-higher annual expenditures on miliary spending -- is a bit more a complex matter.

Even if Musharraf's administration never directly provided material support to terrorist organizations his half-hearted attempts to control them have certainly proven to be a form of support all their own.

It's important to note that the administration of current Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani hasn't done any better. Their practical hand over of the Swat region to the Taliban will provide shelter to Taliban and other Islamic Militants that will strengthen their operations throughout both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

General Pervez Musharraf could have cut off the water supply to the tree of terrorism long ago -- if only by controlling the Pakistani border.

Sadly, Gary Kasparov seems to be one of the few leaders willing to stand up and tell him as much. Vladimir Putin must be a little worried to see that his unelected rival is a stronger international leader than he is.

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